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Mix up your mince

Do you ever make a big pan of minced beef (the English kind of bolognese, not the proper Italian stuff) and then realise you’re bored of eating it all up before it goes bad? Well, never fear, here are some ways to switch things up.

To begin, you can obviously cook spaghetti and have that perennial favourite, spag bol, but have you ever thought of cooking shaped pasta al dente and then mixing the pasta and mince together in an oven proof dish, topping with cheese and baking in the oven (at 180 degrees) until the cheese is melted and golden?

Alternatively what about lasagne? You can either make your cheese sauce from scratch or buy a jar and add extra cheese to make it taste a bit more special. Alternate layers of mince, pasta and sauce until you run out of ingredients or space, top with cheese and cook in the oven at 160 degrees for an hour. Place a baking tray underneath the lasagne to catch any escaping cheese. I always make my lasagnes the day after I make the mince, both to help the flavour and to break up the workload. It results in something special that’s easy to freeze and eat up later.

If you’re looking to eat healthily this New Year then stuffing vegetables, especially peppers and marrows, can be a great way to add variation and eat more of your five-a-day. Simply cut the pepper in half through the stem, deseed and place on a baking tray. Drizzle the halves with olive oil and season well. Cook in a hot oven for 10 minutes before adding the mince and topping with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. If you want to use a marrow then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds running through the centre. Cook as with the peppers but leave it in the oven for 20 minutes before adding the mince. You want a knife to go through the marrow easily before you serve it.

Chilli con carne is a popular student staple. My mum used to add baked beans to her mince to turn it into a poor man’s chilli but you can go one better by pouring in a tin of red kidney beans and chilli powder to taste before heating everything through and serving with rice.

A family favourite is cottage pie (shepherd’s pie if it’s lamb mince), which could not be easier to make. You have two options for the classic potato topping once you’ve put the mince into a pie dish, either make some mash and spread it on top of the bolognese or slice some potatoes into rounds, parboil them for 7 minutes before arranging them on top of the the mince. Top with cheese and bake in the oven (at 180 degrees) for 25-30 minutes.

I haven’t had these for years but when I was little, a big treat would be to buy an Old El Paso taco kit and layer the mince with rice, lettuce and cheese. Just follow the kit’s instructions and enjoy! One tip to avoid much of the inevitable mess is to place a lettuce leaf inside the shell before filling it, it acts like a liner and holds the filling when the taco inevitably breaks.

This is my basic recipe for bolognese:

Serves 4

Ingredients

1tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

400g beef (or lamb) mince

800g tinned chopped tomatoes

Tomato ketchup

Salt and pepper

Mixed dried herbs

Sweat the onion, carrot and garlic in the oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat. Once soft, add the mince and brown. Pour in the tomatoes and a good squirt of tomato ketchup. Season well with salt, pepper and dried herbs. Once the bolognese is bubbling, reduce the heat and cover with a tilted lid. Cook for as long as possible (up to 5 hours but a minimum of 30 minutes), stirring regularly and adding water if the mixture becomes dry. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

Tags: bolognese, budget cooking, cooking, leftovers, mince beef, Recipe

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