How to Make Savoury Mince

The dish we call savoury mince in our house is super versatile. It’s quite similar to bolognese, but with subtle variations you can turn it into, chilli con carne, lasagna, or cottage pie!

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a wok or deep saucepan with lid

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • A little oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 500g beef, lamb, or Quorn mince (a.k.a. ground meat)
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2-3 carrots
  • tinned chopped tomatoes
  • tomato puree
  • frozen peas or spinach
  • mixed herbs
  • salt

Start by placing your pan on a gentle heat. Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), and dice your onion. (You can find more detailed instructions here: onions)

Add your onion to the pan, along with a generous sprinkle of mixed herbs. (I often also add a little bit of garlic, but you don’t have to.)

Photograph of a wok containing diced red onion and mixed herbs

Next, add your mince. Stir everything together, and break up any clumps of mince that are sticking together.

Photograph of a wok containing diced red onion and Quorn mince

Dice your pepper (you can find the tutorial here: pepper), then add it to the pan.

Photograph of a wok containing diced red onion, Quorn mince, and diced red pepper

Grate your carrots. (Remember to leave the top on to use as a handle while grating – you can find more tips in last week’s tutorial here.)

Add your grated carrot to the pan, followed by a tin of tomatoes. To make sure you’re not wasting any tomato-y goodness, rinse out the tin with a splash of water.

Photograph of a wok showing mostly grated carrot and chopped tomatoes

Mix everything together, and put the lid on. This helps the pan heat up quicker, and keeps the moisture in.

After 5-10 minutes, add a generous dollop of tomato puree. This makes the sauce richer; if you don’t have tomato puree you can use ketchup instead.

Photograph of a wok containing mixed vegetables and mince, with a roughly tablespoon-sized dollop of tomato puree on top

Your dish is nearly done, so make sure to taste your sauce. If it tastes like it’s lacking something, try adding a little salt or some more tomato puree.

Five minutes before serving, add your frozen peas or spinach to the pan.

Photograph of a wok containing savoury mince

Make sure to mix everything together before serving!

Photograph of a bowl of savoury since on top of pasta, with a sprinkle of cheese on top

This version of savoury mince is perfect with pasta. But if you have any leftovers, it also makes great nachos!

Photograph of a plate of tortilla chips covered in savoury mince and melted cheese

Remember, this recipe is only a base, so feel free to play around with it! Try adding chilli or paprika to spice it up a little, or using some different herbs. You could add a tin of beans along with the peas, either to complement or replace the mince. Or you could try using different vegetables – why not add some mini brocolli fillets, or even try parsnip instead of carrot?

If you make savoury mince with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Grate Anything (except your fingers)

A grater is a very useful piece of kitchen equipment; so much so that it made it into my top 20 (link)! It’s a great (or should that be ‘grate’) tool for quickly chopping ingredients very finely.

A grater is essentially a metal plate with sharpened holes in it. You can get a variety of shapes and sizes, but my favourite is a box grater because it has multiple sizes of holes in the one tool. Also, your grated ingredients (mostly) collect neatly underneath.

To use a grater, hold it steady in one hand. (Usually your non-dominant hand.) Hold your ingredients in your other hand, and apply gentle pressure as you rub your ingredients up and down the grater. Just keep your fingers out of the way – while graters aren’t as sharp as knives, they can still break your skin.

I think perhaps the most common ingredient to grate is cheese. Grated cheese is perfect for on top of pasta dishes, mashed potato, or in sandwiches. You can buy grated cheese, but it’s often much cheaper to grate your own, and it’s a good ingredient to practice grating. If you have, for example, a large block of cheese, you can grate quite quickly, especially if you’re not using all of it. However, the closer your fingers are to the grater, the more slowly you need to grate.

I also like to add grated vegetables (and even fruits like apple) to enrich sauces for dishes like pasta and curry. (All the flavours meld together in a blend of deliciousness!) The easiest vegetables to grate are those that are quite sturdy, particularly root vegetables like our old friend the carrot.

When grating a carrot you’ll want to chop the bottom (or ‘tail’) end off, and cut out any blemishes as usual. However, if you leave the top end on for now, you can use it as a ‘handle’ as you grate, to help keep your fingers safely out of the way. Other vegetables that come with their own ‘handles’ include parsnips and courgettes. With rounder root vegetables like sweet potatoes, you may find they need chopping into smaller chunks before they’ll fit on the grater.

There are many more ingredients you can grate, including chocolate and even some spices! But the best thing about a grater is that once you know how to grate one thing, you can grate most of the rest of them too! It’s a really useful kitchen skill.

How to Chop a Bell Pepper – diced bell pepper

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

We used strips of bell pepper (cutting tutorial here) in February for stir-fry (recipe here), but bell peppers are also perfect for adding a little extra sweetness and richness to tomato-based sauces.

