10 November 2012

Introducing ... Hampshire Hash!

Many years ago - longer than I care to remember - my friend Linda Hessell and I went on a Western Horse Riding weekend at Burley in the New Forest.  I was in my teens and it was my first holiday away without my parents.

When I think about it, we were babes in the wood really - but we took care of each other and managed to emerge unscathed at the end of the weekend, having had a great time.

Funny how sometimes your world turns in ways that return you back across tracks you've already travelled.  Some thirty five years (oh darn, there, I've remembered!) and eight house moves later, I find myself living within a twenty minute drive of Burley and have been past the same riding stables several times.

There are many reasons for remembering this holiday fondly, not least being the food - which was fabulous.  They had a housekeeper/cook who fed us all really well at the end of each day, with lashings of comfort food when we were all starving after riding across the New Forest and trying to look like we knew what we were doing.

Two recipes stand out from the weekend, firstly the Corned Beef Pie that I blogged back in December 2011 and this Hampshire Hash.

Now it is very probable that the affection with which I remember the holiday, may have something to do with where these two recipes stand in my memory.  My liking for Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie are well known - and Hampshire Hash fits very neatly into that category.

Before going into the oven ...
However, it had been some while since I last made Hampshire Hash as it had evolved into something which wound up being rather greasy - and occasionally, with semi-cooked potato cubes on top.  You can just imagine how much Hubby enjoyed that combination!

I'd been hankering after having another go at Hampshire Hash for some time and had been pondering on how to ensure a) it wasn't greasy and b) the potato was cooked.  I thought I had a plan and hubby agreed to give it a try, so we were set.

.... and after.  Mmmmnn!
Now previously, I will admit to not skimming the fat from the minced beef once it was browned - which obviously contributed a lot to the grease.  So that was an easy change - to fry the mince to the point where all the water had evaporated, the fat was rendered down and the mince was caramelising - then skim off the fat.  Sorted.

Now the potato aspect to the dish also had some input into the grease element.  Basically, you toss the potato pieces in a combination of full fat mayonnaise (low fat is just disgusting once cooked) and tomato ketchup.  Sounds a bit odd, but it works.  However, too much mayonnaise and you'll find it releases a lot of grease once it warms up.

So I decided to split the par-boiled potato pieces into two groups.  One which sits on top of the mince and absorbs the gravy - and the remainder which gets the mayonnaise/ketchup treatment and goes on the top.  That way, you still get the lovely flavours, with much less mayonnaise involved.

Well, it worked up to a point.  Interestingly, even though I put the minced beef in the casserole dish at a high temperature and added the plain potato pieces immediately, the ones with the mayonnaise on them cooked far more quickly.  I suspect this is because a) they were on top and b) the oil in the mayonnaise helped to "fry" them - and at a higher temperature than the ones underneath.  So we wound up - still - with some pieces of potato being noticeably harder than others.

So my cunning plan - reflected in the recipe below - is to leave one half of the potato pieces to cook for longer at the par-boiling stage.  I figure that if you start off with them slightly ahead of their mayo-coated brethren, everything should finish at the same level.  Also, make sure you give them the full three-quarters of an hour in the oven, to get that lovely caramelised edge to the potato pieces.

I really like this dish.  As a change from your regular Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie, it fits the bill well.  Especially as the minced beef part to it is flavoured differently - with curry powder and cinnamon - to add to the interest.

Oh and one other point - take care not to over-salt the dish.  The addition of curry powder can give a similar effect to salt, so you can afford to be sparing.

Hubby gave this version the thumbs up as regards grease and overall flavour, so I think I've probably succeeded where that is concerned.  Son and heir polished off his plateful, having been somewhat doubtful about how hungry he was to begin with - so that's another vote of approval.

I served ours with steamed carrots, butternut squash, peas and sweetcorn - but it would go with just about any vegetable of your choice.

HAMPSHIRE HASH   (feeds 4-5)

Ingredients :

3 or 4 large Maris Piper potatoes, peeled
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped finely
500g lean minced beef
3 chestnut mushrooms, chopped finely
1 large celery stalk, de-stringed and chopped finely
1 heaped tsp Madras curry powder
half a tsp ground cinnamon
200g tin of Heinz baked beans
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot (or a low salt beef stock cube)
200ml hot water
a good pinch of ground black pepper
1 dessertspoonful of mayonnaise (don't use low fat - it's horrid!)
1 dessertspoonful of tomato ketchup.

Method :

1.  Put a large saucepan half filled with water and a little salt added, on to boil.

2.  Cut the potatoes into dice of approximately 1cm - and try to get them evenly sized, so that they cook evenly.

3.  When the water boils, put all the potato dice into the water and cook for 3 minutes.

4.  Remove half the potatoes with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl - allow to cool.

5.  Cook the remaining half for another minute or so.  Drain and replace in the saucepan.  Allow to cool.

6.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions.  Fry gently until softened and golden.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put onto a plate.  No need to keep them warm, as they'll be back in the pan in a moment.

7.   Place the minced beet into the pan and turn up the heat to maximum.  Fry the beef until all the water has boiled off and the fat has reduced.  The beef should be beginning to caramelise.

8.  Reduce the heat to moderate and push the beef to one side.  Spoon off a good nine tenths of the fat - and discard (or give to the dog!).

9.  Return the onions to the pan, together with the mushrooms and celery.  Cook until the mushrooms have taken on the remaining oil and the celery is softening.

10.  Add the curry powder and cinnamon.  Stir through and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes.

11.  Add the ketchup, baked beans, stock pot (or stock cube) and water, along with the pepper and stir through.  Allow to simmer - stirring occasionally - until the ingredients have all combined nicely and a good gravy has formed.

12.  Decant the meat mixture into a casserole dish.

13.  Sprinkle the extra-cooked potatoes from the saucepan, on top of the meat mixture.  Don't mix them in - just allow them to sit on the surface in a single layer.

14.  Add the mayonnaise and ketchup to the potatoes in the bowl, and stir through taking care not to break up the potato cubes.  The potatoes should be well covered.

15.  Sprinkle these potatoes over the top of the plain ones and settle them into an even layer.

16.  Bake at 180degC/340degF/Gas 4 for 35-45 minutes or until the potatoes are beginning to become browned and crispy.

Serve with your choice of vegetables.

Printable version

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