Cottage pie is one of those dishes that you can change every time you make it - chuck in a bit more of this, a little less of that, twice as much of those things over there, half of these things here - you get the idea.
The important thing is not to be too precious about amounts, or even ingredients. Take a look in the cupboard and think "Might a little bit of that work?" It probably will.
What you want to start with is the base - meat and potatoes. And then you go from there.
Here's one version of a superb dish that tastes great at any time of the year, though on a hot summer's day you may prefer a light salad as opposed to this better-suited-to-winter nosh.
OK let's take a look at the suggested ingredients....
Here's roughly what you'll need for two big eaters or three light eaters: Minced meat - beef or pork, or even chicken A large onion A handful of mushrooms A large carrot Salt and pepper Paprika
- Ketchup or tomato purée
- Worcestershire sauce
- Beef/chicken/vegetable stock - about 250ml
And for the mash:
- Four large potatoes and one sweet potato (this gives the mash a lovely bit of colour)
- A clove of garlic
- Milk and butter
- Grated cheese of your choice.
- So first get the spuds on, boiling away on the stove.
- Then chop the onion and carrot and fry it all over a low to medium heat.
- After a minute or two, chuck in the chopped mushrooms. Keep mixing everything in the pan until the onion turns soft.
- Add the meat of your choice and continue frying. Make sure nothing's burning!
- Splash in a bit of Worcestershire sauce, a dollop of ketchup (or purée), a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a teaspoon or more of paprika and give it a good mix.
- Make a little space in the pan to fry a clove of finely chopped garlic, for about half a minute or so. Once done, remove the garlic and put to one side (it's for the mash).
- Add the stock and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Once the spuds are soft, drain the water and keep them in the saucepan.
- Add the butter, milk and garlic.
- Keep mashing!
- Add milk and butter bit by bit until the mash is of a consistency that causes you to raise your eyebrows and say: "That looks nice."
- Mash a bit more (if you enjoy mashing).
- Next put the meat mix into an ovenproof dish, making sure you spread it evenly around the bottom.
- Spread the mash on top. Use a fork to rough the mash up - it'll brown better this way, and look more impressive when it comes out of the oven.
- Sprinkle on a decent layer of grated cheese.
- Bung it in an oven heated to 250c for however long it takes for the cheese to turn brown - probably around 15-25 minutes.
- Serve with vegetables of your choice.
- Pour on some gravy, if you like.
Then make it again another day and change the ingredients. Add a can of tomatoes to the meat mix. Leave out the Worcestershire sauce. Chuck a load of veg in the mix. Change the cheese - that kind of thing.
It may taste different but it'll always taste great.