Butternut squash and parsnip cottage pie


If you have ever had to go on an elimination diet in order to establish what foods you are reacting to, then you will know how hard it is. The prospect of having to cut out such staple ingredients as onion, garlic and potatoes takes a lot of getting used to, not to mention the difficulty of totally avoiding tea and coffee – I did warn my dietician I may actually murder someone if I couldn’t at least have my morning mug of tea.

Thankfully for me root vegetables were still allowed on the diet, which meant that my much loved sweet potato chips were still a hot favourite on my dinner plate most nights alongside honey roasted parsnips and carrots for a little sweet delight. Of course, not being able to eat carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread and pasta meant that I needed to find other ways to get my sources of energy and I can’t deny I ate a lot of roast dinners (made with gravy browning instead of gluten free stock cubes) in order to keep myself fuller for longer and generally satisfied.

Gluten Free Cottage Pie

I started the elimination diet at the beginning of Autumn and so the weather was starting to get colder and in turn, I was getting hungrier as everyone does in cool temperatures. One of my fave after work winter meals has always been Cottage Pie, an English dish traditionally made with beef mince, carrots, potato and of course, onion and maybe the odd stock cube for extra flavour.

Making a dish that usually consists of about 60% potato when you can’t eat them may seem like a bit of a crazy idea, but with the help of root vegetables I decided to have a crack at it and see what became of this unusual dish.

Swapping the potato for a butternut squash and parsnip mash, as well as incorporating chives instead of onion, I have to admit I really enjoyed this dinner after a cold day and I even managed to get four large portions out of it to freeze for days when I didn’t have time to cook.


  • 3 large parsnips
  • Butternut squash
  • A good handful of fresh chives
  • 2 carrots
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Beef mince
  • Cannellini beans
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Knob of butter
  • Splash of soya or rice milk for mash


1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius

2. Chop the butternut squash and parsnips into sizeable chunks about 2cm thick and place in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes.

3. For the filling, heat the oil in the pan and add the chives, carrot, thyme and fry for around five minutes until softened.

4. Add the mince to the pan and fry until golden brown.

5. Add the drained cannellini beans, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for around 5-10 minutes until thickened.

6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar to sweeten the tomatoes.

7. Add the butter and milk to the butternut squash and parsnips and mash together.

8. Spoon the mixture into a large ovenproof dish and spread the mash over the meat filling.

9. Transfer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.

10. Enjoy alongside a serving of mixed vegetables.

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