As much as I hate to admit it… winter is coming. Calgary is already getting snow, and while it’s still in the 80s in the Philadelphia area, there is a chill in the wind when it blows. I’m already dreading the cold, dark months to come, but I’m taking advantage of the cooler weather to cook some stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, like cottage pie! You may have heard of shepherd’s pie, but not cottage pie, because in the United States many places are serving cottage pie as shepherd’s pie. So what’s the difference? Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, while cottage pie is made with beef.
I’ve been reading a lot about umami lately since I’m writing an episode of my upcoming podcast about the Five Basic Tastes, and I wanted to utilize some of the knowledge I’d gained in my research. This recipe contains not just one, but FIVE sources of the revered umami: ground beef, cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms and tomato paste, which makes it intensely satisfying.
I’m pretty good at managing cooking a few different things at once, but for those of you who might not have the confidence to do so, I’m going to order this in a way that makes the most sense.
The very first thing you should do is peel and boil your potatoes until a knife stuck into the center of the largest potato slides out without catching. Drain them well, and mash with a potato masher. Add in the cheddar cheese and butter and mash through until smooth and the butter and cheese is well incorporated. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large non-stick skillet, brown 1 lb of lean ground beef until no longer pink. Scrape the ground beef into a colander and rinse with hot water. Set aside. (You don’t have to drain or rinse the beef, but it will reduce the fat content of the dish.) In the same skillet with the residue from cooking the beef, add the onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms and cook over medium low heat until the vegetables have exuded all of their water and the carrots are tender. Add the tomato paste, bouillon cubes, Worcestershire, mushroom seasoning (I used this one) and black pepper and cook over low heat until the tomato paste has caramelized a bit, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add in the frozen peas. Mix the corn starch into a cup of cool water, and pour it into the skillet, making sure to fully dissolve the bouillon cubes. Allow to thicken for a minute then stir in the ground beef. Mix thoroughly and turn off the heat.
Spread the filling evenly in a 9″ pie plate. Spread the mashed potato mixture evenly on top, smoothing it right to the edges. Once the top is smooth, use a fork to make ridges across the top. This will help with getting little brown bits on the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
I suggest you allow this to sit for 5-10 minutes before digging in, as it will be like molten lava at first! The filling is rich and savory, the mashed potatoes hearty and mildly cheesy, and this cottage pie will keep you full for hours! I hope you’ll give it a go.
Hearty filling loaded with umami flavor topped with browned cheesy potatoes.