A hash is a dish that is a comfort food 101 for me. Fresh from the pan, piled high on a Desperate Dan-sized plate and sometimes enjoyed with, I admit it, a dollop or two of the world's most famous tomato ketchup. It's a hearty, satisfying thing of chunky beauty. Often associated with the good ol' US of A, where there are wonderful breakfast versions to set you up for a day, hash takes its name from the French word 'hacher' meaning to chop and has a long history going back centuries in various forms. 'To chop' just about sums it up – chopped meat (most famously corned beef), chopped potatoes, chopped onion, sometimes chopped veg, all thrown in a pan to get to know one another intimately before being served crisped, well-seasoned and piping hot.
It's an easy-to-make treat, and something that you can throw almost anything at, and it will come up trumps. Here I've swapped in some succulent confit duck for the corned beef just to gussy it up a bit, but you can stick with the bully or use almost any leftover cooked meat you happen to have to hand, from chicken to salt beef. It is, for example, a terrific way to use up any leftover turkey. Sometimes we add halved cherry tomatoes, at other times leeks, occasionally beetroot (for a charmingly named red flannel hash), pizzazz it with whatever herbs or spices that you fancy, and sometimes top it with a fried or poached egg.
Leave out the meat and add more vegetables of your choice for a vegetarian option as long as you discard the Worcestershire sauce. The world is your crustacean here (and I have seen fishy versions too) and it's not a dish to stand on ceremony at all, though I have had a deliciously refined hash in a restaurant recently made with rabbit. Even the tommy sauce still tastes good with this ducky version. I do hope you enjoy this, or any other variation you care to make.
Ingredients (serves four)
- Pack of 2 confit duck legs, about 500g (or any leftover meat you happen to have)
- 500g potatoes, peeled and chunkily chopped or diced (you can use new potatoes if liked, unpeeled)
- 150g Savoy cabbage, shredded (you can use shredded Brussel's sprouts, kale, spring greens and so on)
- 1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- A dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
- A dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and cracked black pepper
- 1 handful parsley, chopped
- Boil the potatoes in salted water until beginning to become tender but aren't quite soft. Drain them and leave to steam in the colander so that they dry out a little as they cool.
- Blanche the shredded cabbage in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain in a colander and run under cold water (or plunge into ice cold water). This will stop the cabbage cooking and help to fix the lovely green colour.
- Remove the confit duck legs from the fat they are stored in (reserving two tablespoons of it) and cook according to the packet instructions. If you've made the confit duck yourself (bravo!) and don't have instructions, fry the duck legs skin side down over a moderate heat until the skin is crisp and the legs warmed through. Remove from the pan and allow to cool, then shred the meat from the bones, but retain the crisp skin to add to the dish at the end. If it needs a little more crisping put the skin back in the hot pan for a few more minutes. If you don't fancy the duck skin (what?!) discard it.
- In a frying pan sauté the chopped red onion in a tablespoonful of the reserved duck fat until beginning to soften and take on a little colour.
- Using the remaining reserved duck fat (or use a splash of olive oil) in a large frying pan or wok fry the potatoes until they begin to turn golden and crisp. Add the softened, coloured red onions and toss, then add the duck meat, blanched cabbage, rosemary, Tabasco (if using) and Worcestershire sauce and toss everything together as it heats through.
- Season with a good pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. When piping hot, stir in half of the parsley and serve, sprinkling over any retained crispy duck skin and the remaining parsley on top.
Since confit duck is a scion of the south-west of France it makes a little sense to begin by suggesting the wonderful red wines of that region, particularly the structured but round brambly Cahors, Côtes de Gascogne or Marcillac. You could splash out on a Madiran but look for a more mature or early-drinking style rather than a young, firmly tannic version. It is, after all, is the daddy of styles for confit duck, and will take on all the elements of the dish with assurance. Otherwise, many a fruity supple red with a bit of freshness will happily duck and dive with the hash, from pinot noir to shiraz.
For a white to match look for a little bit of fruity substance, like a generous but fresh pinot gris, fruity chardonnay, or chenin blanc from South Africa. Finally, for the lick of spice from the Tabasco sauce, if you run with it, try the exotic charms of the gewürztraminer, be it from Alsace or the southern hemisphere. And don’t forget rosé, which offers wonderfully versatile drinking all year round, though summer seems to be when people put it in their baskets in the main. If white is your preferred accompaniment, look for something with a little bit of weight or richer fruit.