This Duck and Chestnut Ragu Cottage Pie with Celeriac and Pumpkin Crust is a result of the pie month challenge we ran on Foodies+, a food community I managed.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Table of contents
Foodies+ was a food community that I ran on G+, along with the help of 6 moderators. It had over 200 000 members from all over the world and has been around since December 2012. Sadly, the powers that be decided to stop running it for consumers in 2017.
We held regular themes on foodies+, many of them topical, like Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter, etc, and some of them random but always seasonal (mostly to the northern hemisphere). So, for the month of November, we thought we’d ask our members to come up with a pie or tart recipe based on a list of autumnal (mostly) ingredients. On the list:
- Fruit: apples, pears, pumpkin and squash
- Veg: celeriac, turnip
- Nuts: pecans and chestnuts
- Meat: chicken, duck, prawns (shrimps)
The idea is that we’d have to use at least 2, but as many as possible, ingredients from the list to make up a pie or a tart. I am hoping to do 2 pies, the second a sweet one. For the first, I just knew immediately that I was going to be making a pie with a mash topping of pumpkin and celeriac. I don’t often cook with pumpkin but I just love celeriac at this time of year.
So I started with the topping and worked my way down. Duck ragu is something that I have made from time to time over the years, and as duck is on the list, I decided to go down that route for the filling. I looked at the list, and decided to add chestnuts and apples to the mix.
Chestnuts, I don’t really do much with, but I thought why not? Apples are everywhere this time of year, and they seem to have a habit of sneaking into so much of what I cook! Just yesterday, 2 apples went into the curry I made for dinner. They lend a wonderful sweet and sour flavour to recipes, it’s hard to resist them in autumn!
The Final Recipe
So that, as they say, is that! The final duck and chestnut ragu cottage pie was absolutely delicious. Full on flavour with the sundried tomato paste, and just the right amount of tang from the apples. The chestnuts add just a little bit of texture to the ragu; and if truth be told, that’s all their contribution.
You can lose the chestnuts and the final flavour won’t really be affected. But the apples are superb in this ragu! Now don’t forget to up the amount of duck, carrots and celery if you are losing the chestnuts.
The crust for the Duck and Chestnut Ragu Cottage Pie is to die for, and dare I say it, so much better than regular mash! The sweetness from the pumpkin is tempered by the celeriac and the small amount of potato, producing a beautifully creamy, yet light topping, wth a touch of sweet. Perfectly offsetting the boldness of the ragu.
What is Cottage Pie?
Cottage pie is a meat pie that consists of a minced meat filling on the bottom layer, and mashed potato on the top layer. Similar to Shepherd’s Pie, except that cottage pie uses beef, and shepherd’s pie uses lamb.
The cottage pie, however, predates shepherd’s pie by about a century and apparently came about sometime late in the 18th century, when wives in poorer households tried to make the Sunday roast go further by using the leftover meat and covering it with the newly introduced cheap crop, potato. The homes of the poor were known as cottages, hence the name “cottage pie”.
You might be interested in the following cottage pie recipe, where I combine 2 British favourites (pie and curry) in the form of Masala Cottage Pie:
Cooking our Duck and Chestnut Ragu Cottage Pie
There are 3 parts to making any cottage pie, and it’s the same here:
- First we make the filling, in this instance, the duck ragu.
- While the ragu is cooking, we prepare the mash that will form the pie “crust”.
- Finally, we assemble the cottage pie and bake it in the oven.
Some step by step pictures:
Ingredients in our Duck and Chestnut Ragu Cottage Pie
I used duck breasts in this recipe, as they seem to be easily available, along with duck legs at the shops. The advantage of using duck breast over legs, is that they are sold boneless, and you can chop them up before cooking. If you use legs, you’ll have to cook them, then shred the meat off, before adding the meat back into the ragu. Less hassle with the breast meat.
I used ready cooked ones here for simplicity, and because they are readily available. You can opt for raw chestnuts, but be sure to either boil them for 15 minutes, or roast them in the oven at 200˚C/400˚F for 30 minutes. When the chestnuts are cool to the touch, peel them, and proceed with the recipe.
I used equal amounts of pumpkin and celeriac, with a smaller amount of potato for the starch. Pumpkin and celeriac on its own is a little bit on the loose and light side, so the potato helps to thicken the mash. The cheese is also good for that. If you can’t get celeriac, leave it out and go for half pumpkin and half potato.
