How to make the best cottage pie

homemade cottage pie

It's the perfect winter warmer but could you make your cottage pie even better? Mumsnetters share their secrets

Start with the mince

beef mince on board

“When I make anything with beef mince I always use about 75% beef to 25% pork. Makes a huge difference to flavour and texture.”

“My grandmother actually roasted the mince! Hear me out. You mix a handful of flour with the raw mince, then pour over a mug of hot Bovril over and put it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the brown top bits are all mixed in. It sounds weird but the flour makes the meat tender and juicy and roasting it makes its own gravy.”

Beef up the umami levels

marmite and lid

“Add a big dollop of marmite to the mince!”

“Tomato ketchup and/or Worstershire sauce are magic secret ingredients…”

Bulk it out

grated carrot

“Put grated carrot in the mince. It makes it juicer and far more tasty and also cuts down the amount of meat required.”

As for the sauce/gravy…

sherlock stirring

“Depending on how many I make it for and so how many tomatoes I use I add a bit of milk with spoon of cornflour to make sure the sauce is thick and unctuous.”

Throw something new into your mash


“We have cauliflower and garlic mash on top – you could even add some soft cheese too.”

“I like making mash with half normal and half sweet potato or half swede.”

How about spicing things up?

curry powder

“We add some curry powder and chilli powder to the onions when cooking them. We then add some red lentils to the meat plus some cooked pumpkin or squash to the mash. Indian cottage pie is the best, though not authentic.”

Or adding a chocolate element? Yes, really.


“My secret ingredients are cinnamon and chocolate powder added to the mince mix just before the stock. You can't really taste them individually, they just add a richness and slight twang to the flavour. You will need to play around a bit to find what ratio is right for you as it does depend on how much you're making.”

If all this has inspired you to get cooking – remember this one thing.


“Make it the day before if possible. It tastes 100 times better the next day!”

The basic recipe

If you're going to use any of these tips, to get you started here's a highly-rated Mumsnet recipe for cottage pie.