26 November 2013

Frugal food - savoury mince

Often when you have to save money on food one of the things that suffers is flavour.  This is a good dish that uses a small amount of meat but it's still very tasty. About 300 grams/10.5oz topside mince will feed four, including hungry meat eaters. Along with the meat, you'll use whatever vegetables you have on hand. I used two carrots, two sticks of celery, a quarter capsicum/pepper, a small amount of cabbage, garlic and two onions, plus frozen peas right at the end. It's also handy to keep in mind that frozen vegetables such as peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach etc, are easy to store in the freezer and, depending on the season, can be cheaper than the fresh vegetables. Often, in our summer here, the frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh. If you're cooking something like this dish, you really don't need fresh vegetables but you'll still get the nutrients you expect to because frozen vegetables are generally snap frozen very soon after it's harvested.

Minced steak, topside mince, ground beef or whatever you call it where you live is a fairly cheap choice if you want to put meat on the table that everyone will eat. You can make it into meat balls or serve in a tomato sauce with pasta but bulking it up with vegetables and spices will allow you to get away with using less meat.  This meat cost $7.99 a kilo, so the 300gram portion I used here cost about $2.50.

I served this with mashed potato and the following day with rice. Both were delicious. You could also make up some flaky pastry or use a pre-made square of butter puff to make a large family meat pie. Just the thing for those colder nights my friends in the norther hemisphere are having.

Being frugal folk we always need to use all our leftovers as well. If you make up too much of this for one meal, the leftovers are very tasty the next day warmed up with toast, or in a toasted sandwich made in a sandwich press, or placed, warm, into lettuce cups and eaten as a loose lettuce roll. I haven't had it but I think a very spicy savoury mince would go well with a fried egg too. Let's face it, there are a lot of options with this kind of frugal food.

  • 300grams - 10.5oz of minced steak/ground beef
  • splash of cooking oil - I always use olive oil
  • vegetables of your choice
  • seasonings
  • curry powder or chilli flakes
  • cornflour and water
Heat the frying pan and when it's hot, add the broken up beef. Stir it around in the pan to break it up so you have no lumps of beef. Allow beef to cook and become brown - that develops the flavour, so don't bypass this step. While the beef is browning, prepare the vegetables.

Vegetables of your choice. Use what you have in the fridge, or use frozen from the freezer. I think the one vegetable you have to use is onion. It gives you a good foundation for the rest of the strong flavours.

When the beef is brown, add your chopped vegetables and continue cooking. Allow everything to brown slightly. If you use frozen vegetables this will take a little longer because of the ice. When the mix is nicely brown, add your seasonings.

The seasonings will include salt and pepper to your taste along with some curry powder or chilli flakes. I used two flat dessertspoons of curry powder in mine. Use a good a quality powder or a paste. Mix it all together and add one teaspoon of sugar. Add water to cover the mix, bring it to the boil then let it simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes. The spices need to cook for a while to develop their flavours. When the liquid has reduced by half, add a thickener.  I used two tablespoons of cornflour mixed with two tablespoons of water - mixed to a smooth paste and added to the mix. Stir it in and let it simmer for another two minutes. Then serve.

This meal will freeze really well so if you want something in the freezer, packed in portion sizes to suit your family, this is the one to go for. It will improve in flavour the longer it sits, but use it within four to six weeks to get the full measure of it.

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