Tailor-made cottage pie

by Jenny Chandler

A child-friendly recipe from chef and mother Jenny Chandler

An ideal recipe for kids to get under their belts. The basic meat recipe can be used for a pasta sauce, as an accompaniment to baked potatoes or, with the addition of a little cumin, oregano and chilli, a fabulous burrito filling. 


2 tbsp olive oil or butter
4 rashers of smoked or unsmoked streaky bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped  
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped  
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
500g minced beef, veal or a mixture of beef and pork
2 tbsp plain flour
200ml full fat milk
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
100ml red wine or beef stock
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 x drained can of carlin peas, pinto beans or cannellini beans (optional)

For the topping:
1kg old crop potatoes or a mixture of potatoes with celeriac, sweet potatoes or parsnip
½ tsp salt
20g butter
100ml milk
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil 


Fry the bacon in the olive oil over a medium heat for about 2 mins.

Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan and cook, stirring once in a while, for about 10 mins until the onion looks soft and almost see-through.

Stir in the garlic and, once you can really smell it, add the minced meat. Crumble the meat in with your fingers so that it doesn’t stay in big lumps. Remember to wash hands well afterwards. Cook the meat over a high heat for about 5 mins.

Sprinkle in the flour and give it a good stir.

Next pour in the milk and cook on a low heat for 10 mins before adding the tomatoes and the wine. Add a pinch of salt, a twist of black pepper, the bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. Allow the mixture to heat up and bubble, then cover the pan and turn down to a low, low simmer for about 45 mins.

If the mixture gets a bit too dry and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, just add a ½ small glass of water and give it a good stir.

Stir in the drained peas or beans and have a taste. Add a tiny bit more salt or pepper if needed.

Meanwhile, peel and chop up your potatoes and any other chosen root vegetables (you might like to leave the peel on for a more rustic finish) into chunks.

Place the potatoes (plus any other root veg together) in a pan of cold water with ½ tsp salt, cover them with a lid and boil until tender (about 20-30 mins). Be very careful as you lift the lid, steam burns!

Once the potatoes are tender they need to be drained. This is a good moment to ask for some adult assistance.

Put the drained potatoes back into the hot pan with the butter and milk and give them a good mash, it’s up to you how smooth you want them.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Spoon the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish and then top with the mashed potato. You can smooth it out a bit but a rough top looks most appetising. Sprinkle the topping with the breadcrumbs and a little olive oil.

Place in the oven for 30 mins to heat through, crisp up and brown on the top. (if you made the dish earlier and it’s coming from the fridge this will take 40-50 mins.)

ALTERNATIVE: You might like to add some herbs such as parsley, oregano or basil to the mince. You could add some grated cheese to the top of the mash for an extra tasty top or you might like to make a shepherd’s pie instead; just use lamb instead of beef.

Recipe: Jenny Chandler