I made this low carb cottage pie last week with great results. The potato-loving Mr KitchenBlurb made all sorts of skeptical noises, so I was nervous. But he agreed to try it. I almost made a pie where one half of the topping was potato and the other half used cauliflower, just in case. In the end I was brave and went the whole low carb hog, and I’m very glad I did.
My kitchen clearly disagrees, however – as you can see from the not-so-subliminal carb-laden “Bread” message lurking prominently in the photo above!
Low Carb Cottage Pie – how does that even work?
For this recipe I used my fairly standard cottage pie filling, but a radically different topping. Instead of mashed potato, you use pureed cauliflower. I took this (more or less) from a Tom Kerridge recipe for shepherd’s pie with a very similar topping. I’ve not tried the full Kerridge shepherd’s pie recipe yet – but it is on my list.
I found that the puree from one pretty large cauliflower made enough for 3-4 portions, depending how hungry you are. Lacking double cream, I substituted a spoonful or two of marscapone that needed using up. It seemed to work very well, and creme fraiche would do the job just as well. The blue cheese is enough to give a noticeable but not overpowering flavour, and combines really well with the cauliflower.
The overall effect is very creamy and feels quite indulgent. However, it also feels lighter and less stodgy than a potato topping. We both really enjoyed it and I’ll definitely make it again.
Cottage Pie Filling – always a bit improvised
I would always remain fairly relaxed about the exact ingredients and quantities for a cottage pie or shepherd’s pie filling. More often than not, I mince up leftover meat from our Sunday roast rather than buying uncooked mince. The amount I use is the amount I’ve got, and I adjust the vegetable and stock quantities accordingly.
A great dish to make in advance
I regularly make meals like cottage pie or shepherd’s pie in advance. The prepared pie can be popped in the fridge to be baked later. I also often make a large quantity and either freeze the extra filling, or even put together whole extra pies ready to defrost and go straight in the oven at a later date. This means you get several meals for the effort of preparing one – convenience food at its best.
- Prep Time: 30m
- Cook Time: 35m
- Total Time: 1h 5m
For the filling
- 1 tablespoon Dripping or butter for frying
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 sticks celery, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme/1 tsp chopped thyme leaves
- 500 grams minced beef
- 250 millilitres beef stock
- 1 teaspoon cornflour
- dash Worcestershire sauce
For the topping
- 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
- 25 grams butter, cubed
- 2 tablespoons double cream/creme fraiche/cream cheese
- 100 grams blue cheese, e.g. stilton
To make the filling:
- Preheat the oven to 190 C/170 C fan/375 F/Gas 5.
- Melt the butter or dripping in a large pan over a moderate heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and soften over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add the beef and the thyme. Turn the heat to high, and keep stirring the beef until it is browned all over.
- Add 150ml of the stock to the mixture with a large dash of Worcestershire sauce. Whisk the rest of the stock together with the cornflour and than add it too. Keep stirring with the heat on high until the mixture is bubbling.
- Turn the heat down and simmer on low for at least 15 minutes. You can cook it for longer if you like to deepen the flavours, but add a little more liquid if required.
- Add salt, pepper and more Worcestershire sauce to taste. Pour the meat mixture into a decent sized ovenproof dish.
To make the topping:
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the cauliflower florets. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft and tender but not mushy (about 6-8 minutes).
- Put the cauliflower into a food processor. Add the butter, cream and some salt and pepper to taste. Blend to a smooth puree. Crumble in the blue cheese and blend again until it is all mixed together.
- Spread the cauliflower puree over the pie filling, and use a fork to create a rough surface (this helps it go more brown and crunchy on top).
- Cook in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. The pie should be bubbling and the topping should be going golden brown.