We’ve gone about as simple as we can this time – with our organic minced beef. Beef mince can be as good or bad as the butcher wants to make it – in fact, I would rather contentiously claim that the demise of many a high street butchers has been down to them not taking mince seriously and using it as a ‘catch all’ for any questionable piece of beef they might want to see the back of (plus a little ox heart to keep it looking nice and pink). I hope you won’t be surprised to hear that this has never been the case at the Farm Shop. Our butchers are proud of their mince and take it very seriously indeed. I suspect that that is because it’s beef and, for a butcher, beef is king. Lamb is queen, pork is Jack, poultry is way down the pecking order and it’s amazing to hear so many properly trained butchers; who’ve been through the Saturday boy, apprentice route who claim never to have made a sausage. Definitely not real man’s work.
We use mainly neck and clod, chuck and trimmings from the ribs and various joints in our mince. We try not to include shin or anything with any gristle or tendon. We reckon it’s about 95% visual lean and most butchers would sell it as premium mince or minced steak. We’ve tried offering a proper minced steak many times but it’s never really a mover because our bog standard mince is so good. As a customer, I might occasionally ask for minced chuck because it does have a little more fat and makes a better burger but, for everything else, our beef mince is better than fine.
I’m not going to start trying to come up with anything original in the recipe line because I can’t imagine there’s much left to create. We all have our favourite Bolognese ragu, lasagne, cottage pie and chilli con carne recipes and the web is full of other suggestions. Jamie Oliver’s pretty good (https://www.jamieoliver.co./recipes/minced-beef-recipes/) particularly if you like meatloaf and meatballs. I can never really work out why but a surprising amount of receipes are improved by substituting a bit of beef with minced pork.
That is definitely the case with meatloaf. We don’t cook meatloaf much in the UK – maybe we should and the recipe below, originating from Anthony Worrall-Thompson, via the more than capable hands of Jane Baxter (now of Wild Artichokes in Kingsbridge) is well worth making. Despite the list of ingredients, it’s as straightforward as they come.
Meatloaf with red wine and porcini sauce
A very good way of stretching out a bit of mince, this American favourite is economical, rich and deeply satisfying. Serve a hot slice on buttery mash or a jacket potato; or at room temperature with crisp salad leaves and crusty bread.
15g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 300mls hot water
75g unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and chopped
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed with a little salt
2 large mushrooms, finely diced
500g minced beef
500g sausage meat (easiest thing to do is to squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins, or you could make your own using pork mince, breadcrumbs and water)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
5 tbsp piri-piri sauce (I used Nandos)
5 tbsp tomato ketchup
5 tbsp milk
5 tbsp double cream
3 large eggs, beaten
75g fresh breadcrumbs
For the sauce:
50g unsalted butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
Liquid from the soaked porcini
175ml red wine
175ml beef stock
Preheat the oven to 180°C/ Gas 4. Remove the porcini from the hot water, setting it aside for the sauce and rinse the mushrooms under cold water, squeeze to dry then chop finely.
Strain the soaking water through a sieve to remove any grit. In a large frying pan, melt the butter and gently fry the onions, celery, carrot, red pepper, garlic, mushrooms and chopped porcini over a medium heat until soft (but not brown) and the liquid from the chopped mushrooms has been cooked away.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a large bowl and allow to cool a little before folding in the remaining ingredients – mixing well to combine. Have a taste test by frying a small amount of the mixture in a dash of oil and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Next, spoon the mixture into a greased loaf tin. Set the tin in a larger pan and pour in enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the loaf tin. Transfer to the oven for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature of the meat loaf comes to 65°C. Spoon away any fat that has risen to the top and discard.
Sit a weight on top of the loaf after removing it from the oven ( a tin of beans on a small board will do) and let it stand in a warm place for 20 minutes or so before turning it out of the tin to be sliced.
While the meatloaf rests, make the sauce by warming half the butter with the shallots, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cook for a few minutes until the shallots are soft but not colouring. Add the black pepper, the porcini stock and red wine and simmer over a high heat until the liquid has reduced by half. Now add the beef stock and reduce again by about a third. Stir in the remaining butter.
Season to taste and remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig before serving.