Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie!

Prep Time:55 mins, Cook Time: 30 mins, Total Time: 1 hr 25 mins

October 15, 2012

Cottage PieThere’s more than a chill in the air and finally it’s time to bring on the pies and stews. I love my winter food. Normally I love nothing more than a super-meaty cottage pie with no more veggie additions than a little carrot and celery. However, my son Jacques (who’s now two and a half) is back on his Mission of Veggie Refusal and I’m back on my Mission of Veggie Disguise. And this super-seasonally vegged-up recipe has an umteen amount of the good stuff that will please even the most ardent of carnivores.

Interestingly the wee fella loves his fruit, particularly if he’s picked it himself which he often does, gorging himself on figs (his favourite), blackberries (second fave), plums, greengages and the odd pear from the garden. And he’ll happily eat a banana. And yet virtually all veggies are a complete no go these days, even his once beloved peas and sometimes low and behold even sweetcorn! He’ll happily watch and join in as I pick green beans and tommies, lift the carrots and parnsips, cut the brocolli or sweetcorn from the garden. But when it come to eating them, you’re having a laugh! It’s always a whiny ‘dont like’ coupled with a pushing away off the plate or even worse a full blown, increasingly more frequent, tantrum. I’m still lucky Francesca will eat pretty much all veggies put her way, admittedly not with great gusto (but then she doesn’t particularly like most foods!) and always under a certain amount of duress. But she can’t get enough carrots, because they’re what horseys eat.

This cottage pie is an out and out winner with them both and with big people too, and provides a couple of healthy and pleasing family dinners. Whenever I’m making these slow-to-cook meaty dinners I tend to double (or treble) up on quantities, freezing half or keeping it in the fridge for later in the week. Halve the below ingredients list if you want to make enough for just one dinner.

Feel free to vary the veggies, use whatever’s seasonal or you have in. My weights are only what I so happened to have picked and are included for a guideline only, so please vary accordingly. I used swiss chard, carrots, french beans, celery and butternut squash in the meat sauce and parsnips and potatoes in the topping. The first parsnips of the year actually, and the first parsnips I’ve ever grown. Pretty impressive size I thought, Jacques and I were a bit surprised when we lifted them together! You could also use pumpkin, spinach, mushrooms, runner beans, swede, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli, cabbage, kale or peppers and probably loads of other veggies I can’t think of right now!

I also have a tendency to leave the skins on my carrots, parsnips and potatoes (and give them a jolly good scrub obviously!), but then mine are all organically home grown. It’s up to you.

This is also a recipe that can easily be adapted for weaning babies. Omit the Worcester Sauce and use baby stock cubes which are available at most big chemists, then whiz up the cooked beef and veggie sauce in a processor before piling on the topping.

Since my recipe is full of seasonal goodies I’m entering it into Fabulicious Food’s Simple and In Season challenge, this month hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen


The Good Stuff:

Any veggies you throw in!

Great For:

Babies 9-12 Months (see above notes on adapting for babies), Toddlers, Pre-Schoolers, Big Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, The Veggie Adverse, Hiding Veggies, Using up Veggie Leftovers, Making Ahead, Freezing


Serves a Family of 4 TWICE!
Use whatever veggies are in season and you have to hand, pretty much all work!

Special Equipment:

A large saucepan, an ovenproof dish

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie!

Ingredients Prep Time:55 mins, Cook Time: 30 mins, Total Time: 1 hr 25 mins

For the Meat & Veggie Sauce:

1 large onion

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

300g butternut or pumpkin

2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil

600g good quality beef mince

1 tablespoon plain flour

800ml beef stock

1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree

2 teaspoons Worcester Sauce

3 large sprigs thyme

3 bay leaves

black pepper

100g french or runner beans, finely diced

200g chard or spinach, separating any thick stems from the leafy parts and shredding separately

For the Topping:

850g potatoes peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

500g parsnips, peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

50g butter

50ml milk

2 teaspoons creamed horseradish, optional

salt & pepper

1) Finely dice the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. I usually pulse these veggies in a food processor both for speed and to get them reasonably fine (and well hidden!).

2) Heat the oil in a very large saucepan and throw in the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.

3) Turn up the heat and add the beef. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned.

4) Stir in the flour, quickly followed by the stock, tomato puree, worcester sauce, thyme, bay and a generous pinch of black pepper.

5) Now prepare the rest of your veggies, dicing them to an appropriate size for your kids i.e. the finer the dice the less likelihood of rejection!. Add them to the sauce. If you’re using swiss chard, include the diced stems at this stage but add the green leaves later (the same for spinach). Cover and leave to simmer for at least 30 minutes. If the sauce looks like it’s drying out, add a little water.

6) Pre-heat your oven to 200°c fan/180°c/Gas Mark 6.

7) Now make your potato & parsnip topping. In a large pan of boiling water boil the potatoes and parsnips until soft. Drain and allow them to steam and dry out for a few minutes. Mash with the butter, milk and horseradish. Season to taste (go easy on the salt or none at all for littlies).

8) Once the meat sauce is cooked, stir in the spinach or chard leaves if using and have a final taste check, adding a little more pepper and some salt if really necessary (no salt for littlies and you shouldn’t need to add any anyway as there’s plenty in the stock).

9) Pour it into a large openproof dish (remembering to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, which I usually don’t!). Spoon on the mash. Shape your mash with the back of a fork as desired, I like a nice swirl!.

10) Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden on the top (and if it’s not you can alway pop it under the grill).

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9 thoughts on “Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie!

  1. Andrea Mynard

    I love your cunning, do similar things myself, depending on what I have plenty of in the garden. It’s ‘green’ that Ruby always manages to spot, although I’ve found ricotta very persuasive in getting her to eat the dreaded greens – pasta bake tonight with roast butternut squash, tomato sauce and a layer of chard with ricotta. Your pie looks yummy and just the thing for cold evenings, must make one. Andrea

    1. Chez Foti

      Thanks Andrea, your pasta bake sounds really good – what an fab idea to mix ricotta and chard….I’ll definitely be trying this, we’ve LOADS of chard! We seem to be eating lots of roasted butternut these days, tonnes in the garden too, Louisa

  2. laura_howtocook

    I love this recipe. So good to produce a dish that can incorporate so many good veggies, all home grown. I know how funny kids can be over vegetables from my own experience. They do like nothing more than eating them straight form the plant at the allotment over any other way. But I also chop them very finely into sauces and pies. But raw wins for us!

    1. Chez Foti

      Unfortunately Jacques doesn’t do raw, apart from the peas we had earlier in the summer but we didn’t have many, I don’t think they grow well at all here. Francesca will happily munch on a carrot I’ve just pulled up though.

  3. Pingback: Simple and In Season – the October roundup | Franglais Kitchen


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