There will be spud
Corned beef hash is not bubble and squeak. It’s not made from leftovers. But I can only imagine it was born of necessity – spare bits of corned beef, some potatoes. Over time, however, it has found its own place on the dinner table.
Corned beef can be bought from a butcher and simmered the day before you use it. There is a canned variety, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I wanted to test this recipe with Spam but I went to my local supermarket and – perhaps for the better – they didn’t stock it.
The basis of this hash is the onions – their sweetness binds the dish. Without them, it can become a dry mess. The potato is also important. You don’t want a waxy potato that is too firm. Better to have a creamy varietal – say a Dutch cream – that will break down a little without falling apart entirely.
It’s important to stay with the pan, keeping it moving as the onions caramelise. If it gets dry, chicken stock or water can be added. But it shouldn’t be wet. By the time you serve the dish, it should barely hold together but be a little sticky – neither wet nor dry. This is perfect served at lunch with a fried egg on top. Some cafes dress it up further with hollandaise sauce, but if I were going to abuse my body that badly, I’d rather have a really nice piece of cheese.
Hash is one way of breaking apart a potato to get flavour into it. The hasselback potato is another – a Swedish preparation that allows butter to get right inside the potato while baking. They can also be called accordion potatoes. The potato is cut in half and multiple deep cuts are made into the back of it, coming as close to the base of the potato without going all the way through. I use a template of kitchen utensils – the handles of spatulas or chopsticks – on either side of the potato to make sure I don’t slice too deeply.
It’s a fiddly process – I did mention it was Swedish – but it creates a unique texture. The solidity of the potato is replaced by crisp leaves and a buttery finish.
Corned beef hash
– 1 cup chicken stock
– 1 large desiree potato, diced 1cm cubes
– 1 onion
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 200g cooked corned beef, diced 1cm cubes
– 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
– ½ tsp Tabasco sauce
– 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
In a small saucepan, bring the chicken stock to the boil and drop in the diced potato.
Boil the potatoes for about five minutes, until they are half cooked. Drain the potatoes from the stock, reserving the stock, and set aside.
Halve the onion and cut each half into slivers lengthways. In a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, fry the onion slices in the butter and oil until they are softened and start to colour.
Add the corned beef and potatoes, frying over a medium heat until the meat softens and the potatoes get some colour and crust on them.
Stir the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and chopped parsley through just before serving. If the hash seems a little dry, add one or two tablespoons of the reserved chicken stock as needed.
– 750g peeled Dutch cream potatoes
– 2 wooden chopsticks
– 100g butter, melted
Cut each potato in half lengthways. On the chopping board, place a chopstick (or a similarly sized spoon handle) on either side of the potato, down its length.
Cut each potato crosswise into one-millimetre thick slices. The chopsticks will prevent the knife from cutting all the way through the potato.
Heat your oven to 220ºC.
Spread some of the butter onto a baking tray that will fit the potatoes snugly. Put the potatoes in the tray, spoon a little butter over the top of each one and sprinkle with salt.
Cover the potatoes with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the foil and cook the potatoes for a further 15-20 minutes, basting with butter every five minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crisp on the outside and soft within.
2014 Domaine Simha Simla Field blend (pinot noir/gamay/cabernet franc), Tamar Valley ($45) – Liam O’Brien, sommelier, Cutler & Co.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 4, 2015 as "There will be spud". Subscribe here.