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Cottage Pie (with short cut topping options)

You've probably gathered by now I love one pot style dishes and things that go in the freezer. This is another lean beef mince based one. Similarly to the Pasta Sauce the balance of meat to vegetables is up to you and its not an exact science recipe. Right, so for you none Anglo's out there Cottage pie is beef based, Shepard's pie is lamb based. Their are two possible cheats for the topping. One is to use store bought ready made mash potato. The other is to slice the potatoes dauphinoise style (skins on for fibre) and use the trusty microwave to cook them quickly. Be warned - you don't get a nice crunchy topping on this unless you add a sprinkle of cheese and toast it under the grill. If you have time then making your own mash for the top is the tastiest option.

A brief word on traditional cottage pie - its not very high in veggies, beef, carrot and onion only (occasionally celery). As I like to do a meal in one and get as much good stuff into my kids as possible mine has a lot more than you might expect - maybe I should call it 'pretend cottage pie'. Here is a fabulous traditional cottage recipe.

One packet of lean beef mince
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic (I use a dollop of easy garlic)
Vegetables such as carrots, peppers, courgettes, sweetcorn, peas, french beans - chopped quite finely
Stock cube (low salt or half if for small children)
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
Glug of olive oil
3 x teaspoons of gravy powder
For topping - either 3 medium sized potatoes washed and thinly sliced, one container of ready made mash or your own mash potatoes (approx 4 peeled, boiled, knob of marg or butter, splash of milk, mashed and seasoned).

For a more grown up version add a glug of red wine, splash of Worcester sauce or even a bit of chilli to deepen the seasoning. If serving with side dishes then go for the more traditional recipe.

Put the mince into a large pan, separating the strands with a fork so you avoid large lumps of mince. Cook until brown then drain the fat off, leaving the mince in the pan.
Chop the onion, and chosen vegetables. Put in a microwaveable dish, add roughly a cm of water to the bottom of your container and cook in the mic until soft. We like our veggies slightly crunchy.
Add the stock cube, garlic, olive oil and tomato purée to the pan and stir.
Layered sliced top
Once cooked add the vegetables (and their cooking water) and stir. Mix the gravy powder with a small amount of hot water to make a paste and stir in. You might want to add some hot water to loosen the sauce if its too thick. Cook through together until all warmed through. Prepare you potato topping. Don't forget to microwave the potato slices until cooked if using that option. 
At this stage you make several small pies or one large one. I like a deep dish (see photo), traditionally a large shallow, oblong roaster is popular. Serve out at least 3cms depth of the base and then add your potato topping, making sure is even. I use a fork to give the mashed potato a decorative finish that crunches up in the oven (photo to follow next time I make it with mash).
This can then be eaten immediately or cooled and then warmed up in the over later (the best tasting by far as the flavours really deepen).  Its easily frozen once cooled.

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