Skip to main content

Cottage Pie

Updated: 8/13/21 11:00 pmPublished: 10/26/20
By Catherine Newman

Makes: 6 servings

Total carbohydrates: 16 grams per serving

Hands-on time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 ½ hours

If your own mum isn’t English, then maybe you don’t know the difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie – but I do! Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb; cottage pie usually means beef. But just use whatever meat – and whatever name – you prefer. This is homey comfort food at its best, even with cauliflower swapped in for the usual mashed potatoes.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or put through a garlic press

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt), plus more to taste

1 pound ground beef (ideally 80/20 or 85/15 lean to fat ratio)

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup beef, chicken, or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or whatever kind of vinegar you have)

A large pinch of dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

Black pepper

½ cup frozen green peas, thawed or still frozen (or skip, if you don’t like or want to use peas)

1 recipe Creamy Mashed Cauliflower or 1 pound frozen mashed cauliflower, heated according to the package directions (Trader Joe’s makes a pretty good one that comes in weird pucks inside the bag, but is tasty)

1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I like to use orange cheddar for this)


  1. Heat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.

  2. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large cast-iron skillet (or in another oven-proof pan), and sauté the onion, celery, and garlic with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt), until the vegetables are tender and starting to turn golden, around 15 minutes.

  3. Add the ground beef to the skillet and turn up the heat so that the meat starts to sear. Break it up with a spatula and cook until it’s browning in spots and no longer pink, around 5 – 10 minutes.

  4. Stir in the flour until it disappears, then add the broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, thyme, bay leaf, black pepper, and salt to taste. Simmer until the flavors are blended and the mixture looks glossy and thick, around 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning (Does it need more salt? Another dash of vinegar or grinding of pepper?) then stir in the peas.

  5. Stir half the cheese into the mashed cauliflower, then spoon it on top of the beef mixture. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and put the dish in the oven for 30 –35 minutes until the top is well browned and the sides are bubbling up. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her book "How to Be A Person" was published in 2020. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

What do you think?

About the authors

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop... Read the full bio »