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Monday 4 July 2011

Sluttishly Savoury: Asparagus cottage pie

One writer, one nurse/web designer, one aspiring artist and one street-dance obsessive makes for a busy household. Whilst I would love to cook from scratch every night for my ravenous family, my schedule doesn’t always make that a possibility. However, that’s not to say that I don’t make provisions to ensure no one goes hungry. Mammoth meals that can be enjoyed immediately and frozen in portion-sizes mean we can all eat well, even if we don’t get in until 10pm.

Sometimes simple is best, and a classic cottage pie made with some good-quality mince (I’ll only get meat from my local butcher, who provides locally-sourced meat and even supplies the kitchens of my daughters’ school) can often be just what the doctor ordered.

You’ll need:
  • 750g minced beef
  • Three or four large potatoes (baking)
  • Two medium onions
  • Three large garlic cloves
  • 10 baby carrots
  • Bunch of fresh asparagus
  • Tomato puree
  • Two large pinches of dried oregano
  • Handful of fresh parsley (chopped)
For the gravy:
  • Plain flour (handful)
  • Large knob of butter
  • Tablespoon of Marmite
  • Juices from the cooked mince
  • Stock cube and boiling water
Make it!

The filling:
  • Pre-heat your oven to 225°C and get your potato water on the boil. You can consider a new haircut whilst you do this, if you like.
  • Chop your garlic and onions and slam them in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Whilst they are sweating, cut your carrots and asparagus into decent chunks (too small and they’ll get lost amongst the flavours).
  • Get your peeled, quartered potatoes in their water, adding a pinch of salt to the water just after they’re in.
  • Once the onions have turned golden, add your mince to the pan. I usually add a decent helping of tomato puree into the mix now, too.
  • When the meat begin to brown, add the dried oregano evenly.
  • Leave the meat to cook on a very low heat, and start on your gravy.
The gravy:

For those of you not familiar, a rue is the basis of almost every sauce, and it’s super simple!
  • Melt a large knob of butter in a heavy-based pan.
  • Get that kettle boiling and melt a stock cube in boiling water.
  • Once the butter is melted TAKE IT OFF THE HEAT and blend in some flour, a little at a time, until you’re left with a creamy, yellow-ish paste.
  • Remain off the heat (this is super-important if you don’t want lumps) and add the stock water. I also add a large tablespoon of Marmite, and usually a little of the juices from the mince pan.
  • Return to a medium heat and warm through, stirring constantly until the rue and the stock water have become one and begun to thicken.
The pie:
  • Blend the gravy into the mince mix, and transfer to an oven-proof earthenware dish, and sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley.
  • When your potatoes are soft, drain and mash. Add a generous dollop of butter, a good pinch of salt, some cracked black pepper and just a dash or so of milk – you’re looking for a thick but smooth consistency.
  • Spread the potatoes over the slightly cooled filling. Distribute evenly and finish with a fork (to get those nice spiky bits that go all crispy).
  • The pie will need about 30 minutes in the centre of your oven before it’s perfectly stewed and delicious!


  1. Fantastic recipe. Thank you. Can't wait to give it a try.

    Wondering if the Marmite a vital ingredient or if there's a suitable alternative for us Marmite haters. Maybe a bit of umami paste instead?

  2. A dab of Worcestershire Sauce might suffice instead ...


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