Economical beef mince, vegetables and Worcestershire Sauce are the basis of these Cottage Pies. This is also the perfect recipe for Batch Cooking aimed to stretch a budget and make life easier for us all during the week. By that I mean, doubling the recipe, and cooking up a whole batch of mince on the weekend, and just eating what you need for that night, or serving half to dinner guests as cottage pies, and freezing the rest for later. It's very flexible. Dinner size portions of cooked beef can be frozen in small freezer bags and thawed out quickly. Cooked savoury mince can be used later in a pie maker if you have one to make individual pies, so quick, easy and delicious. A can of tomatoes, and some fresh or dried Italian herbs such as basil and oregano, and a splash of red wine can transform the mince into a delicious Pasta sauce, or you might just like to have it heated up on toast for an easy Sunday night's dinner. The possibilities are endless, and with a little imagination, nobody in your family need realise that they have eaten the same batch of mince a few times over but with a different name.
I heard an ABC morning breakfast presenter say the other day during their program that preparing the evening meal is the most stressful time of the day for her, and I thought what a shame that was, given what fronting the cameras in the morning in front of Australia must be like. That's what I would call stressful. Batch cooking and a little organisation can help to take the stress out of the daily evening meal preparation. It's also a much more economical way to purchase and cook up ingredients. Your freezer can be your best friend.
A Note about the Ingredients:
Halve the list of ingredients I have given, for 6 servings. The mixture made 13 serves for me. I cooked these Cottage pies in 13 dishes with a 1 1/2 cups capacity to test out the quantities even though I only needed 8 of them. The original recipe said to use six 1 3/4 cup (430 ml) ovenproof dishes. There's not a lot of difference and even a slightly larger ramekin than 1/3/4 cups would be ok, but we find that the 1 1/2 cup capacity is perfect, when the pies are served with additional vegetables such as fresh asparagus and broccoli. I love serving meals in individual serving dishes or ramekins, and it seems to make the meal that bit more special for everyone at the table. However, this cottage pie is also perfect cooked in 1 large ovenproof dish. They make great leftovers the next day.
|Ingredients: Minced beef, carrot, celery, onion, sauces to be added|
Makes 13 individual serves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions (600 g), chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 stalks (600 g) celery trimmed, chopped finely
2 medium sized carrots, very finely chopped
1.5 kilos minced beef (2 x 750 g)
1/2 cup plain flour
2 cups beef stock, or 2 beef stock cubes and 2 cups hot water
5 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 cups frozen peas
8 large potatoes, boiled and mashed
2 cups finely grated parmesan or cheddar cheese (this can be optional)
Fresh thyme leaves for garnishing the potato mash (optional)
Homemade spicy tomato relish to serve (find my recipe at this link)
|Dinner plates with my homemade Spicy Tomato Relish in small dishes ready for the Cottage pies from the oven|
Stir the flour through the mince mixture, and gradually add the stock, the Worcestershire Sauce, and the tomato sauce. Keep stirring until the mixture starts to boil and thicken. This happens quickly.
Remove from the heat, stir in the frozen peas. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
I cooked my mince in the morning so that it would be cold by the time I needed to add the potato to the dishes, and then I knew it was ready to go. However, it can be prepared before assembly.
Preheat your oven to 220 deg. C (200 deg. C fan forced.) Spoon the beef mixture into 12-13 x 1 1/2 cup ovenproof dishes, or just 6-8 dishes and freeze the rest.
|Ready for the oven|
Spread the mash onto the pies. The potato needs to be hot so that it spreads well onto the cold mince. I use a fork to draw squiggles onto the surface of the potato, which ensures all of those little peaks will crisp up and brown up. My friends, this is an essential step, and is a tradition going right back with Cottage Pies that I remember as a child. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and some fresh thyme leaves. This is optional but I love how it looks and it gives the potato a beautiful flavour.
Place the dishes onto an oven tray to catch any overflow. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the potato is golden brown and the pies are heated through. As the ingredients are precooked this only takes half an hour at the most.
|Ready to serve|
- Mashed potato doesn't freeze well. I wouldn't freeze whole cottage pies with the cooked mashed potato. It doesn't take long to boil some potatoes, and the potato can be added to the cooked mince and browned off in the oven quite quickly.
- Carrots weren't in the original Australian Women's Weekly recipe, so if you don't have them, that will be fine. In my mind though, onion, carrots and celery are the perfect vegetable base for savoury mince.
- Freshest celery, carrot and onion bring a beautiful flavour to the mince.
- Culinary Magic seems to happen when mashed potato is added to top up minced beef and is then baked to a beautiful golden topping to create a cottage pie. So delicious.
- Serving cottage pies with homemade tomato relish, or good quality bought tomato relish is the perfect accompaniment
- Fresh Asparagus is in season at the moment. Lightly blanched fresh asparagus and fresh blanched broccoli are the perfect vegetables to serve.