Ah, the humble minced meat. In times of budgetary restrictions, or quite frankly, the ease of a no-brainer dinner that will actually get eaten (hello, spag bol anyone?); minced meat is a staple in every meat eating family freezer. But what to DO with it? On its own it’s not exactly appetising, am I right? So, we’ve round up some ideas to jooj your mince and bulk out the evening meal.
A great alternative to breadcrumbs for the gluten intolerant or coeliac amongst us.
Grate, finely dice or blitz hard veg in a food processor and give it a quick sweat in a fry pan before you add to your meat. This works great for meat sauces, lasagnes and pie fillings; any dish thick and saucy will benefit from the addition of aromatic vegetables which add flavour and nutrition while bulking out the meat.
Zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, squash, mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli and other soft vegetables can be finely diced, shredded or sliced and add bulk and flavour. Zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms are great at soaking up flavours. If you need to hide their existence from little ones who don’t like veg, try chopping or processing them as finely as possible and adding them early in the cooking process so that they get a chance to caramelise and develop colour and flavour.
Mix through some mashed potato in shaped mince dishes or layer it in baked dishes like moussaka, lasagne and pies. Make the potato layer of a shepherd’s pie extra thick, or if you are making a pastry topped pie, you could put a layer of mashed potato under the pastry to bulk out the meat filling.
While cheese is at the pricier end of ingredients for bulking, some crumbled feta, ricotta, cream cheese, diced haloumi or mozzarella could extend shaped mince meals like burgers and meatballs, or a thicker or extra cheese layer in baked dishes like lasagne adds richness and bulk while using less meat.
Already soaked and cooked lentils can be added to any kind of mince dish as an extender. If you’re combing lentils into meatballs, burgers or rissoles, consider adding additional ingredients like eggs or breadcrumbs as binding. Lentils are great for extending a meat sauce and a chilli too.
Beans or chickpeas:
Cooked or canned beans or chickpeas are particularly good for bulking out shepherd’s pie filings, chilli, meat sauce for lasagna or spaghetti Bolognese. They can also bulk out burgers or meatballs but may need some additional ingredients to keep the mixture together when shaping.
Things like buckwheat, quinoa and barley as well as other grains can bulk out mince dishes. Whether you add the uncooked grains with the mince when you make sauces and stews or add already cooked grains to meatballs, grains add nutty flavour, texture and bulk.
Many mamas swear by adding some regular old porridge oats to mince as an extender. While there’s some debate over when it is best to add oats, generally adding the oats when you are browning the meat before adding liquid seems to be most popular consensus. Otherwise some mamas suggest adding the oats ½ an hour before the end of cooking time. You just need to ensure that the oats soak up the liquid and cook out properly or it’ll give your dish a chewy texture