James May’s Cottage Pie

Oh Cook! is a foolproof manual packed with more than 60 delicious recipes for even the most basic of home cooks by James May. In this Amazon Prime series tie-in, the star of The Grand Tour and Our Man in Japan, seeks to unpack the mysteries of cooking, unearthing the secrets behind the perfect poached egg, smooth custard and how to impress your friends and family with a cracking Sunday roast. Here he shares his fool-proof recipe for a warming autumn classic – the cottage pie.

by James May

It’s quite difficult to mess this up. There is huge latitude in the ingredients and cooking technique for this potato-topped pie, and so long as you come out with something meaty and juicy with potato on top, you can claim success.



1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
450g/1lb minced (ground) beef
1 tbsp flour
450ml/16fl oz/scant 2 cups hot beef stock
3 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
A large handful of frozen peas
1kg/2lb 4oz floury potatoes, peeled and chopped
4–5 tbsp milk
A decent knob of butter
Salt ’n’ pepper


Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the onion and carrot and cook gently until softened – around 3–4 minutes. Add the chilli and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Add the beef, stirring well, until the meat is broken up and browned all over.

Stir in the flour, a little at a time, very thoroughly. Then add the hot stock and tomato purée and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the Worcestershire sauce and peas, season with salt and pepper, cover the pan, and cook for around 15 minutes. The juice should thicken up.

While you’re doing all this, cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water until soft, which will take around 20 minutes.

Drain, add the milk and butter and mash until smooth. Season to taste.

Spoon the meat mixture into a large ovenproof dish. Cover with mashed potato. Use a fork to make a corrugated pattern on top.

Cook in the oven until the top is golden brown – around 25 minutes.

oh cook

This recipe is taken from Oh Cook! by James May, out now.

Photograph by Martin Poole.

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