Butternut Squash Cottage Pie

Yesterday was one of those days, where you take something to thaw out in the morning and then want to make something completely different with it than originally planned. I put out some minced meat, thinking it would be easy to make some meatballs or hamburgers, since I’m working all day on some design projects, which are soon due.

Well, I ended up spending most of the day in the kitchen instead, making a cauliflower and kale soup, some chicken liver pate, and this incredibly easy and tasteful dish! The British are not particularly known for their cuisine… but this is a twist on a classic recipe.

Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie (when it’s made with lamb instead of beef) has been known since the late 1700s, when the potato was introduced as an edible crop, which was affordable to the poor. Traditionally, the pie is made to use leftover roasted meats, and there are variations in most European countries. Historically, mashed potatoes were used to line the pie dish and as a pie crust to the meat mixture inside. Interestingly, the first mention of “cottage-pye” in the UK was in 1791, when the Reverend James Woodford refers to eating it with “rost beef” for dinner.

Our culinary cultures are strongly influenced by our history, what is locally available, what a conqueror or invader brings to our land, what our ancestors brought back from other lands, and how we prepare and eat our food…for me, it’s always so interesting and so much fun to learn from other countries and enjoy foods from around the world. I hope you enjoy that I also share this passion with you in my culinary adventures!

For the original inspiration, please check out Nigel Slater’s recipe.



  • 1 large butternut squash, about 1.5 kilos* (another delicious alternative: 1 small cauliflower + 1 small swede + 5-6 roasted garlic cloves)**
  • 750g minced beef
  • 2 large leeks, using the white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, deveined and sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, unpeeled, cubed or diced
  • 5 white mushrooms, cubed
  • 2 smoked bacon back rashers, or about 1/4 cup bacon, cut into squares (preferably nitrate free)
  • butter
  • 2 teaspoons ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 450ml filtered water + 100ml filtered water
  • 4 teaspoons arrowroot powder


  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Cut the butternut squash in half and place in an oven proof dish.
  2. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until done.
  3. In the meantime, clean and prepare the vegetables.
  4. Cut the bacon back rashers into small squares.
  5. In a large frying pan, soften the leeks in some butter (I used about 1 tablespoon).
  6. Add the bacon back rashers and cook thoroughly without burning.
  7. Add the celery, carrots, and zucchini. Sauté until al-dente, about 4 minutes.
  8. Add the minced meat and cook until brown.
  9. Add the mushrooms.
  10. Now add the sea salt, thyme and pepper to taste, and about 350ml of filtered water.
  11. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  12. Add the arrowroot powder (dissolved in some broth) with the remaining water and simmer an additional 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally.
  13. Once the meat and sauce are done, set aside.
  14. Scoop out the meat from the squash with a spoon. In a bowl, mash the butternut squash with a potato masher and some butter to taste. (I used about 1 tablespoon.)
  15. In an oven proof dish, pour the meat sauce and spread evenly. (Make sure the dish is not too large that you don’t have enough mashed squash to cover all of the meat, or that the layer of meat ends up too “thin”.)
  16. Top with the mashed butternut squash. Pull a fork or spoon across the surface to create peaks.
  17. Sprinkle with some ground thyme.
  18. Bake at 180C, for 40 minutes until the top is crisp.

*If you prefer potatoes, use the same amount and mash them with butter, as well. Other options are turnip and parsnip mash, but this may be a bit sweeter.

**For another alternative: use 1 small head of cauliflower and 1 small swede. Clean, cut both vegetables and steam until soft. You’ll have to steam the swede longer than the cauliflower. Mash with a potato masher or in a food processor the cauliflower and swede, together with 1-2 tablespoons of butter plus 5-6 roasted cloves of garlic. Season with sea salt before placing over the ground meat mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

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  1. 3.21.13
    Teresa Lorenzo. said:

    Tengo un amigo Ingles que ahora vive en España que le encanta este pastel. Por la pinta que tiene tengo que darle la razón. Tendré que ponerme manos a la obra!

    • 3.22.13
      thesaffrongirl said:

      Hola Teresa! Pues si, esta buenísimo! Si no te gusta la calabaza, se puede hacer con puré de patata blanca normal, o con algún otro tubérculo. Ya me dirás si lo pruebas! 😉

  2. 3.24.13
    Dan said:

    Ultimate comfort food!!!!

  3. 6.5.13

    Delicious! So tasty and hearty; a big hit with my whole family! Thanks!