There seems to be a bit of a trend of ‘deconstructing’ classic and usually simple dishes these days, such as ratatouille or Russian cream, by breaking them down to their simplest elements and then reassembling them. I have been wanting to apply some of the science that I have learnt and taught myself to produce something really cool, but unfortunately most of the ideas required equipment that is too expensive for me to buy for our kitchen, or I have access to, but wouldn’t really be ‘food safe’, like water baths or dry freezers and things of that sort. Could you imagine like a freeze dried and powdered Shepherd’s pie? Wouldn’t be the most filling, but could be a mind boggling gastronomical delight.
So I went with a deconstructed Shepard’s Pie. To describe it I thought I should start from the bottom. Firstly we have a meat patty base: the key of this is to use the different cuts of meat described, then to catch the meat as you grind it and keep the grain of the meat parallel so that it falls apart and melts in your mouth. Then we have some caramelised brown onions, to add that sweetness and texture. Next some moderately thick julienned carrots, since carrots have always been in my mum’s Shepard’s pie and I thought this is how they would go best. Next up is a kind of spinach puree, like the carrots, I have always had spinach in my Shepard’s pie and we do need some nutrition in here too. Perched on the very top is a potato rösti, with some parmesan cheese brûléed on top. I also decided to serve this with a veal jus to add some moisture to it. Both Jasmyne’s and my mum’s Shepard’s pies are so moist and succulent that the jus was a must. I had also learnt of the freeze-filter technique from Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Search for Perfection’ and I have wanted to give it a shot for ages, so decided to apply it here. It yields a really clear and pure jus. There is a lot of multi-tasking involved in this and much of the cooking is running parallel, so a tip would be to have everything ready to go.
Deconstructed Shepherd's Pie
- 500g vine-ripened tomatoes
- 3kg of veal bones and trimmings, chopped (ask your butcher to do this, they have the machinery to do so)
- 250g carrots, coarsely chopped
- 250g brown onions, coarsely chopped
- 250g celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- Vermouth for deglazing (water or another white wine can be a substitute)
- 4L water
- Bouquet garni, containing bay leaf, thyme, sage and tarragon.
- Large pinch or two of black peppercorns.
- 150g chuck
- 200g spare rib
- 150g brisket
- 10g salt
- 500g brown onion, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 medium sized carrot
- 250g baby spinach leaves
- 400g potatoes, washed and peeled (I use Désirée)
- 1 small brown onion, peeled
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 125mL sunflower or canola oil, for frying
- Parmesan cheese, to top the rösti
(*Make 2 days before hand)
1. Preheat oven to 250°C.
2. Boil some water in a medium sauce pan, at the base of each tomato cut a crisscross pattern and blanch the tomatoes, then dunk into ice cold water to prevent them from cooking. This will help you remove the skins, so do so, then half, deseed and crush.
5. Deglaze the roasting tray with a splash of vermouth, put over a high heat, then scrap well and pour the liquid into the stockpot.
6. Add the water to cover and add more if required, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then skim the top to remove any contaminants.
7. Add the tomatoes, bourquet garni and peppercorns, cover and simmer for 2.5 hours.
Strain and cool (at this point you have a really nice stock and it would be wise to freeze some for the future, you should have heaps).
9. (Freeze Filter) Transfer the jus to a large flat bottomed container. Refrigerate until it becomes a gel, and then freeze until it’s a complete solid.
10. (Freeze Filter) Dip the container into a sink of warm water, until the edges start to melt and then flip the stock onto a large container with a perforated tray in it with a muslin cloth on top. Place this in the fridge for 24 hours. This is a freeze-filter process and requires the full time. You will end up with a beautifully clear and intense jus in the bottom of the container and the ice and gelatin on top of the muslin. As I’ve said this is not a necessary step, I’ve wanted to use this technique for ages and this gave me the opportunity.
11. Prior assembly heat up jus in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Cut the beef into 3 x 3 cm cubes and refrigerate until really cold*.
- Grind the meat with a coarse plate (8mm) and collect the meat in a bowl.
- Prior to the second grinding, cover a baking tray or chopping board with 2 layers of cling film and position under the mouth of the grinder.
- Grind the meat using a finer plate (3mm) and as the meat comes out, catch it onto the cling film-covered board/tray in such a way that the grain of the meat strains are parallel without getting tangled, you may need a second person. The meat needs to lay down from one end to the other of the board/tray used.
- Roll the meat up tightly in the cling film and twist the ends of the cling film, forming a log of meat. If any air bubbles form in the cling film as you go then stop and release the air with a pin, and continue twisting the meat until you have a log about 10 – 12 cm in diameter.
- Fold the ends of the cling film in and wrap with another sheet of cling film to maintain the shape, and refrigerate until chilled through*.
- Once chilled, place the log of meat (still in the cling film) on a chopping board and using a sharp knife, cut the log into pieces about 2.5 cm thick. To finish the patties, between your two hands, press down on the patties to ensure that the patty retains its shape, but ensure that the grains of the meat keep running in the same direction. Place the patties on a flat board (i.e. the chopping board), cover with cling film and refrigerate until chilled again until they are ready to be cooked* (an excess patties can be frozen at this point and would go pass quite well as a burger).
- To cook, heat a heavy-based frying pan over high heat and leave to heat up for a few minutes. Then drizzle some olive oil over the surface and add each patty, ensure that you don’t overcrowd the pan (cook in batches if necessary). Turn over every 30 seconds for 3 – 5 minutes, depending on your preference.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, and then add the onions. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the sugar, vinegar and season. Cook for a further 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and caramelised.
- Peel and clean the carrot, and then julienne into sticks about 2.5 mm wide and 3 cm long.
- Steam the carrots over boiling water until then are soft and cooked through, but not falling apart, or al dente (if you can say that about carrots).
- Place the carrots on paper towel for a second prior to the assembly to remove any excess water.
- Blanch the leaves in boiling salted water, then remove, refresh in iced water and then squeeze out any excess water.
- Transfer the leaves into a small food blender and give it a very quick blitz. All you really want to do to cut up the leaves and not create a paste, so in reality it’s not really a puree.
1. Coarsely grate the potato and onion. Combine with 0.5 tablespoons sea salt, and rest in a strainer for 20 minutes.
2. Place the potato mixture in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible, and then transfer to a bowl.
3. Stir in the egg and season with sea salt and black pepper, and then divide the mixture into four portions within the bowl.
4. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Drop a portion of the mixture into the oil and shape with a spoon, the rösti should be about the same size of the meat patties (about 10 – 12 cm wide) and about 1.5 – 2 cm thick. Fry on each side for about 2 – 3 minutes, or until golden and crisp, then transfer to a plate with paper towel to drain any excess oil. Ensure that you do not over crowd the frying pan and cook in batches if necessary, add more oil as required if cooked in batches.
5. While the rösti is still scorching hot, finely grate some parmesan cheese over the top with a micro-grater, the cheese should melt almost immediately.
6. Once all the röstis are cooked and covered in cheese, brûlée the cheese with a brûlée torch until golden. If you don’t have a torch then you could just put the röstis under a hot grill.
- Assemble in a deep serving plate by starting with the meat patty, topped with some caramelised onion, steamed carrots and then baby spinach leaves. The toppings should be spread out over the meat patty as layers. Finally top the pie with the rösti.
- Serve with the veal jus and some vegetables, such as corn on the cob or steamed asparagus.