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The Plagiarist in the Kitchen: Parmentier

Jonathan Meades – once described by Marco Pierre-White as ‘the best amateur chef in the world’ –  is currently raising funds on Unbound for a new cookbook – or perhaps an anti-cookbook.

Called The Plagiarist in the Kitchen, it will contain 125 recipes and also be a paean to the importance of avoiding culinary originality. Everything in it will be entirely lifted, and will therefore be good. Here’s Jonathan on ‘Parmentier’…

Shepherd’s pie is an accredited health hazard in canteens, schools, hospitals.

Hachis parmentier is very different.

Still, here is the one shepherd’s pie recipe that is worth essaying. It was my father’s. His genes and voice apart I have not nicked much from him so am unabashed about this theft.

Leftover lamb leg or shoulder
1kg onions
Worcester sauce
Angostura bitters

Sweat 500g sliced onions and celery – cook till soft

Mince the meat

Mix meat and onions / celery with half a pint of Guinness, Worcester sauce and Angosturas.

Reduce till getting still liquid but going on sticky

Mash potatoes with butter and milk. He liked them to be fairly stiff.

To the meat and veg add 500g sliced uncooked onions.

Place in an overproof dish and cover with mash. Dot with butter

Cook at 150, no hotter, for an hour. He used to furrow it with a fork and finish it under the grill

My father’s is an entirely different dish from the various Parmentiers that I habitually cook. These are modelled on the best I’ve tasted – Yves Camdeborde’s when he was at La Regalade in furthest Montparnasse. He is a marvellous chef. His current restaurant Le Comptoir de l’Odeon remains one of the hottest tickets in Paris. Extraordinarily, Parisians are willing to queue at lunchtime when there is no booking. When we steal, we should steal from the finest.

The potato is a purèe. Very definitely not mash. It is made with crème fraiche, a lot of butter, salt and pepper, garlic.

The purèe does not sit on top of the filling, it surrounds it. So the buttered and oiled receptacle is lined with purèe of about 3cm thickness and depth.


Here are some fillings: they are all more or less cooked and don’t require long in the oven. Cook for about 30-40 minutes at 200.

Lamb’s kidneys and liver. Chop small, partially cook and moisten with reduced stock before combining with the puree.

Black pudding / boudin noir. The addition of apples fried with cinnamon or sweated onions is admissible, depending on the components of the sausage. The best British black pudding comes from Stornoway (Charles Macleod or Macleod and Macleod) but like Burgos morcilla the amount of grain in them makes them perhaps too dry for this dish. The best French? There are too many contenders to get into a barney about. Those which include chestnuts are worth avoiding. Those which include piment d’Espelette are to be sought. In general the softer, mousse-like texture of French boudins is more appropriate. The boudin should be cut into 2-3cm slices and mixed with the purèe.

Duck confit. Take meat off the bone. Combine with chopped prunes that have been soaked in sweet wine. Mix with purèe.

Chicken and mushroom. A nod here to chicken à la king, a fashionable dish of the late 1950s. Poach chicken breasts. Dice. Mix with button mushrooms cooked in butter. Bind with crème fraiche. Particularly good for invalids with declining dental powers.

You can support the book and pre-order your copy and other Meades goodies below.

If you go for the full ‘Meades Blow-out’ option, which includes lunch cooked by Jonathan himself, you’ll even get to meet at least one of the Dabbler editors (Brit) – but don’t let that put you off…


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About Author Profile: Jonathan Meades

Jonathan Meades is a writer, journalist, essayist and film-maker. You can find out more about his books, television programmes and other work at jonathanmeades.co.uk.