Taste of my Childhood

We have been travelling for the past week – 1768 miles from Salt Lake City, thru Utah and Idaho to Yellowstone in Montana and Wyoming, to the battle site of the Little Big Horn, to Deadwood (where Dad and I sang but discovered that we didn’t really know enough Calamity Jane lyrics not to annoy Tom and Daisy), to Mount Rushmore SD, ending up in Denver CO.  This is a very very large country and we saw lots of mountains, hills, rivers, and more geysers than you can shake a stick at.  I have learned a great deal about geysers, fumaroles, hot springs and boiling mud, and I have learned about the Indian Wars.  Turns out that Custer’s Last Stand wasn’t really as portrayed by Errol Flynn.  We ate well though I missed the fresh fish and seafood that I’ve been enjoying in New York City – frozen battered cod really isn’t much of a substitute.  I am also a wee bit tired of Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken.  It was lovely to reach Denver and its wide choice of restaurants with interesting dishes.

Today of course is Bastille Day and I did think that I should give you a traditionally French recipe, but decided against.  I am giving you a recipe that Grandma cooked a lot when we were kids.  She used to serve it with rice – traditionally in Scotland it’s served with mashed potatoes – I like it with pasta.  I have a memory of having to be encouraged to eat (hard to believe, I know) so Grandma mixed everything together into a mound, and told me it was a mountain and that the mountain couldn’t be touched.  She would then turn her back and I of course would take a forkful.  With mock annoyance that ‘someone’ had touched her mountain, Grandma would again make a smooth mound.  So today’s recipe is Savoury Mince – a versatile recipe that I use as a base for Shepherd’s Pie or have put in a pie crust for Savoury Mince Pie.  For the first time, I’m not bothering to put ingredients or method.  There are possibilities and variations and you must decide.  The only thing to remember is that 1lb mince has one finely chopped onion and 1 level teaspoon salt.

Heat a pan on a medium heat and add the mince.  I use 95% fat mince but you can have a higher percentage if that suits your budget better.  Break up the meat lumps as it browns.  When the fat escapes from the meat, add the salt and onion.  Turn the heat down and fry gently.  When the meat is in small pieces and browned all over, add any extra vegetables.  My suggestions are peas, finely chopped carrots, sweetcorn, finely chopped turnip/swede, and chopped celery.  Heat through and mix thoroughly.  At this point you can either add beef stock or a tin of chopped tomatoes – whichever you choose, cover the meat by about 1/2 inch / 1 cm and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer.  Check after 15mins and make sure that there is enough liquid and that the meat isn’t sticking.  After about 30 mins, the meat will be cooked.  I generally add black pepper to taste (unless Big Andrew will be with us).  Serve however you wish – traditionally or exotically!  Grandma used to make a ring of rice, and put the mince inside.  Feel free to make it into a mountain too!


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