Minced beef is such a versatile ingredient in the kitchen because it can be used to make a wonderful variety of delicious family dinners.
What all these dishes have in common is that they are great examples of comfort foods – the kind of supper you want when you’re feeling tired, or cold, or generally fed up with life. The heart-warming soul food, in other words, that Mom used to make.
But feeding a family is costly these days. Like all red meat, mince is expensive, and it doesn't go very far when you’re faced with a table full of hungry children or teenagers. Here are some of our top tips for getting the most out of your mince, including some sneaky ideas for ‘stretching’ a pack or two of mince to feed more people, without compromising the fabulous flavours your family expects from your cooking!
• Mince should be cooked within a day or two of purchase, as it tends to spoil quickly. The large surface area of the minced beef provides a tempting breeding ground for bacteria, so it is important to keep it properly covered in the fridge. If you’re not going to use it within a day or two, crumble it up roughly with a fork, place it in a lidded plastic container and freeze it right away. When you’re ready to use it, tip it - still frozen - into a hot pan and it will break apart easily as it browns in the pot. Or you can let it thaw out during the day in the fridge.
• A good way to ‘stretch’ mince is to add cooked or tinned beans to the mixture when you’re making savoury mince, cottage pie, spaghetti bolognaise or curries. If you’re worried your family will turn up their noses at this, finely mash or liquidise the beans first. Not only will the puréed beans thicken the mixture, but they will also add healthy fibre – and the children won’t be any the wiser! Chickpeas, sweetcorn, cooked peas and carrots work well too.
• Another way to make minced beef go further is to mix it half-and-half with soya mince. Prepare the soya mince according to the packet instructions, and then stir it into your mince mixture once you’ve added any liquid. If your sauce is rich and deliciously flavoured, no one will notice that it’s partly made of soya mince!
• If you’re in a hurry, use one of KNORR’s Mince Mate range to create a tasty family dinner with a minimum of fuss. These products are so versatile because they can be combined with fresh ingredients to create many interesting dishes: Mince and Pasta Butternut Bake, for example, or Easy Cheesy Pasta with Mince, Mushrooms and Spinach.
• To make a small quantity of mince stretch between many mouths, try whipping up a spicy mince soup, similar to a Mexican chilli. Fry some chopped onions in oil until just softened, add 500 grams of mince and continue frying until the mince is lightly browned. In the meantime, liquidise or mash two tins of tomatoes and their juice, and two tins of mashed beans or lentils, plus their juice. Add these to the pot, pour in just enough water to cover all the ingredients, and stir in the contents of a KNORR Beef Stock Pot. Now flavour your soup by adding spices and herbs of your choice - curry powder, chillies, garlic, oregano, garlic, cumin, coriander, and so on. Simmer the soup over a low heat for 30 minutes, then serve it in bowls with grated cheese, fresh coriander, a blob of natural yoghurt, and crusty rolls.
• Pasta is another economical ingredient ideal for getting the most out of mince. It’s inexpensive, it cooks in nine minutes, it’s very filling and it provides plenty of energy for growing children. For example, this terrific recipe, Everyone’s Mince and Mac, uses only 500 grams of lean mince, but serves six people.
• Use potatoes and other root vegetables to bulk out your mince dishes. If you’re making a cottage pie, try using a combination of ordinary potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips to make a nourishing, colourful mash for the top of the pie – here’s an example of a cottage pie topped with butternut and potato mash. Or dollop your savoury mince over big fluffy baked potatoes and top them with a shower of grated cheddar (here’s the recipe).
• If you find your family is getting fed up with eating the same mince dishes every week, why not introduce them to some new and exciting dishes? How about a spicy Cape-style bobotie, a layered Mexican lasagna, mini mince croquettes, or a delicious savoury mince and bean cobbler?