Recipe and images by Fiona Hugues

I’m not going to string you some bucolic line here, so here it is, my name is Fiona and I detest cottage pie. “Whatever,” I can hear you tutt-tutting. Call me a snob, but my aversion is with valid reason. It’s stemmed from this – I’m a mother of three and back when I was hindered at home with a freshly laid newborn, the officious but kind mother of one of my best friends would take it upon herself to fill my freezer with tired Tupperware containers full of what she called ‘cottage pie’. Bless her (she’s dead now so I can write this without too much collateral carnage), she’d arrive, drenched in a cloud of No.5, lippy always, Chanel-clad from coifed head to her Versace tottering toes, clutching said containers of sloppy dull brown mince, scattered with frozen mixed veggies and topped with, wait for it, instant mashed potato. Sometimes there would be a scattering of grated cheese and a few dollops of margarine on the top for good measure. Honestly, I – weary, lactating and sleep deprived – did indulge in one, two, or thirty-frigging-five of these pies, if you can call them that, but not without seasoning the f-ck out of them first. A blessed accompaniment of a decent dollop of chutney also immensely helped shove life into my soupy sad prison-like servings, praise the good Lord. But, alas, after my third child and subsequent third tedious season of a freezer full of those damn things, a decade or two later, I can no longer look, nor glance at a cottage pie. This far removed rendition here admittedly I didn’t eat either, but my crew devoured it, and if I ever was to get over myself and eat it too, this golden spud galette crowned bolognaise version would surely be it. It also makes a fast handheld tart, or pretty petite canapés – cut casual squares of puff pastry, lay them on a baking tray, dollop with the bolognaise sauce, top with some of the sliced spuds in the same way and bake until golden.

1 x 500g pack flaky pastry sheets (I used Paneton)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

900g prime beef mince

½ cup red wine

400g tin crushed Italian tomatoes

400g tin cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp raw sugar

1 tbsp tomato paste

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1 egg, beaten

sour cream to serve


5–6 medium Agria potatoes, par boiled until just beginning to soften

2 tbsp butter, melted

parmesan dust (powder)

basil leaves

Heat a slop of oil in a large saucepan, add the mince and garlic and season well. Cook over medium heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon as you go, until evenly browned.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan then add the tinned tomatoes, balsamic, tomato paste and sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 190°C fan bake.

Grease a 26cm or a large loose bottomed tart tin and line with flaky pastry, pressing the edges together to seal and pricking the base all over with a fork. Brush the rim of the tart with beaten egg. Refrigerate while you prepare the potatoes.

Slice the par boiled potatoes into 2mm thick slices.

Fill the tart case with the cooled mince mixture.

Top with the potato slices. Brush potatoes with melted butter and season. Sprinkle over the parmesan powder.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden. Decorate with basil leaves and serve with sour cream.

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