Just like before, start chopping your bell pepper by cutting it in half. Steady your knife in one of the pepper’s grooves, and cut straight down.

Hand drawing of a red bell pepper with cutting guideline (grey dotted line)

Cut each half in half again, and remove the pith and seeds.

Hand drawings of red bell pepper half and quarter with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Cut each quarter into strips like before, but try to hold them together for now. Then, as you cut in the other direction, you’ll have diced bell pepper in no time!

Hand drawing of two chunks of red pepper showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Diced bell pepper can be fried in 15 minutes, or less if you like it crunchy. It’s great added to omelettes, but I like it best mixed with a load of other diced vegetables, whether cooked in a sauce or mixed into a salad.

Remember to use up peppers once you’ve cut them so they don’t go off!

How to Make a Mild, Creamy Curry (with Rice)

There are a huge range of curries, from countries all over the world! Curries can be hot, mild, rich, creamy, or light. This curry is both light and creamy, with variations to satisfy vegetarians and carnivores!

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a wok or deep saucepan with lid
  • a saucepan with lid

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 1-2 cups rice
  • A little oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2-3 carrots
  • ½ a cauliflower
  • frozen peas
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • coconut milk
  • ½ tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • fenugreek
  • turmeric
  • salt

 

To start, wash your rice and put it on to boil. This will then boil while the curry cooks; you can find more details on cooking rice here.

Place your wok or deep saucepan on a gentle heat. Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), and dice your onion. (You can find more detailed instructions here: onions)

Add your diced onion to the pan, along with your ginger, garlic, and dried spices. I tend to cook by eye, so it’s difficult for me to give precise measurements for how much to use. A light sprinkling to roughly cover the onions tends to yield good results. Be generous with the coriander, but sparing with the turmeric and fenugreek as these can be bitter if overused. If you don’t have the individual spices, you can just use a generic curry mix.

Photograph of a pan with a layer of diced onion and spices in the bottom

Dice your carrots (instructions here), and add them to the pan. Add enough coconut milk to just barely cover the onions and carrots. Once the pan is boiling, make sure the lid is off so that the sauce will reduce down. (Reduce down is the culinary term for sauces losing water and getting thicker.) There should always be a little liquid left during cooking – if it’s all gone, add a little more milk.

Photograph of a pan with a layer of diced onion and carrot, with a little milk showing through in places

Cut your cauliflower into mini florets (tutorial here), then add them to the pan.

Photograph of a pan with a layer of diced onion, carrot, and cauliflower in the bottom

Drain and rinse your tinned chickpeas.

Five minutes before serving, add your chickpeas and frozen peas to the pan.

Photograph of a pan full of diced onion, carrot, cauliflower, peas, and chickpeas

Just before serving, make sure to taste the sauce. If it tastes like it’s lacking something, try adding a teaspoon of salt. For a creamier sauce, you could add ground cashew nuts; if you want a sweeter curry, try adding dessicated coconut or raisins!

Photograph of a white bowl on a bamboo serving mat, filled with rice and chickpea curry

 

This curry is delicious with just chickpeas, but if you’d rather have meat, chicken also goes well with this recipe. Simply add chunks of chicken (roughly 2cm cubes) along with the onions.

If you make curry with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Cook Rice

As well as being a staple food around the world, rice is one of my personal favourites! It’s also easy to cook, once you know how.

 

There are several different types of rice, but they all fall into short or long-grain, white or brown rice.

Short-grain rice is a short, fat, grain and tends to be stickier than long-grain rice. This is the kind of rice used for risotto, sushi, and rice pudding. It goes perfectly with all sorts of East Asian dishes.

Long-grain rice is longer and thinner, and (at least where I live) is more common than short-grain rice. It’s the perfect accompaniment to curries and chillis, and a ton of dishes from the Middle East and India.

White rice is rice that has been refined to make it easier to cook and digest. When most people think of rice, they think of white rice.

Brown rice is less refined than white rice, so it contains more fibre. Fibre is really good for you, and can help you to feel full for a long time after eating, but it does make the rice take a little longer to cook.

No matter what kind of rice you’re cooking, I find that a small cupful (200-250ml) of dry rice makes roughly three portions. Remember, it plumps up a lot during cooking!

 

Start by washing your rice. I always used to skip this step, and it’s not essential, but I find it makes the rice a little lighter and fluffier. There are a couple of different ways to wash rice. One way is to add equal parts rice and water to your saucepan, mix, and drain off the water. The method I prefer is to put my rice in a metal sieve, and rinse it under running water.

