September 11, 2014


cottage pie

Right in the middle of our house hunting adventures in France we had to dash back to the UK to take delivery of our beautiful new hob and oven.  Beautiful they are indeed.

The oven is the same as the ones currently being used in the Bake Off tent and the hob is an induction model.  We were thinking of having a gas hob, which  is what we have always been used to, but although the gas supply is fairly near to the oven end of the kitchen getting it fitted would have meant a lot of disruption and expense, not to mention the destruction of part of my lovely new kitchen, so we opted for induction.  We are very pleased with it so far, having had it for a total of one day!

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I was thinking there would be no time for baking again this month, the final stage of our two-nation house moving exercise being very near to its conclusion, then I picked up the little recipe book that came with the new oven and flipped the pages.  The book opened at a recipe for cottage pie – as if anyone needs a recipe for cottage pie – and with my dad coming round for his dinner on the middle evening of our brief three-day stay in the UK, I thought “why not?”.  I realise of course that the purpose of the recipe book is more about getting the owner of a new oven used to using all its knobs and buttons than actually presenting original recipes, so I dutifully followed the recipe to the letter.  This included adding some tomato purée, something which I have never put into a cottage pie before.

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The main difference between a cottage pie and a shepherd’s pie is that the first is made with beef and the second with lamb.  I didn’t know that until fairly recently and have been making both for decades thinking they were both a shepherd’s pie and wondering why some people called it a cottage pie! 

Either way, they’re simple to make and quite adaptable and the good thing is that you can wash up the pans while it’s in the oven so that by the time it comes to the table the kitchen is looking less like a war zone – something I’m trying to be conscious of now that we have a dining kitchen – eating dinner while staring at the washing up is something I don’t love about our new house.

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The casualties.

There are of course, casualties with my new hob and oven.  Well not so much the oven, but most of my pans will not work with the induction hob so I have had to get a new set.  The old ones will go to France to supplement or replace the mismatched selection of mainly cheap ones we have there – bought when we thought all we wanted was a holiday home and we wouldn’t be doing very much cooking…… things have changed!

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I dislike pictures of leftovers but I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished cottage pie.  So I put in another of the oven as well – much more attractive!

The pie was delicious and because the recipe was sort of chosen at random I’m being cheeky and submitting it to this month’s Random Recipe Challenge, organised by the lovely Dom at Bellau Kitchen.  You can read all about it here.

If you want to catch up on the final stage of our house hunting adventures in France and take a peek at the new house – and its lovely kitchen – you can do that here.

Cottage pie – the ingredients

450g potatoes, peeled and quartered

225g carrots, peeled and diced

1 tbslp oil for frying

450g minced beef

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbslp plain flour

250ml beef stock

1 tblsp tomato purée

2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce

250g pack of mushrooms, sliced

1 tblsp grated cheddar cheese


Boil the potatoes and carrots until cooked.  Drain and mash them together.

Fry the onions, garlic and mince in a large frying pan until the meat is browned.  Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the stock, tomato and Worcestershire sauce and stir well.  Mix in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 170°fan.

Spoon the meat mixture into a suitable baking dish.  Spoon the potato and carrot mash on top of that and spread out evenly with a fork.  Sprinkle with the grated cheese and dot with butter if you like.

Put the dish on a baking sheet if you want to be sure the pie will not boil over onto your lovely brand new oven floor!  Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned and bubbling.

Serves 4.  Serve with greens of some kind.


  1. Certainly an improvement on the old one, and in fact any oven that I have ever owned!

    Do you know what the oven in your new French home is like?

    1. Gaynor, it's a large gas cooker with a double sized gas oven, of unknown vintage. We'll have to see how we get on with it!

  2. So that's the difference between cottage and shepherd's pie! It looks delicious and obviously cooked to perfection in your splendid new oven. I too couldn't have exchanged a nearly new hob and oven knowing they would be dumped, so well done on finding the perfect solution.

  3. Uh oh, a gas oven. I predict you will hate it, and they guzzle gas, so I foresee another new oven in your lives :-)

    My understanding is that the cottage / shepherd's pie distinction is actually a 20th C affectation / invention.

    Well done on the cascading oven and hob swap. It would have irked me to have new gear go to the tip too.

    1. Susan, I fear you could be right about the oven.
      We had a gas oven at home all my childhood and I must say I much prefer my electric one.

    2. To my knowledge... [ie: learnt from Mother!!]....
      a Shepherd's pie contains a little lamb in slices [presumably from a very little lamb.....?] and lotsandlots of root veg in chunks.
      On t'other hand a Cottage pie contains the remains of a joint, minced up and mixed with diced veg, and must contain peas and mushrooms....
      affectation? Knowing my mother... probably!?

      But... is a modern gas oven going to be as inefficient as an old one....
      only time will tell...
      but what's the new kitchen in France really like?

    3. How about a post....
      "My Kitchens... past and present"?

  4. Delicious! I was waiting for the new oven pics. I'm so glad it finally came and it's a beauty. I hope you have fun learning all about it too. Shame about the casualties but it does mean you can buy new stuff! Love the cottage pie. I think I knew the difference somewhere in the back of my mind but who really cares when you get a gorgeous meal like this. Thanks so much for the entry xx

  5. Can't beat a good cottage pie. I have serious oven/hob envy bu the way. The set in out rented house is significantly inferior to the range cooker we left behind. And with the bottled gas roulette that I feel like I play every time I turn the hob on I'd give my right arm for induction! It looks wonderful.

  6. I've used that brand of oven for many years and I have to admit that I'm very happy with mine. Definitely the best I've ever owned. (No I wasn't paid to say that). You can't beat a good cottage pie and that's definitely a good cottage pie. Delicious. Now about the cottage v shepherd difference - I've always believed the same as you that one's lamb and ones' beef. Some years ago I said this to a friend (who had far too much time on his hands, frankly) and he dug up some very old recipes for cottage pie using lamb. He reckoned that shepherd's pie was some sort of Victorian affectation. Like I say - too much time on his hands. By the way, I don't think I've said congratulations on finding a French house yet. So congratulations - great news.