Mincing Around…

Before you start getting out your ‘Frankie Says Relax!’ t-shirts, cuban heels and copy of Judie Garland’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, this article is about meat. Not just any meat, but the minced variety, the type which used to have me fascinated as a child. I can distinctly remember staring through the perspex glass of the butcher’s shop being fascinated by the bright red worm like strands of beef, pork and lamb. It looked almost alien, inedible and macabre; what did people do with it? How was this pile of mush converted into food, and had I ever eaten any of it? For a child I think this is a reasonable question, mince is one of those foods that goes through a bizarre sequence of metamorphism when cooked. I remember asking my mum if we could get some mince “to try”, to which she informed me that we ate it all the time; in pasta, shepherds pie, chilli et cetera (I thought she was fobbing me off like she had done with gobstoppers, blue drinks and pop tarts). I digress.

Mince is an odd, but remarkable, versatile and cheap little thing. Some of the earliest uses of mince dates back to the Tartar people of the central Asian steppe (foodies out there may have already made the connection to steak tartare). Legend has it that the swift moving hordes of horsemen never had time to eat during campaign, so meat was kept under the saddle to be eaten ‘on the hoof’. The benefit of this was that it was tenderised into a meaty pulp, which we now call mince, the down side is it would taste like something between a Tartars backside and a sweaty stinking horse.

Mince is enjoyed around the world, from the mutton and lamb ‘Keema’ mince of South Asia which goes into Kofta and Kebabs , to the ‘Gored Gored’ ground beef snack of Ethiopia and the ‘Mett’ of Germany (raw pork mince spread on bread!!!) It is actually quite fascinating how many countries enjoy mince in its raw form, I myself have tried a Lebanese dish which was mostly composed of raw lamb (I think it was called Kibbee??) initially it terrified me, however it tasted incredible, something akin to pate?!

Mince is wonderfully adaptable and is usually one of the cheapest meats available at the butchers shop. It goes fantastically into a Spaghetti Bolognese, little hand shaped meatballs, meat loaf and obviously, beef burgers. I found, at university, with just a handful of store cupboard ingredients and a few leftovers, mince could always be made into an exciting and inexpensive dish. If you really want to get the best out of a mince dish, it is usually a great idea to combine two or more different minces. In Italy, the traditional Spaghetti Bolognese (known as Tagliatelle Al Ragu) is usually made of not only mince beef, but also pork mince. Traditionally, however, minced veal with pork mince provides some wonderful salty, fatty goodness!

Forget paying over the counter prices for rump, fillet and chops, just get ‘mincing’ down to the butchers and get some nice, good quality ground meat.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.