I was asked by Heinz recently if I'd like to receive a sample of their secret ingredient for recipes. With all due respect to them, their ingredient - tomato ketchup - isn't very much of a secret because I've been using it in recipes for years. I use it in spag bol and tuna pasta and ever since I saw Sophie Grigson on the telly using it in her recipe for cottage pie I've been doing the same. Well, if it's good enough for her then who am I to argue?
And here is her recipe, which I use every time I make cottage pie. It's always delicious and my girls love it.
Sophie Grigson's Cottage Pie
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic
675g good quality minced beef
400g can chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
2 teaspoons (or a good slosh!) Worcestershire sauce
half tsp dried thyme
half tsp ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the mash: approx. 700g Maris Piper or other floury potatoes; 65g butter; 200-300ml milk, salt and pepper.
Cook the onion and carrot in a large, wide frying pan over a medium heat until tender and lightly coloured. Add the garlic and stir for a few seconds, the increase the heat to high and add half the mince. Fry briskly breaking up any lumps and turning meat over to brown evenly. Scoop out onto a plate.
Add the remaining mince to the pan and fry in the same way. Then return first batch to pan along with the chopped tomatoes and all the remaining ingredients. Add 300ml of water.
Bring to the boil and half cover. Simmer gently, stirring from time to time for about an hour adding more hot water if needed. By this time the meat should be tender and most of the liquid should have evaporated away to leave a delicious meaty mush. Taste and adjust seasoning (and add more ketchup or Worcestershire sauce if needed).
Make the mash with Maris Pipers if you can, they give a really smooth consistent mash. I'm not going to insult you by telling you how to boil potatoes, but when they're soft (but not mushy) drain them in the pan and add the milk and butter. Add salt and pepper, then mash like mad.
To assemble the cottage pie, spoon the mince into your dish and dot the mashed potato over the top. Smooth down with a fork, being careful not to push the mince out over the sides of the dish. Dot with small pieces of butter and bake in the oven until it starts going brown on top. Serve with fresh veg.