The Ultimate Cottage Pie
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    Serves 4 - 6
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The inspiration for this recipe came from my very first couple of weeks working in contract catering, quite a number of years ago. At first, the change from restaurants to the contract catering world was difficult, I was facing challenges that I had no time to think about at first. I had clients that wanted simple classical food cooked well. The first request was for shepherds pie. This request did ‘throw’ me a bit at first but once I actually started to think about it the challenge became fun.

The good news is that I did rise to the occasion, my  shepherds pie was outstanding. I used shoulder of lamb that I confit in duck fat for 5 hours. The clients could not stop talking about it as I made shepherds pie posh and super delicious. Few, that was a good result!

I used the inspiration of that dish to develop the ultimate cottage pie recipe. I used shin of beef instead of traditional minced beef. Succulent slowly braised shin of beef topped with buttery creamy mash, it’s time consuming but worth every minute.

Ingredients & Method

For the Braised Shin of Beef

  • 800g shin of beef, de-boned
  • 50ml sunflower oil
  • 100g rough diced onion
  • 100g rough diced celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs tomato puree
  • 200ml red wine
  • 1L chicken stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To complete the cottage pie

  • 1tbs sunflower oil
  • 100g carrots, 5mm diced warm freshly cooked creamy mashed potatoes
  • 100g banana shallots, 5mm diced
  • 100g leeks, 5mm diced
  • 100g celery, 5mm diced
  • flaked cooked beef shin
  • stock from the cooked beef shin
  • 2tbs chopped mixed soft herbs such as chervil, chives and parsley
  • 600g cooked creamy mashed potato, still warm

First braise the beef shin. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Heat a large casserole dish with the sunflower oil. Generously season the shin of beef with salt and pepper, use your hands to rub it in.

Brown the whole piece of beef shin until golden all over about 10 -15 minutes, remove from the casserole dish and set aside.

Brown the onions, celery, garlic, herbs and spices in the same pan for 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook for further 2 minutes.

Return the shin of beef to the casserole dish add the red wine and cook for five minutes.

Add the chicken stock and cover with a lid, bring the stock to the boil. Place the casserole dish in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Stir twice during the cooking.

Once the shin is cooked; remove the casserole dish from the oven let it cool slightly.

Gently remove the warm beef from the stock, pass the stock through a sieve. Set the stock aside.

Flake the shin of beef while the meat is still warm, this will ensure that you can remove any sinew successfully. Shin of beef contains a high quantity of natural gelatine and once the meat cools it will solidify and make it difficult to flake the meat. Set the flaked meat aside.

To finish the pie, preheat the grill and get 4 pie dishes ready on a baking tray or use one large dish.

Heat a large saucepan with the oil, sauté the diced vegetables until tender but with no colour about 10 minutes, add the flaked braised shin of beef, stir and cook for five minutes.

Add a ladle of the braising stock at a time, stir well. Only add enough stock to coat the meat and vegetables. Do not use too much stock as this will make the cottage pie filling too wet.

Bring the meat to the boil and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes to ensure that the meat is piping hot.

Adjust the seasoning if required and add the mixed herbs.

Spoon the piping hot cottage pie filling into the pie dishes and top with the hot creamy mashed potato.

Place the cottage pies under the preheated grill and grill until golden brown. Once the cottage pies are golden and crispy, dust with extra chopped soft herbs and serve.