Versatile Mince Beef Base I would like to show you how to make a “ragu” style mince beef base which you can then split and use in three different recipes making 12 portions from this one base mix. Consider making the ragu style base and then splitting it to make one large cottage pie and then with the addition of a few spices make a pasta bake, and then a cheat’s chilli. So here is the base recipe to start with then I will tell you how to change the flavours to get creative. INGREDIENTS 600g mince beef 3 x onions peel and dice 1 x leek finely sliced. 3 x carrots – peel and grate 2 x beef stock cubes – made up to 500ml with water Pack of mushrooms – wipe to clean do not wash, then chop into smallish pieces or if not overly big into quarters [ use the stalks too] 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes. STORECUPBORD ½ teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper. METHOD 1] Place a large frying pan onto your hob over a gentle heat. Add the mince beef to the pan and dry fry to brown it, juices will appear which you are going to use to cook your other ingredients. You are aiming to get the meat to be brown not crisp and the individual pieces of meat nicely separate and not clumped together. Once you have achieved this remove the pan from the heat and using a slotted or draining spoon remove the meat from the pan and put aside. Leave the liquid in the pan and return to the heat 2] Return your frying pan to the hob, gentle heat again then add your onions, carrots, and leeks, season with salt and pepper and stir to coat in the liquid in the pan and cook for approx. 10 minutes to start to soften. 3] Add your mushrooms to the mixture and stir well to mix into the other vegetables, cook for a couple of minutes then add your chopped tomatoes again stir to mix well 4] Return the mince to your frying pan and add 400 ml of your beef stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, pop a lid on and simmer for approx. 30 minutes this will thicken the mixture. If it appears to be too dry add a little more of the stock that you still have in reserve. You now have the base to create your other dishes from; – which of course you can freeze or pop in the fridge covered for a couple of days as a base for some easy home-time meals. RECIPE 1 Cottage Pie for 4 INGREDIENTS 1/3rd of the Versatile Mince Beef Base 1 x 400g Tin of lentils – drain and rinse through, then leave to drain off any excess water 500g of potatoes – peel and cut into quarters if very big try and keep them about the same size 300g swede – peel and cut into smaller pieces than the potato as it takes longer to cook. 25G butter 100g grated cheese – you can alter this amount to suit your own tastes/dietary requirements. STORECUPBOARD Milk is optional if you want to add to the mashed potato and swede. Salt and Pepper METHOD 1] Put potatoes and swede into a large pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil, cover and simmer for approx. 20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Once cooked remove from the heat and pout into a colander to drain, then place the colander over the still hot pan and allow the heat to dry them for a couple of minutes. 2] Mix the Versatile Mince Beef Base and lentils together and place in a large ovenproof dish, allowing room on top for the mash. 3] Mash your potato and swede adding butter, Salt and Pepper and milk if using it. Then spoon over the top of the mince beef mixture and fluff up with a fork. 4] Sprinkle your grated cheese on top and place in the oven for approx. 20 minutes to melt the cheese, and heat thoroughly Gas 4 180C/FAN160C RECIPE 2 Bolognaise for 4 INGREDIENTS 1/3RD of the Versatile Mince Beef Base 1 Pepper – remove the stalk, cut into half and remove the seeds, then dice. 3 Garlic Cloves – remove peppery casing, chop finely 250g Spinach or Chard – rinse in cold water and drain, if it has big leaves then tear into smaller pieces & discard any woody stems. 200g of pasta 100g of grated cheese 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon. STORECUPBOARD Oil salt 50ml of red wine or a Red Wine Stock pot – this is optional if you happen to have it otherwise use the same amount of water. METHOD 1] Take a large fry pan, drizzle a little oil in the bottom [ about a 10p piece circle] then pop onto a medium heat and put in the pepper and garlic, cook until the pepper is soft but not crispy which takes about 10 mins dependant how hot the pan is. 2] While the pepper is cooking, cook your pasta Take a large saucepan fill with water until it is about 3.4s full, add a good pinch of salt, put onto your hob an bring the water to a boil [ putting a lid onto the pan at this stage helps it to boil quicker]. When the water is bubbling rapidly remove the lid and carefully put your pasta into the pan taking care not to splash, for the first couple of minutes stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking together. The continue to cook uncovered for approx. 15 minutes until the pasta is soft but still has a slight bite to it, this is called “Al Dente” 3] While your pasta is cooking and when your pepper is soft add the spinach to the pan and incorporate into the pepper/garlic mixture stirring to get it to shrink down, this takes a few minutes whilst this is taking place you can add the versatile Mince Beef Base into the frying pan, stir to mix everything together. At this stage add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and your 50ml of liquid [ either the water or wine or wine-based stock pot] stir well. 4] Remove and drain the pasta then add to the meat, which is still in your frying pan, stir well to coat the pasta and then remove the pan from the heat. If the pan is oven-proof, if not put into an oven proof dish, then sprinkle the cheese over and put into your oven gas4/180C/FAN160C for 15 mins to ensure it is fully reheated and the cheese is bubbling and melted. RECIPE 3 Chilli Con Carne for 4 INGREDIENTS 1/3RD of the Versatile Mince Beef Base 1 x 400g of Red Kidney Beans – open tin drain, rinse and then drain again. 250g of Basmati Rice 1 heaped Tablespoon of Paprika – use less if you want to reduce the heat 1 Red chilli – remove the stalk, split lengthways and remove the seeds, then roll back up into a chilli shape and finely slice into rings STORECUPBOARD 1 tablespoon of tomato puree oil METHOD You can either make this on the stove top or in the oven, if you are using the oven you need to preheat it to Gas 4/180/FAN160C. 1] Mix your drained red kidney beans into your Versatile Mince Beef Base, stir into this mixture the heaped tablespoon of paprika and heat thoroughly for approx. 20 minutes either in the oven or on the stove top. Taking care to ensure the mixture doesn’t go to dry, if it does add 100ml of water with 1 tablespoon of tomato puree mixed into it. [you want it wet but not too sloppy!] 2] Cook your rice by your preferred method. My preferred method is in a pan, add a spot/spray of oil and put onto a medium heat, add your dried basmati rice and stir to coat the grains of rice for a minute, now add 400 ml of water, reduce heat to the lowest setting, cover and simmer for 20 mins – the rice is cooked when the water is fully absorbed. When you serve sprinkle the red chilli on top of your rice.