Recipe: Extra wholesome cottage pie

I’ve turned into one of those mums who tries to disguise vegetables and squeeze in something – anything – nutritious into meals without my kids (one in particular) noticing. I always thought my kids would love vegetables and a wide range of diverse and interesting foods. Yeah, they did, when they were 2! Now he’s 5 and she’s 3 it’s a different story. 

To be fair, she’s quite good. But he’s a blinking nightmare at the moment, food wise. I try my best to just suck it up and have that attitude of a humorous wooden shabby chic sign that reads “dinner choice tonight: take it or leave it!”, but it’s hard when you are worrying that the only things he seems to eat are meat, potatoes and the odd apple. 
And so it is. If I can get away with some hidden sweet potato in the mash; some clandestine lentils in the meat, hell, I’m gonna do it!
So here is my cottage pie – with nutritional bells on. And they all enjoyed it. Mostly. The kale? I just put it there to make me feel better. They didn’t touch it. 
The gravy I make in the pie mixture, if you know what I mean. I add a lot of stock, then cook for a while, and thicken with a little Bisto (perfectly acceptable), and then drain most of the gravy out. Set aside and reheat when ready to serve. It’s a really good method, as the gravy tastes very beefy and ‘matches’ the pie. I made double quantities and stuck one in the fridge. 

Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients: 
2 tablespoons of olive oil 
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dried thyme
500g minced beef 
100g red lentils
2 tablespoons tomato puree
750ml beef stock
Pepper (don’t use salt if using commercial beef stock)

To make the topping: 
About 600g potatoes (red skinned are good for mash), peeled and cut into chunks
About 600g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks 
50g butter 
Splash whole milk 
Salt and pepper
100g grated cheddar (to top)

To make the gravy: 
A sprinkle of gravy thickener (such as Bisto)

Instructions: 
  1. Soften the onion, garlic and carrots in oil for 15 minutes. 
  2. Turn up the heat and add the minced beef. Brown the meat, stirring every so often. 
  3. Add the herbs, tomato puree, and beef stock. 
  4. Finally the lentils. Season with pepper and simmer for 1 hour. 
  5. Cook the potatoes and sweet potatoes (separately as they cook at different rates). Drain, mash and mix together. Add butter and milk and season. Set aside. 
  6. Sprinkle gravy thickener into the meat sauce until you can see that the gravy is thick enough. Drain through a sieve. Keep the meat mixture moist though. 
  7. Preheat oven to 180C. 
  8. Put the meat in a large baking dish. Top with mash mixture. Then add cheese. Bake for 45 minutes. 
  9. Serve with greens and a large dollop of hopefulness. 
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