How to cook a truly tasty savory mince for rice - my recipe
How to make "dull" mince more interesting
"Mince (that's ground beef, to you denizens of the US of A!), by itself, is pretty dull." So reads the blurb on label of Robertson's Spice for Mince, one of the ingredients of my idiosyncratic recipe for savoury mince, er, ground beef.
To make the mince more interesting I tend to add a whole heap of stuff, which I hope also adds to the dish's nutritional value. If any nutritionist on Hub Pages can give me some feedback on the nutritional value of my savoury mince I would be grateful. I just add the stuff because I like it!
Anyway, the ingredients (usually - they tend to change from time-to-time, depending on availability and my mood at the time) are:
0.5 kg (about 1 lb) lean minced beef
1 large or 2 small onions
1 medium tomato
1 clove garlic, crushed
Dash of oil
2 - 4 tbs red wine/sherry
1 tsp mild curry powder
1 can boiled white beans
1 tsp Robertson's Spice for Mince (use about a half tsp of ground cloves instead if Spice for Mince is not available. From its smell I assume Spice for Mince is mostly cloves anyway)
125 ml fruit chutney (use a few tbs smooth apricot jam, or even some honey, as a substitute)
1 large or 2 small carrots, finely grated
2 large potatoes, 1 coarsely grated and 1 cut into about 8 pieces
1 apple, coarsely grated
75 ml soy sauce
8 to 10 leaves of fresh sweet basil
Rosemary leaves (fresh)
Curry bush leaves (no - I don't know what this little bush's proper name is, but it smells like curry)
Method - part 1
Finely slice the onions and fry gently in the oil in a medium-sized pot with a lid. Add the wine or sherry to taste. As they simmer away peel the tomato and cut into small pieces. When the onions are soft and translucent add the tomato pieces and simmer a little longer over gentle heat, stirring to prevent burning.
When the tomato pieces have disappeared in the mixture, add the curry powder and garlic and keep stirring.
Turn the heat up quite a bit and add the mince. Keep turning the mince over until it is thoroughly cooked through.
While all this has been happening you will also have been grating the carrots and one potato, and cutting the other potato into chunks.
Once there is absolutely no pink left in the mince turn the heat down to the lowest possible and add the carrots and potatoes. Cover the pot and allow to simmer.
While the mince and additions are simmering go out into the garden and appreciate the sunshine and fresh air while you gently cut the herbs from the plants you have lovingly grown. Remember to thank the plants as you harvest their bounty!
Bring the leaves back into your kitchen and, using a half-moon herb cutter, chop them finely.
Basil - a little riff on a poem, a painting and the herb!
I love the smell of basil and the way its aroma fills the kitchen. Not for nothing do the French call it l'herbe royale! It is also a very rewarding plant to grow, having rich, lovely green leaves which give off a wonderful aroma when touched.
Basil is also the source of some powerful anti-oxidants in the essential oils in which it is rich. It is becoming clear from research that Basil has many other benefits and so is welcome not only for its rich aroma and flavour, but for helping us being more healthy. Its also the main ingredient in that wonderful sauce called basil pesto.
Basil is also rich on cultural associations, perhaps the best known of which, at least in the English-speaking world, is the story of Isabella and the pot of basil, coming from Boccaccio's Decameron , in the long narrative poem by romantic poet John Keats, called "Isabella or the Pot of Basil", which so impressed the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt that they painted famous pictures illustrating aspects of the story. The Pot of Basil in question is where she buried the head of her murdered lover Lorenzo. Her brothers had killed Lorenzo in a forest and buried him there, but Isabella, accompanied by her nurse, went into the forest and disinterred Lorenzo, and then
"With duller steel than the Persean sword,
They cut away no formless monster's head,
But one, whose gentleness did well accord
With death, as life."
Isabella then wrapped up Lorenzo's head in a silk scarf "sweet with the dews Of precious flowers plucked in Araby"
"... and for its tomb did choose
A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
And cover'd it with mould, and o'er it set
Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet."
What a melancholy tale to give rise to some interesting poetry and paintings. I always am reminded of the story when I use Basil in cooking.
Method - part 2
But back to the rather more mundane savoury mince.
While the mince is continuing to simmer very gently, peel and coarsely grate the apple.
When the pieces of potato in the pot are cooked, add the grated apple, the chutney or apricot jam, the tin of beans and the soy sauce to taste.
After a few minutes, when all is warmed through again and the apple gratings are no longer visible in the pot, add the herbs and cook gently for a few minutes more.
Then turn the heat up quite high and bring the whole lot to a rapid boil. As soon as it has come to a rapid boil turn off the heat and allow it to come gently off the boil.
If the meat catches a bit on the bottom of the pot this is all to the good. My late mother-in-law used to say that to taste great savoury mince had to catch a bit. I don't mean charcoal, though!
This savoury mince is great with pasta, couscous, rice, in a wrap or roti, or even on a piece of bread or toast.
Best served with a nice green salad on the side.
Bon appetit ! Hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do!
The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Tony McGregor 2009