Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday Eats - Cottage Pie Lab Tested and Approved

This is snow-weather comfort food at it's best, and it's even better on day two.  My Mom would make this from leftovers when I was a kid and my Dad, being of English descent, remembered it well from HIS childhood.

Coleman's also makes a  shepherd's pie seasoning mix that  is really good mixed with just meat, water and veggies but this is my preferred way of making it and the only way I'll make it if sharing with others.  If my husband is on the road, I'll prepare this without the salt (adding at table), Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, or onion, with greatly just a a touch of home-grown fresh garlic and using fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage, and lower fat unsweetened yogurt in place of the cream cheese and will share with Abby Lab.  She LOVES it and the herbs are good for her as are peas and carrots (onions are highly toxic for dogs and nutmeg is not a safe spice for them either). A Canine version is at the bottom of the post!

The difference between Shepherd and Cottage pie is the choice of meat, Shepherd's pie is traditionally made with lamb which I don't eat. I've also made a "Shepherdless" version using cooked lentils and veggie stock in place of the meat and beef stock with a sweet potato mash made without dairy (almond milk and vegan buttery spread) and it's wonderful as well.

Cottage Pie (human version)

Mashed Potatoes
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 tsp, minced garlic
1/4 cup half-and-half
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4  tsp. teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of nutmeg
1/4 of a regular sized block of  cream cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 egg yolk

Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 to 2-inch pieces.  Add to a pan of water over medium, covering potatoes with water.  Cook over medium for 30 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain in a colander and add garlic.

In a microwave-safe bowl, nuke butter and cream cheese until softened,  add half and half and microwave another 15-30 seconds, until warm.  Mix into potatoes and beat with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy, adding a bit more half-and-half if the mixture is too dry. Stir in the egg yolk and set aside.

Meat filling

For the meat filling, saute in 2 Tablespoons oil until onions are softened and meat is cooked through.  
1 and 1/2 pound ground meat or equivalent of veggie "beef" crumbles
1/2 extra large sweet onion chopped
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons minced garlic (or equivalent of two cloves)
1 and 1/2 pounds ground meat

Add 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce as it finishes cooking

Drain off any extra grease and add :

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toss meat with:

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

and cook for a minute.
Is it ready yet Mom? It's food o-clock!


2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
pinch or two of crushed red pepper
1 and 1/2 cups mixed frozen veggies (I used peas and carrots, corn and green beans are also good).

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover and simmer 10-12 minutes until the sauce is thickened slightly and the veggies are starting to soften (they will continue cooking in the oven.).

Note: You can use canned veggies, just drain and add them to the cooked meat and gravy mixture right before placing in baking dish.

Place meat mixture in an 11 x 7 baking dish and top with mashed potatoes, smoothing with a spatula and bringing potatoes up over the lip of dish so the gravy doesn't bubble up around the edges and cover up the potatoes.

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, topping with 3/4 to 1 cup smoked cheddar 10-15 minutes before done if you like the cheese really soft, or putting on before placing in the oven, which crisps up the cheese around the edges - a personal choice.

Put a cookie sheet on the shelf below in case it does bubble a bit over the edge.

Let sit 5 minutes and enjoy with a nice pint of ale. or beverage of choice. Serves 6-8.
I've got my Elvis lip curl going 
'cuz you're taking too long!

Cottage Pie - Canine Version: (no exceptions)

1. NO Onions  which are deadly dangerous for your dog - replace with CELERY which is GOOD for dogs.

2. Cut down on the garlic by at least half or OMIT for smaller dogs.

Note: Do NOT feed your dog jarred garlic.  Use only FRESH, raw garlic that is in the husk until you prepare.  Make sure it's produced in the United states or home grown.  Chinese garlic which is exported tests positive for unsafe levels of arsenic, heavy metals, and chlorine.  Don't risk your dog's health by using fresh garlic from an unknown producer or jarred garlic.

3. NO Salt OR pepper (some dogs can handle a bit of pepper but salt is TOXIC)

4. NO Worcestershire sauce (high in salt which is TOXIC for canines)

5. NO Nutmeg (not safe for dogs)

6. Use fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage and double the amount of what is listed for dried herbs All three are pet-safe and rosemary and thyme have noted health benefits for dogs.

7. Low-fat  plain yogurt in place of Cream Cheese to reduce fat which can upset dog's tummy and use less cheese as topping if your dog is sensitive to fat. (You could have buttered a tank and Barkley would have eaten it.)


  1. Mommy loves making meat pies like this. She is going to have to try your recipe. I don't know if our tummies could handle the dog recipe. We are very delicate

  2. We love Cottage Pie around here, it's a winter staple!

  3. Ahhh yuuuum! That looks tasty! Might have to give this a try!
    Thank you so much for sharing with us :)

    Enjoy the rest of your day & Happy Holidays!

  4. I love it... do you think it is possible to replace the meat with fish? then it would be technically a 'fishermans-pie' but maybe that works too?

    1. Yes. It's quite common to have that with fish. But the gravy is a white sauce instead of a tomato/beef one. Here's one she likes (in metric for you).

      Fish Cottage Pie

      1 and ½ pound potatoes peeled and halved
      splash of milk
      25g butter
      25g flour
      4 spring onion
      , finely sliced
      400ml milk
      1 x pack fish pie mix (cod, salmon, smoked haddock etc, weight around 320g-400g depending on pack size)
      1 tsp Dijon or English mustard
      ½ a 25g pack or a small bunch chives, finely snipped
      handful frozen sweetcorn
      handful frozen petits pois
      handful grated cheddar

      Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180 fan/ gas mark 6. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and pour over enough water to cover them. Bring to the boil and then simmer until tender. When cooked, drain thoroughly and mash with a splash of milk and some butter. Season with ground black pepper.

      Meanwhile, put the butter, flour and spring onions in another pan and heat gently until the butter has melted, stirring regularly. Cook for 1 -2 mins. Gradually whisk in the milk using a balloon whisk if you have one. Bring to the boil, stirring to avoid any lumps and sticking at the bottom of the pan. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes until thickened.

      Take off the heat and stir in the cheese (if using), fish, mustard, chives, sweetcorn and peas. Spoon into an ovenproof dish or 6- 8 ramekins.

      Spoon the potato on top and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Pop in the oven for 20 - 25 mins or until golden and bubbling at the edges. Alternatively, cover and freeze the pie or mini pies for another time.


Welcome to The Book of Barkley and the Blogville dog blogging community. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on our Lab Rescues that have joined our household since Barkley left us.

Stop in and say hello. However, comments from strangers offering business links will NOT be posted. I