It has to be an absolute crime that it’s mid-October and it still, for most parts of the week, feels like fall/winter! And if you’re recovering from a cold like me than you’d badly want some sunshine and blue skies. But this Spiced Cottage Pie will have to do for now. Not such a bad deal, hey?
Inspired by English pub food (because Kiwi weather is a little like grey London), I added some spice to it to create my own take on the classic cottage pie. Creamy, sinful potato and parsnip mash layered on top of mildly spiced minced meat and baby peas – what’s not to like about that?
The parsnip gives a slight sweetness to the mash and this contrasts quite nicely with the spiced meat. Both minced beef or lamb can be used for this recipe although if you did use lamb instead of beef, you’ll have to call it Shepherd’s Pie. No idea why as the English made up these rules. I’ve used cream and butter in the mash but if you wanted to go down the healthier route than you could replace the cream for milk. It doesn’t change the flavour drastically. If you’re using lamb mince instead of beef, you will need to remove some (not all!) of the oil from your pan after the meat has been browned.
I prefer my mash only slightly crunchy on the top but if you want a really crunchy crust, you could sprinkle some fine breadcrumbs (not Japanese panko) on top of your mash before placing your pie in the oven. This recipe also works with 2-3 tablespoons of curry powder instead of the different spice powders in stated in the recipe and if you like your cottage pie a little spicier than you could increase the amount of chilli powder. There are so many ways you could adapt this recipe to make it your own. Perhaps a vegetarian version with winter root vegetables or lentils? Whichever way you make it, it’ll be a delicious bowl of comfort. It’s the type of food that is best eaten in a bowl while you’re slumped on a sofa. And it’s also the type of food that is best shared so it’s great for a fall dinner party or maybe an alternative Thanksgiving/Diwali dish. The pie keeps well in the fridge or freezer if it is completely clingfilm- wrapped and like most spiced foods, tastes better the next day.
Spiced Cottage Pie
For the mash:
- 800 grams whole potatoes, boiled whole and peeled
- 2 parsnips, peeled and boiled
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/2 – 2/3 cup cream/milk
For the meat filling:
- 3 tbsp oil
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 small bay leaf
- 3 whole cloves
- 1/2 inch cinnamon/cassia stick
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1 inch ginger, grated
- 6 large garlic cloves, grated
- 2 heaped tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 1/2 – 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 500 grams beef/lamb mince
- 1/2 – 2/3 cup chicken/lamb stock
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp plain flour
- 1/2 cup frozen baby peas
- few tbsp of fine breadcrumb (optional)
For the garnish
- finely chopped coriander leaves
- pinch of chilli powder
- Combine butter and cream/milk in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, mash just boiled potatoes and parsnip till slightly lumpy or however smooth you like your mash. Add warm cream/milk and butter to mash and mix till completely incorporated. Season with salt and ground pepper. Set aside.
- In another pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add cardamom pods, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon/cassia and sauté for a few seconds until fragrant.
- Add finely diced onions into pan. Sauté till onions turn translucent and slightly brown around the edges. Add grated ginger and garlic and stir around in pan for about 30 seconds.
- Add ground coriander, chilli, cumin and garam masala powders with a splash of water into the pan. Reduce flame to low and cook till the raw spice smell is gone and the masala paste comes together.
- Increase flame back to medium and add beef mince. Break up the mince with your ladle/wooden spoon and cook till meat is browned, about 10 minutes.
- Now, add lamb/chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Cover the pan and cook mixture on low flame for about 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. There should be some liquid left still. Stir in frozen peas.
- Remove pan from stove and discard all the whole spices. Let the meat mixture cool for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F.
- In a large ovenproof dish ( + freezer safe, if you’re freezing it) or individual pie trays, scoop meat mixture till about just under halfway up the dish and top with mashed potatoes.
- Using a fork, create swirls or lines on top of mash. The bits that stick out become crispy and brown. Sprinkle with fine breadcrumb, if using.
- Place dish in a large tray to prevent any spills in your oven and bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sides are bubbling.
- Cool for about 15 minutes and top with garnish. Serve while warm.
- To freeze or refrigerate, let it cool completely and completely wrap in clingfilm. Defrost and heat up in oven for about 15 minutes.