Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Hachis parmentier (aka French shepherd's pie)

I've been thinking of making this French take on shepherds pie for a while but what prompted it was having a large bunch of parsley in the fridge. (You can't win with herbs - either you get a ridiculously small packet that costs the earth or a huge bunch that you end up wasting.)

There are of course many ways of making hachis parmentier which is basically a leftovers dish. A lot of recipes base it on a stew but you can make it with mince which is what I've done here having picked up a cut price pack in the Co-op reduced from £2.50 to £1.65. You can add some fried onion and garlic to it (which I did) and some finely chopped carrot and celery if you want. You don't really want it gravy-ish so chuck in half a glass of red wine if you have some and a splash of beef or chicken stock. (It's worth keeping frozen stock in an ice-cube tray when you need this kind of amount.)

The parsley is a touch I remember from a French cookery writer called Mireille Johnston who presented a BBC series back in the 90s. The books that accompanied the series were great but I left the relevant one in France so had to cook it from memory. If your kids don't like 'green bits' as many children don't you could cut the amount of parsley back to a single layer or mix it up with the mince so they don't (hopefully) notice, although, of course, the little blighters always do.

I can't remember if it had a layer of mash at the bottom of the dish but it's a good idea because you get some delicious stuck on crusty bits at the bottom of the pie.

Hachis Parmentier
Serves 2-4 depending on whether teenage boys are involved
2-3 tbsp light olive or sunflower oil
450g minced beef or lamb
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 level tbsp tomato paste
75ml beef or chicken stock (or frozen stock cubes)*
75ml red wine (or 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and an extra 75ml of beef stock)
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good big handful of fresh parsley, stalks removed and finely chopped

For the potato topping
800g boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces (halves or quarters depending on size)
25g soft butter
A good splash of warm milk (about 3 tbsp)
40g comté, gruyère or cheddar cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper

You will also need a medium sized shallow baking dish (I used a rectangular dish that was 26cm x 21cm)

Heat a large frying pan, add 1 tbsp of the oil and fry half the mince until lightly browned. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, letting the fat run back into the pan then discard the fat. Add the remaining mince to the pan, brown it and drain off the fat in a similar way. Add the remaining oil and fry the onion over a low heat for about 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the crushed garlic and tomato paste and cook for a few seconds. then add the wine, if using and beef or chicken stock. Tip the mince back in the pan, bring to simmering point then season with salt, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon. Turn the heat right down and leave on a low heat for about 20 minutes. (If it gets a bit dry add an extra splash of stock or some of the potato cooking water.)

Meanwhile put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until you can stick the point of a knife in them easily. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pan and cut them up roughly with a knife. Mash them thoroughly with a potato masher or fork. Beat in the butter and warm milk. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Butter your ovenproof dish well and cover the base with a thin layer of mash (just over a third of the total). Sprinkle half the parsley over the top (as above) then cover with the mince. Add the remaining parsley then and spread the potato evenly over the top, roughing up the surface with the prongs of a fork. Sprinkle with grated cheese, if using. Place the dish on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is crisp and brown. (If you make it ahead and cool it down before baking it it'll take more like 45 minutes)

* when you make a batch of stock it's worth reducing it then freezing it in an ice cube tray when you need a small amount of stock for a recipe like this


Laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

Thanks Fiona,
I was just thinking what to cook for tonight and you have solved the problem. I will try the full amount of parsley on my three and hope to get away with it!

Colleen said...

This looks wonderful once I got past the mince part. It was wondering to myself "why are we making a dish with nuts in it?". It is amazing the difference in the cooking terms from the UK to over here. Thanks for continuing to educate me!

Fiona Beckett said...

Wow, you're educating me, Colleen. Mince means nuts in the US? Never knew that!

And hope it goes well, Laura. Let me know how the kids get on with the parsley!

Colleen said...

I was thinking of mince meat pies which until I was an adult, I did not realize were made of nuts and fruit. Goodness only knows what I thought they were made of until that point.

Sarah said...

My boys love hachis parmentier with or without the parsley. Goes down a bomb.

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

I cannot begin to tell you how hungry this has made me . . . I'm feeling a bit hollow!