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How to cook: make-ahead mince

How to make a batch of savoury mince

This versatile mince could go straight into a cottage pie, or quickly and easily turned into lots of other pies, pastas or Mexican dishes. 

Makes 10 portions – gluten free (if using gluten free stock) – prep: 15 minutes – cook: 30-40 minutes  – 1 portion of fruit & veg per serving

1 tbsp oil250g onions, diced1kg lean minced beef200g carrots. diced250g mushrooms, diced500ml reduced-salt beef stock2 tablespoons tomato pureeLeaves from 3–4 sprigs thyme (or level tsp dried)2–3 cloves garlic, crushedGood pinch pepper400g tin green lentils in water (add the water too)

  1. Add the oil to a pan with the onions and brown
  2. Add the minced beef and brown, breaking up any lumps
  3. Add the carrots and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes
  4. Add the stock, tomato puree, thyme, garlic and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool then portion up and freeze.

Turn half into chili con carne

  • Add some oil to a pan with a chopped yellow pepper and cook for 3–4 minutes.
  • Add a can of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon oregano, a teaspoon ground cumin and half a finely chopped chilli or chilli powder bring to a gentle bubble for 2–3 minutes.
  • Add the defrosted batch mince and a can of kidney beans, bring to a gentle boil then simmer for 5 minutes, mixing regularly until piping hot.
  • Serve with salad and a baked sweet potato

Per serving*:

200kcal –20.8g protein – 6.4g carbs (

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2.6g sugar) –

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9.4g fat  (

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3.7g sat fat) –

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0.62g salt* excluding serving suggestions

Batch cooking mince

Mince is the starting point for lots of different meals – from pies to pastas, moussaka, bolognese or chili. By making a big batch of basic mince and freezing it, you can quickly turn it into a number of other dishes. Mince is really good value, especially if you mix in vegetables and lentils, which is nutritious and makes it go further.

Add lentils

Lentils are high in protein and fibre, virtually fat free and packed with minerals. They’re also a quarter of the price of minced beef. Use green, brown or puy lentils as they’ll stay whole. Look for cans with no added salt or cook dried ones before adding to dishes.

Finely diced vegetables

The secret to adding lots of vegetables is to dice them as finely as you can - onions, carrots, mushrooms and leeks all work well.

Brown the onions

Always start by cooking the onions over a low–medium heat, stirring regularly. Get onions well-browned or caramelised for maximum flavour.

Use up vegetables

Use fridge leftovers such as a broccoli stalks, a parsnip, a piece of swede or spring onions. Don’t add too much of any one ingredient as the flavour could dominate.

Reducing the liquid

You don’t want your mince to be too runny, so aim to evaporate most of the liquid from the pan. How quickly this happens depends on the size of your pan and the heat. If you’ve evaporated too much and it starts to stick, just add a little water.

Freezing

Leave your mince in the pan to cool to room temperature. Cool it as quickly as possible; ideally within one or two hours. Divide it up and place into freezer-proof plastic containers or freezer bags. If using freezer bags, expel any air and tie near the top of the bag, then lie flat on a baking sheet and spread out the mince inside the bag to create a thin block. This makes defrosting it much quicker than if it's one solid lump. Freeze individual portions in disposable plastic cups covered in kitchen film.

Defrosting

Ideally, defrost mince in the fridge overnight. It’s advisable to put freezer bags in a bowl in case they leak. Most microwaves have a defrost function, but, if yours doesn't, use low power for a couple of minutes until you can break up the mince with a fork, then continue cooking a little and mixing regularly until it's completely thawed. To defrost on a stovetop, remove the mince from its container or bag, then add to a pan with a little water and put on a low heat, turning and mixing until it's defrosted.

Reheating

It is very important to reheat food properly. Stir regularly and make sure the food is piping hot all the way through.

Spice it up

By adding a few ingredients you can transform mince into lots of dishes. The following suggestions are based on using three portions of savoury mince to feed four.

Go oriental

Add Chinese five-spice, ginger, chili and extra garlic and toss into stir fried vegetables and noodles.

Go Greek

Add a rounded teaspoon each of cinnamon, oregano and dried mint along with a tin of tomatoes to create a moussaka

Bolognese

Add a heaped teaspoon each of dried oregano and basil and a tin of tomatoes, and serve with pasta, in lasagna or with polenta.

Tex Mex it

Add a heaped teaspoon each of dried oregano, ground cumin and mild chili powder (or fresh chili) along with a tin of tomatoes, a chopped yellow pepper and a tin of kidney beans for a quick and tasty meal. Serve with baked sweet potato and salad, on nachos, or stuffed into tacos or tortillas.

Make a pie

Add cubes of cooked sweet potato, a chopped leek and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, top with pastry and bake.

Other types of mince

Try alternatives such as turkey, pork, lamb, venison or veal.

Go veggie

You can get vegetarian soy-based mince or Quorn in most supermarkets.

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