September 22, 2023

A Dish Rooted in History

Cottage pie, a savory delight with minced beef blanketed by a layer of mashed potatoes, is a dish that evokes nostalgia for many. While it might conjure images of shepherds from bygone eras enjoying this hearty meal, the name “cottage pie” didn’t come into play until the 1870s. This was when mincing machines made their debut, revolutionizing the way this dish was prepared.


The Global Footprint of British Cuisine

Rachel Roddy, while delving into the origins of this dish, highlights the global journey of its ingredients. Carrots, for instance, traveled from Afghanistan to Europe during the Middle Ages. Wild celery, native to Europe and Asia, underwent cultivation to become the familiar vegetable we know today. The onion, a staple in many cuisines, has its own rich etymology.

Such explorations underscore the ever-evolving nature of food ingredients and traditions. As they intersect with other cultures and practices, they transform, reflecting the dynamic tapestry of global culinary heritage.

A Recipe Close to Home

Roddy’s rendition of the cottage pie is deeply personal, drawing from her English childhood memories and blending them with her experiences in Rome. Here’s how you can recreate this comforting dish:


  • For the Pie:
    • 100g rindless streaky bacon
    • 3 tbsp suitable fat (lard, dripping, butter, etc.)
    • 1 diced onion
    • 1 diced small leek
    • 1 carrot
    • 2 diced sticks of celery
    • 1 bay leaf
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 400g minced beef
    • 1 tsp Marmite (optional)
    • 300ml light stock
    • 1kg peeled potatoes
    • Butter and whole milk for mashing


  1. Preparing the Filling: In a heavy-based pan, fry the bacon gently in the fat. Add the onion, celery, leek, carrot, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt. Continue frying until the vegetables soften. Add the minced beef, breaking it up until it browns. Incorporate the Marmite (if using) and pour in the stock. Simmer for an hour until the mixture thickens.
  2. Preparing the Mash: Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash them with butter and milk, seasoning to taste.
  3. Assembling the Pie: Transfer the beef mixture to an oven-proof dish. Layer the mashed potatoes on top, using a fork to create rough peaks.
  4. Baking: Bake in a preheated oven at 190C (170C fan)/gas 5 for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

This dish, a blend of British tradition and global influences, is a testament to the universality of comfort food. Whether you’re in the heart of England or in a kitchen in Rome, the appeal of a warm cottage pie remains unchanged.

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