Making the most of mince
I don't know about you but I have noticed a distinct nip in the air, early mornings and evenings are chilly enough to warrant a wooly-pully, my fit-flops have been consigned to the cupboard in favour of closed toe slippers and I am half tempted to flick the 'ON' switch on the thermostat. When the month of Yom Tovim roll around, I am sure that like me, you all plan what dishes to serve and then spend hours shopping and cooking for the High Holy Days and end up fresh out of ideas for the days leading up to and in between.
In the olden days of the last century (think pre-1980) Monday was left-overs or mince, Tuesday was Schnitzel, Wednesday would be chops and Thursday was either egg & chips night at my mum's or hot fried fish and chips at grandma's because that was when she fried the fish for Shabbos. Those days are long gone and most people don't bother to fry their own fish let alone peel and crinkle cut the chips!
Now it is chilly and more than a little damp we all want something comforting and hot to eat so I have devised some recipes that can either be made ahead or part made and finished off when required.
The first one is minced beef hotpot. I am a bit of a 'leave it all to the last minute' kind of person but I do cook up a double quantity of the mince mixture and freeze half in a plastic bag; ready to defrost on Wednesday to be topped on Thursday and baked fresh.
Lamb mince makes a tasty alternative but be sure to use a sprig or two of fresh rosemary in place of the bay leaves. You can freeze the complete dish and reheat it, but this way takes up less room in the freezer and the potatoes are nicer when freshly prepared.
For an alternate and lower carb spin that will definitely warm the cockles, try topping Chili Con Carne with sliced sweet potato too.
For an even quicker and fuss free alternative you can use frozen ready made latkes, potato rösti or hash browns as a topping, just spoon the mixture into large ramekins and top with a disc or two of crunchy yum-licious-ness.
Before we begin, let's talk mirepoix or perhaps you'd prefer a sofrito? Whatever you'd like to call it, I believe it is the foundation to most successful savoury dishes. A perfect triumvirate of ingredients: just onion, carrot and celery. The usual proportion for this mix is twice as much onion as the other two and even if you are a celery hater it adds a savoury base note to the dish that doesn't taste at all celery-like. If you have kids that will not tolerate a vegetable at close quarters, just blitz the mix in a food processor until it is very finely chopped and it will melt into the meat sauce and will be almost imperceptible.
MINCED BEEF HOTPOT
Ingredients to serve 3- 4
1lb beef mince
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium Spanish onion diced
2-3 ribs of celery
250g cubed carrot
250g cubed swede
500 ml beef stock
1-2 tablespoons flour
500ml pasata or a tin of chopped tomatoes
1 dessertspoon soy sauce or kosher Worcestershire sauce
1 glass red wine (optional)
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 bay leaves
Handful of fresh chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1kg large evenly shaped potatoes. spray oil (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 5.
Gently fry the diced onion, celery and carrot with the thyme and bay leaf over a medium heat, when translucent add the beef mince and bash it around to break it up.
I have found the best method for this is a metal potato masher, YES REALLY!! I mash the mince into the onion mixture and then stir with a wooden spoon, I give it another mash and a stir and then probably one more mash which breaks the mince into nice even sized morsels.
When the mince is browned, add the swede if you're using it, the Worcestershire/soy sauce the wine if using and the beef stock and season with black pepper. Allow this to come to the boil and bubble down by a third and then add the chopped tomato or pasata.
Next, sprinkle over the flour and stir in to thicken the gravy. Stir through about 3/4 of the chopped parsley and spread the mixture into an ovenproof dish.
Peel and slice the potatoes into thin rounds and layer them over the mince mixture. Brush or spray with a little oil or Bake for 45 - 60 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and tender when pierced with a knife.
Scatter the rest of the parsley over as a garnish and serve with a green vegetable or a side salad.
SWEET POTATO TOPPED CHILI CON CARNE
This is a basic chili recipe that can be augmented or changed to suit you and your family's taste-buds. It is fabulous made with turkey mince and you can turn up the heat by adding more chili powder or leaving the seeds in the fresh chilis.
One useful addition to a recipe like this is a ready-made seasoning blend. I make up my own (recipe below) or I cheat and use Pereg Jerusalem Spice mix as it has chili, paprika, cumin and garlic in it. I like a smoky dried chipotle, soaked and chopped with the soaking liquid added and some smoked paprika. Both work really well with the caramel notes of the roasted sweet potato topping.
1 large Spanish onion chopped
2-3 ribs celery diced 1-2 cloves garlic crushed 500g beef mince 1-2 tablespoons oil
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme 1 x soaked chipotle chili
1 medium red pepper diced
1 x medium green or yellow pepper diced
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 dessertspoon or more of Jerusalem Spice
1-2 fresh chilis de-seeded and chopped 75g parev dark chocolate or 1 tablespoon cocoa powder 1 tin chopped tomatoes 200ml beef stock 425g can kidney beans
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wide saucepan. Fry the chopped onion, celery and peppers with the thyme until softened. Add the garlic and fresh chili and cook for a further minute. Add the beef mince and mash and stir to break it up.
When the mince is browned add the dried spices, the soaked chipotle and its soaking liquid and stir to coat.
Add the beef stock, chopped tomatoes and kidney beans and stir.
Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer add the parev chocolate or the cocoa powder mixed to a paste with water and allow to cook over a low light for 1-1.5 hours.
Stir it occasionally to prevent sticking or bung the whole lot in a medium oven (180c) to cook gently.
This is delicious as a taco filling or put the chili into a wide ovenproof dish and top with sliced sweet potatoes, spray or brush with oil and cook for a further 30-45 minutes until they are crunchy and golden.