I’ve gone for good old cheddar, you can use whatever cheese pleases you, in fact, I’ve made this without the cheese too, as my husband is a cheese hater.
Vegan Chestnut and Mushroom Cottage Pie
As requested by someone, look out for it in the next week or so!
If you fancy more autumnal recipes, head on over to the Autumn/Fall page for yummies like:
What’s your favourite savoury pie?
Now, shall we get our aprons on?
If you like the recipe and article, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you!
And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood.
Duck and Chestnut Ragu Cottage Pie with Celeriac and Pumpkin Crust
- An ovenproof dish measuring about 30cm x 23cm (12" x 9").
- 4 skinless duck breasts about 500g (1.1lb)
- 200 g cooked chestnuts
- 1 celery stick
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 eating apple
- 1 large onion
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 5 juniper berries crushed with a pestle and mortar or the side of a knife
- 1 Tbsp all purpose flour plain flour
- 250 ml dry white wine
- 2 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp sundried tomato paste
- 2 sprigs rosemary leaves only
- 10 sage leaves or 1 tsp dried
- ¼ tsp sugar
- half tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 500 g pumpkin skinned weight
- 500 g celeriac skinned weight
- 2 large potatoes
- 60 g salted butter
- 2 Tbsp single cream about 18% fat
- ¼ tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 100 g Cheddar cheese, grated
- 30 g salted butter soft
- Chop up the duck meat into little cubes, measuring about 1cm (about 1/2″).
- Chop up the chestnuts, celery and carrot to about roughly the same size as the duck. You are just going for little cubes, don't worry too much about exact sizes. And don't worry if your cooked chestnuts fall apart when you're chopping them.
- Chop up the apples, also into cubes, but they can be slightly bigger, as the apples will virtually fall apart in the cooking.
- Chop up the onion and garlic finely.
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. I used a wide dish to encourage the sauce to dry up, as we don't want a soggy base in our cottage pie. But you can please yourself, just cook it a little longer if the sauce is a bit watery.
- Brown the duck meat for 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Tip out onto a plate and keep warm, reserving the fat in the pan.
- Return the pan to the heat and lower the heat to medium. There should be enough fat in the pan, if not add just 1 tsp more of olive oil. Sweat the onions for 1 minute, stirring.
- Add the garlic, celery, carrots and juniper berries and cook, for 2 minutes. Stir the mirepoix (the vegetables) well, cooking them and colouring them evenly.
- Add the flour, stir for 20 seconds or so, then pour in the wine, stirring vigorously, and leave to cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, rosemary, sage leaves, sugar and salt, stir and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat right down and leave to simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, then 2-3 times more in the last 10 minutes, as the ragu is drying up and beginning to catch at the base.
- When it's done, taste it, and add more salt if necessary. Finish off with freshly ground black pepper. Move on to the assembly.
The Pie Crust (Mash Topping)
- While the ragu is cooking, let's do the pie crust. Start by filling a large saucepan halfway with water. Add 1 tsp of salt and bring the water to boil on high heat.
- Peel the celeriac and pumpkin with a sharp knife. Peel the potatoes too, with a vegetable peeler.
- Cut up the celeriac, pumpkin and potato into cubes measuring about 5cm (2").
- Add the chopped up vegetables to the boiling water, and bring back to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and leave to cook for 20 minutes. At the end of that time, insert a knife through a celeriac and pumpkin, making sure that they are fully cooked and soft, almost at the breaking point. The potatoes should be fine.
- Drain the vegetables and place back in the hot saucepan on the hot hob, with the heat off. Leave to steam dry for 3 minutes.
- Mash the vegetables with a potato masher. If the mash is too watery, turn the stove on low and cook for 1 minute, stirring al the time, to cook off the liquid.
- Add the butter and mash it in, or stir with a ladle/spoon.
- Stir in the salt, cream and cheese, and finish off with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if you think it needs it. Let's assemble our pie.
Assembling and Cooking the Cottage pie
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C Fan/400˚F.
- Fill your oven proof dish with the duck ragu, flattening out and evening out the ragu.
- Top with the mash, again evening it out gently, as you don't want to upset the ragu underneath.
- Take a fork and create shallow swirls on the surface.
- Dot the remaining butter all around the mash topping and bake in the hot oven for 45 minutes until the pie crust has taken on a lovely crispy texture with the odd browning.
- Serve with a green salad or lots of peas.