Grilled Veg Cottage Pie (aka Sunken Cottage Pie)


Serves 5-6

I was planning on focusing on lighter fare this week; however, the recent cold snap we had here in New England demands a warming, comforting meal. And a cottage pie is perfect! Cottage pie is quite similar to shepherds pie, except it uses ground beef as opposed to ground lamb.

I prepared the meal for a dinner party, and the guests said I could quote them: "Absolutely delicious!" And they asked for seconds so that must be a good sign! It certainly is serious comfort food! And makes for tasty leftovers.

A few tips and lessons learned:

I had a slight mishap - the filling bubbled over the potato/cauliflower topping as it cooked. I believe the mashed mixture was too cool and did not spread over the beef easily – gaps were left around the edges of the pie. Make sure the topping completely covers the filling and you should be fine. If not….call it Sunken Cottage Pie! Still tastes great!

Also, you’ll also want to make sure you leave enough time to grill the vegetables. With one small grilling pan, it took me a good hour and a half working in stages. You will need a grilling pan, available at most kitchen stores.

Roasting Option: If grilling is not an option, you can roast the vegetables. Grilling adds a certain smoky complexity, which is lovely. But roasting works too! Usually 400° for 20-25 minutes does the trick. First toss all the veggies with oil and salt. You can work on the filling while they roast. Take them out and turn the oven down to 350°. Then follow the directions for after grilling.


(To make roux: melt 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat; blend in ½ cup all purpose flour and stir for 2-3 minutes.)

For the topping

  • 2½ lbs. white potatoes, rinsed, peeled and cut into 1½” chunks
  • 1 head cauliflower rinsed and cut into bite sized pieces (a bit smaller than potatoes)
  • 3½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. parsnips rinsed, peeled and cut into small bite sized pieces
  • 1¾ cup organic whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

For the filling
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1½ lbs. lean grass fed ground beef (90 percent)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • 1¾ cups organic beef stock
  • 1 cup frozen pea/carrot mix
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon HP sauce (available at Irish import shops) or steak sauce of your choice
  • 1½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • Roux (see above)
  • Salt and pepper

Prepare roux. Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grilling Method (see above tips for roasting option)

Parboil potatoes and cauliflower for 7 minutes. Remove them from the pot with a hand strainer and place in a large strainer to fully drain, reserving the boiled water. Working in two batches, place potato/cauliflower mix into a sealable gallon plastic bag with 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Shake to coat and place in large bowl. Repeat with the second batch.


Working in small batches, cook the potato/cauliflower mix in a grill pan on a grill set to high (550-600° F) until well charred (about 15 minutes) stirring often, placing the cooked veg in a large bowl. The grill lid should remain closed except for stirring. (This process could take an hour or more, so pour a glass of wine and add slowly to mouth. Repeat as necessary.)

When about half the vegetables are done grilling, return the water to a boil and parboil the parsnips for 6 minutes, straining. Set milk and butter on countertop to warm to room temperature.

When the potato/cauliflower mix is fully grilled, reduce the grill to medium-high (450-500° F) and toss the parsnips in ½ tablespoon vegetable oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt, using the gallon bag method if desired. Grill the parsnips in the grill pan until well charred (about 8 minutes) stirring often.

After grilling or roasting….

Heat olive oil over medium heat in Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot. Add garlic and onion and sauté until onions are soft and becoming translucent. Add the ground beef and thyme, breaking up the beef with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until the meat is browned. Add the wine, half the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, tomato paste, parsnips and pea/carrot mix. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Mash the roasted or grilled potato/cauliflower/parsnip mixture with the milk and butter, adding more milk if needed for a rough mashed consistency. Mix in chives. Taste and season with pepper and more salt if needed.


Add the remaining beef stock to the filling and bring to a boil, adding the roux as needed to thicken. It should be thick, but juicy. Spread potato/cauliflower mixture on top, making sure to completely cover the filling so it doesn’t bubble up over the top. Spread cheese over the top and bake for half hour or until the top is golden and slightly crispy.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.