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Try this warming meat-free twist on cottage pie

12:00am | & Lifestyle

Eating well is one of the foundation stones for good health, especially in later life. If you can stick to a wholesome balanced diet, with a variety of foods in the right proportions, you’ll have more energy, find it easier to maintain a healthy weight and generally feel better all round.

One of the best ways to know exactly what you’re eating and avoid many of the artificial additives and preservatives in pre-packed foods is to cook plenty of your own meals at home. Older people are generally better at home cooking than younger ones, not having grown up in the ‘fast food’ and ‘ready meals’ era, but some people still shy away from the stove. There’s really no reason to, as many healthy and nutritious meals are quick and simple to prepare, and taste delicious.

This straightforward recipe for a meat-free version of cottage pie is from the NHS’s Change 4 Life website, which has lots of ideas for healthy and nutritious meals. Vegetarian alternatives to meat products have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and are widely available in most supermarkets, including the vegetarian mince you’ll need for this recipe.

You’ll find it in the freezer section, which means it’s also easy to store and use only as much as you need, putting the rest back in the freezer for another day. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these meat-free products – why not give them a go?

This recipe takes just 20 minutes to prepare and a further 35 minutes’ cooking time. A little curry powder spices up the flavour without being overpowering. It serves four, but it you won’t use all of it in one sitting the leftovers can be cooled and stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days. Make sure you reheat thoroughly.


  • 600g potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 500g butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 300g vegetarian mince
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml reduced-salt vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 100g closed-cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 courgette, grated
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cornflour


  1. Cook the potatoes and butternut squash in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender, for about 20 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion, garlic and carrots for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add the vegetarian mince, tomatoes and stock. Stir in the curry powder then add the mushrooms and courgette. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, Season with black pepper.
  3. Preheat the grill, warming a large baking dish underneath for a few moments. Meanwhile drain and mash the potatoes and butternut squash, seasoning with black pepper.
  4. Blend the cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water and add it to the mince mixture, stirring until thickened. Transfer it to the warm baking dish and spoon the vegetable mash on top, using a fork gently spread it, making sure it covers the mince mixture evenly.
  5. Grill for about 8 to 10 minutes until the top is browned and a little crispy, then serve.

Tips: If you don’t fancy the meat-free version, you could use traditional beef mince, frying it off first and draining off any excess fat before adding to the other ingredients. To make a bigger meal, serve with fresh or frozen vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas or mixed veg, or with crusty bread. (Varying the recipe will affect the nutritional information given below.)

• Each portion (as per the recipe) contains: Energy 1443kj/345kcal; protein 20g; carbohydrate 52g, of which 13g sugars; fat 6g, of which 0.5g saturates; fibre 11g; sodium 585mg, equivalent to 1.4g salt.

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