meat & two potato gratin

This is the perfect food for the chilly weather we’re getting – it’s rich, filling, warming and the food equivalent of a loving hug.

As you can see, I made individual portions, but you can also make it as a single dish; the original recipe calls for you to use a pan which you can transfer direct to the oven but I don’t have anything suitable so would use a normal serving dish. As ever, it’s up to you.

 It freezes well and I’m planning to make and freeze some more for the dark days of January, when I really won’t want to make much effort at all. It’s simple enough to pull together but feels indulgent to eat – it’s nice with some simply cooked green vegetables; maybe peas, maybe brussels sprouts, maybe cabbage. Alternatively, serve it with a green salad.

As often happens, I adjusted the original recipe to take into account what I had in, as well as my own preferences – I used a mix of pork and beef mice (I think a lamb and beef would also be nice but drain off any excess fat after you fry it); I also increased the amount of spinach in the meat mix and also added some leftover roasted butternut squash.

Meat & Two Potato Gratin* (serves 4-6)
4 garlic cloves
240ml double cream
2 thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon olive oil, more as needed
450g minced meat – I used a mix of pork & beef
¾ teaspoon salt, more as needed
Black pepper, as needed
2 onions, thinly sliced
150g baby spinach
200g roasted butternut squash**
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
225g sweet potatoes (or parsnip, swede or celeriac), peeled and cut into 3mm thick slices
225g potatoes, peeled and cut into 3mm thick slices
100g gruyère cheese, grated

Crush and peel 2 garlic cloves. In a small pan over a medium heat, combine the cream, crushed garlic, thyme sprigs and ½ a tablespoon of sage. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half – it will take about 30 minutes. Strain and cool.

While cream cools, heat the oil in a large pan on a medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown well, breaking it up as it cooks. Season with a little salt and a few grinds of pepper then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Add onion to the pan, adding a little extra oil if it is too dry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and golden – this will take about 10 minutes. Peel and chop the remaining 2 garlic cloves and add this to the pan with the remaining sage. Return meat and add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring until wilted. Add the butternut squash. Add the worcestershire sauce and taste to see if it needs any extra salt or pepper.

Heat oven to 180c.

Layer your dish(es) – use the meat as the bottom layer of your dish(es) and then top with half the potatoes, alternating the types, add half the cheese, top with the remaining potatoes and then the rest of the cheese. Spoon the reduced cream evenly over the top.

Cover the dishes tightly with foil and bake until the potatoes are very tender, 60 to 75 minutes if a single dish; check after 40 mins if making individual portions. Uncover and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

* Based on a Melissa Clark recipe

** This is optional; if you want to keep the vegetable content high but not go to the effort of roasting the squash, you could grate it and add it with the onions.