The Cottage Smallholder

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The slow cooker chef: comforting low fat cottage pie recipe

cottage pieDuring a cold snap a few weeks ago I had a longing for a really good Cottage Pie. So I made a version of this dish in the slow cooker (crock pot). Adding vegetables from our garden – the cottage kitchen smelt wonderful for hours.

The slow cooker is a great way of cutting the fat content of a dish as the meat doesn’t have to be browned in oil, or the onions fried. When the filling was cooked, I strained off the juices and put the bowl in the refrigerator. The fat was easily removed a couple of hours later. The dish was delicious but the scrap of paper where I had jotted the ingredients and weights was lost in the clear up.

I cooked it again the next week and it wasn’t nearly so tasty. Having eaten18 portions of cottage pie (great and not so great) we gave it a break until this morning. Danny spotted that minced beef was on offer at Waitrose we returned to the slow cooker in a wave of hope.

Basically you need to cook a slightly larger proportion of vegetables to meat as these both pad out and add something very special to this dish. In the end you taste meat with vegetables rather than the reverse. You could serve it alone, with a mashed potato topping but we pampered the dish, cooked our own runner beans and the combination was perfect.

Don’t be tempted to drop the courgette element. Slow cooked courgettes chopped into a casserole or stew are a revelation. The girl next door transmogrifies into a minor celebrity. When I was first introduced to courgette soup I considered the mores of leaving immediately. Failing to find an excuse I was amazed to discover that courgette soup is delicious. Almost meaty.

We doubled the recipe below and it filled our slow cooker. Cottage pies freeze well. Make sure that the contents of the slow cooker are bubbling well before you turn it from high to low, alternatively use the auto setting. It should be ready in about four hours, when the vegetables have lost their bite.

This version was even better than our first attempt. With loads of depth and comforting flavours – this recipe is a real winner.

Comforting low fat cottage pie recipe (4-6 portions)


For the filling:

  • 500g of minced beef
  • 150g of onions (peeled and chopped small)
  • 250g of carrots (peeled and chopped small – max 1cm cubes)
  • 150g of unpeeled courgettes (zucchini) chopped small
  • 65g of celery (strings removed and sliced fine)
  • 0.5 heaped tsp of finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 0.5 heaped tsp of dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp of Marmite (yeast extract)
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp of Lea and Perrin’s sauce
  • 2 tbsp of mushroom ketchup
  • 4 rounded tbsp of plain flour
  • 1 tsp (heaped) of unsoaked dried wild mushrooms chopped fine
  • Lashings of ground lack pepper
  • 1 – 1.5 pints of hot stock made with 1-2 beef stock cubes and 1 rounded tsp of vegetable stock powder
  • 2 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley

For the topping:

  • 450g of potatoes. Peeled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp of milk
  • Ground white pepper
  1. Method:
    Prepare the vegetables and put them into the slow cooker.
  2. Sprinkle over the plain flour and mix this through the vegetables.
  3. Add the minced beef, the garlic and dried herbs (reserve the fresh chopped parsley).
  4. Add the chopped dried mushrooms, marmite, balsamic vinegar, mushroom ketchup and Lea and Perrins to the hot stock and pour over the meat and vegetables so that they are just covered with the fluid. 
  5. Sprinkle the top with lashings of ground black pepper.
  6. Switch to high until the stock is bubbling well (this can take up to an hour if you have doubled the quantities) then switch to low for 3.5-4 hours. Alternatively switch to auto and leave for 4.5 hours or so. Check after three hours as temperatures can differ between slow cookers.
  7. When the filling is ready stir in the fresh chopped parsley.
  8. Boil the potatoes and put them through a ricer. Add 2 tbsp of milk and some ground white pepper. Put the filling in a dish cover the top with the mashed potato, use a fork to mark the top. Brown under a medium grill.

  Leave a reply


  1. If you are looking to lose some weight a great tip is to make the foods you already love a little healthier. Rather than avoiding your favorite dishes altogether, find ways to make those dishes a little lighter. For example, try low fat ice cream, or pizza with reduced fat cheese or an air fryer that cooks with no, or very little fat.

  2. Veronica

    Jeez, Remus, you could have been more polite after Fiona made the effort to post this recipe. Kitchens and ingredients do vary, and part of the skill of cooking is to adapt to them. You don’t even say whether you added the larger or smaller amount of stock.

    PS to Fiona: yay, you are here! We were missing you 🙂

  3. Dom Remus

    I tried following your recipe and honestly i dont know what to say! Firstly the meat came out far to sloppy and quite frankly i think you, your cottage and your cottage pie can go up a hill and have a massive gang bang. Good Night.

    The Remus

    • Fiona Nevile

      Oh dear 🙁 How disappointing for you. Did you follow the recipe and add all the ingredients?

      Thanks for the feedback – good to know when things go wrong with a recipe when someone else tries one out.

  4. Welsh Girl

    Try curried courgette soup as well – just add some medium curry powder with some softeneed chopped onions and the courgette at the start of the soup – it’s fab, honestly!

  5. Hi
    I recently discovered that adding dried, porcini mushrooms to my cottage pie mixture makes an enormous difference to the deliciousness of the dish. I don’t use a slow cooker, so don’t know when you would add them, but for ‘on the stove/in the oven’ mixes, I soak the mushrooms in warm water, to cover, for 20 mins, then add the mushrooms to the meat mix, and some of the soaking water as well … really lifts the taste … and works for spag bol/lasagne as well.

  6. Veronica

    That sounds sooo good, I can almost smell it cooking 🙂 I like vegetables-with-a-bit-of-meat-added too! But last night I used up the rest of a pack of mince to make a yummy spag bol, so the cottage pie will have to wait …

    PS ragu bolognese is another thing that works really well in the slow cooker or on top of the woodburner, because it needs to simmer really slowly for about 4 hours.

  7. Colin Gordon-Farleigh

    Hi! I’ve just stumbled on your Blog whilst searching for a Christmas Cake recipe. I have found your recipe for your ‘Last minute Christmas cake recipe’, which we intend to try out. I’m also going to post it on my Blog ( with a link to your site.

    I have a feeling it’s going to be a special cake this year!

  8. magic cochin

    I don’t know what the weather’s like in Cottage Smallhoder land today – but my guess is it’s pretty much the same as it is here – grim. Good hearty commfort suppers are just what’s needed!!!!

    This looks delicious – I’ll have to dust down the slow cooker.


  9. Having just defrosted mince to make spag.bol. for dinner tomorrow I think its going to be this instead.
    I just happen to have celery and zucchini as well the rest of the ingredients so as the saying goes ‘ in for a penny – in for a pound’ Crock pot here we come.
    Oh it will have to be Vegemite tho:)

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