Lamb mince topped with mashed potato is, of course, Shepherd’s Pie and with Beef Mince it becomes Cottage Pie, so what if you use Pork Mince? In our house we call it Swineherd’s Pie and the version I make has, in place of potato, an unusual mixture of mashed parsnip and cheese. This makes for a sweetish flavoured but quite delicious topping that complements the pork mixture really well.
The basic recipe comes from a book of recipes for using mince that I have owned for nearly twenty years: Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones where it was called Pork & Parsnip Bake. In its simplest form it is onion, mushroom and pork mince in a thickened sauce under a cheesy parsnip topping. Over the years I have put in additional vegetables, usually courgette and red pepper (though these are not in the picture below), which not only makes the rather drab filling more colourful but turns it into a meal in one dish. The original recipe suggests serving with baked or sautéed potatoes. I rarely serve additional potato on the side, though doing this would mean it would feed more people as would adding an extra vegetable, such as peas. It also advises that this can be prepared in advance and frozen, for several months if necessary, ready to defrost and brown in a hot oven before serving. The instructions below are for my quick version of the recipe, which is finished under the grill, but in the original dish the meat mixture was cooked on the hob for a shorter time and then baked in an oven preheated to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6 for 30-40 minutes. Although I have not tried it, as with Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings, this pork mixture could also be cooked with parsnip and cheese dumplings but would need additional liquid.
Swineherd’s Pie – Pork & Cheesy Parsnip Bake
2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & chopped
100g/4ozs mushrooms, quartered or sliced depending on size
450g/1lb minced pork
1tbsp chicken stock concentrate or ½ stock cube
450ml/¾pint water (aprox)
1 courgette, trimmed, quartered lengthways and chopped (optional)
1 red pepper, seeded & diced (optional)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the cheesy parsnip topping:
A little milk
A small knob of butter
100g/40zs mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1. Peel the parsnips and cut them into chunks. Cook in boiling salted water until they are tender – about 20 minutes.
2. Meantime heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and fry gently until it is starting to soften.
3. Add the mushrooms and cook gently for around an additional 5 minutes until the onion is softened but not browned.
4. Stir in the pork mince and fry, breaking it up as it cooks, until it is lightly browned.
5. Put the cornflour in a jug with the stock liquid (or crumbled cube), add a little water and mix to a smooth paste. Top up to about ¼pint with water and mix well. Carefully add to the meat mixture, stirring until it starts to thicken. Add up to ½pint of extra water as needed.
6. Stir in the diced courgette and red pepper, check seasoning and cover with a lid. Turn the heat to low and cook gently while preparing the parsnip topping.
7. When the parsnip is soft, mash it throughly: a potato ricer is ideal if you have one. Stir in the butter and grated cheese plus a little milk to make a soft mixture.
8. Check that the courgette is soft before spooning the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish. Evenly spread the cheesy parsnip mixture on top. Place under a preheated grill until the parsnip topping starts to brown.
9. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of parsley if available. Potato and extra vegetables can be served as well, if wished.