Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

The ultimate cottage pie

The ultimate cottage pie is as cheap as anything and packed full of deep, beefy flavour.

The ultimate cottage pie is as cheap as anything and packed full of deep, beefy flavour.

I hit upon this idea for the Ultimate Cottage Pie a couple of weeks ago when I was making chilli con carne at home. It wasn’t any old chilli con carne either, mind you.

Made from succulent shin of beef – braised for over four hours – and a whole host of authentic smoked peppers from Mexico, it was so good, I ate it four times in two days and loved every morsel.


The cottage pie angle came about as I was eating the chilli on one occasion and wondering what else could be done with shin other than the ubiqutous soup.

Cheap as anything and packed full of deep, beefy flavour, shin is often neglected because it requires some TLC to catalyse the finished dish – but what a dish.

The TLC, such as it is, is long, slow cooking, the sort of cooking which is so relaxed, you can almost forget it’s happening at all. It’s the sort of cooking which requires lots of patience, a Sunday paper and umpteen cups of tea – my kind of cooking.

It’s also the kind of cooking which I think requires a relaxed attitute when it comes to the ingredients. Don’t have any rosemary? What odds. Leave it out. Fancy adding some dried porcine mushrooms? Knock yourself out. So on that basis, this list of ingredients is intended as a guide only.

1kg of beef shin, extra fat and sinues removed
3 red onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves  of garlic, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped (big pieces)
1 celery stick, chopped
dash of olive oil
couple of sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
dash of vegetable oil
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp of worchestershire sauce
500ml of water or beef stock
1 family pack of Mash Direct Champ (for handiness)
knob of butter
handful of frozen peas
cheddar cheese
sea salt
black pepper

Start by pre-heating the oven to 180˚C.

In a flame proof casserole dish, add the oil, onions and celery and sweat until soft. Add the garlic and stir fry for a minute then dump in the carrots and stir it all up. Add the tomatoes and scrape away with a wooden spoon if any veg has become stuck.


Dump in the rosemary, worchestershire, beef stock (or water), bay leaves and lastly, the big hunks of beef shin. Leave these whole, bone in, with a view to dismantling later.

Give it a good grinding of black pepper, top it up with water out of the kettle to the meat is mostly covered and then stick a lid on and retire to the oven.

Turn the heat down to 140˚C and let it bubble gently for two hours at least. Check after this time to make sure it hasn’t dried out (and to satisfy your curiosity too) and then return to the oven for at least another hour or until you can pull the meat apart with the greatest of ease.

When it’s at that stage, remove from the oven and lift out the hunks of meat.

Let these cool a little and then with a fork, break apart the meat into manageable pieces and set aside. Discard any fat but don’t throw away the marrow out of the bones. That’s arguably the best bit.

Put the casserole back on the hob and reduce your gravy by about a third. Basically, when you return the meat you want something solid enough that the spuds will sit nicely on top.

Mush up the marrow with a fork and return this with the meat to the casserole dish and you’re nearly done.

Taste the meaty mixture, remove the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning. It will probably take a little salt.

Cook the Mash Direct champ as per instructions and then stir through the knob of butter with a touch of seasoning.

In a clean casserol dish (or several small ones), ladle in the meat mixture with a handful of thawed frozen peas and then top with the champ and a handful of cheddar cheese.

Fifteen more minutes in a medium hot oven (180˚C) and your work is done. Magic.

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