Put the rice in a saucepan and add cold water. For white rice, you need twice as much cold water as rice. You can use the same cup for rice and water, or use a measuring jug. (200ml of rice needs about 400ml of water, for example). Brown rice needs a little more water – about 20% or a quarter extra is fine. So for 200ml of brown rice, aim for a little less than 450ml of water.

Put the lid on your saucepan and bring to the boil. Once it’s reached boiling point, you can turn the pan down so that it’s just gently boiling. Rice has a tendency to want to boil over, so try and keep an eye (or an ear) on it.

Once white rice has been boiling for just 5 minutes, you can turn the saucepan off! The rice will continue to cook in the steam, and absorb all the water. (This takes about 20 minutes.) This stops you overcooking the rice, and it also saves energy!

Brown rice will need to go on gently boiling for about 20-30 minutes, or until all the water is gone. Don’t leave the pan on once it’s boiled dry though, that’s how you end up with burned rice!

 

I love rice with all sorts of dishes, especially stir-fry (link) and curry (coming soon!). It’s a really versatile grain that goes with a huge range of flavours, so it’s well worth learning to cook.

Finally, although rice is a great food, it can cause food poisoning. As I mentioned in my food safety post (link), it’s important to cool rice quickly once cooked, and only reheat it once. This is because there’s a rather special kind of microbe that can live in rice. Rather than being destroyed by cooking, it can actually be woken up from a dormant state called a spore. It can then grow if the rice is left in a warm environment. (You can find out more from the NHS here.)

How to Chop Cauliflower – into (mini) florets

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Cauliflower is very similar in structure to (if a little denser than) broccoli, so the cutting method is almost the same. (You can find my broccoli chopping tutorial here.) And just like broccoli, cauliflower can trap a lot of water so try to avoid washing it if you can.

Hand drawing of a head of cauliflower with outer leaves attached

Cauliflower usually comes with some green outer leaves attached. You can eat these just like you can cabbage, but to get to the cauliflower itself you’ll need to remove them. You might be able to pull them off by hand, but the bigger ones tend to have rather strong stalks. To remove these, turn the cauliflower upside down and slice through the thick white stem at the base.

Hand drawing of a cauliflower leaf with cutting guideline (grey dotted line)

 

You might also sometimes find small brown spots on your cauliflower. They’re usually only in very small patches on the surface, so you can just chop off that little bit of cauliflower.

Just like with broccoli, we start by chopping cauliflower into florets. Remember, work from the outside in, hold the cauliflower by the stalk, and chop downwards.

Hand drawing of a head of cauliflower with cutting guideline (grey dotted line)

To turn each floret into mini florets, it’s simply a matter of repeating this process on a smaller scale. Aim for mini florets about 1-2cm (½-1 inch) in size. It’s even easier to do this with the top of the cauliflower – it basically comes off in mini florets anyway!

Hand drawing of a cauliflower floret with cutting guidelines (grey dotted line)

You can also use the stalk of the cauliflower – just chop it into cubes about 1cm (¾ inch) square.

Hand drawing of a cauliflower floret with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Cauliflower has a mild, almost creamy, flavour, but it can also absorb a lot of flavour from herbs and spices. This makes it perfect for one-pot dishes with a rich sauce. It takes about 15 minutes to boil.

Cauliflower is also great roasted! If you chop it into full-size florets, you can add it to oven-cooked dishes like pot roast (link) or casserole (link). Just add it halfway through with the other soft vegetables like parsnip (link) and sweet potato (link).

How to Chop a Carrot – diced carrot

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Oh look, it’s carrots again! This tutorial is for diced carrot, which is perfect when you want all the flavours in the dish to mix together.

Just like before, start by making sure your carrots are clean and chopping out any discolouration or blemishes.

Hand drawing of a carrot showing a close up of a small blemish and cutting guidelines

Next, cut off the top and bottom (or ‘top and tail’) of your carrots.

Hand drawing of a carrot showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

The next step is to chop each carrot into chunks that are easier to handle, and are a roughly consistent width along their length. You can then deal with each chunk in turn.

 

Hand drawing of a chunk of carrot showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

 

 

 

 

Start by chopping each chunk into long slices about 1cm (half an inch) wide. Depending on the size of the carrot, this could be thirds, halves or quarters.

 

 

 

Continue to cut the chunks into sticks, about 1cm (½ inch) wide. (A little larger than in last month’s tutorial for carrot sticks (link).) If you can, try and avoid breaking them apart for now.

Hand drawing of thick slices of carrot showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Finally, cut in the other direction, to make little cubes of carrot about 1cm (½ inch) square.

Hand drawing of thick slices of carrot showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

If you’re really looking to save time, you could even try chopping more than one layer of sticks at once! I’d recommend starting with just one and working your way up though.

 

Diced carrot cooks a little faster than slices or sticks, but still takes about 15 minutes to boil, especially if you’re cooking it in a sauce.