The no-nonsense comfort food is enjoying something of a renaissance, and Anna King Shahab has come up with some simple meal starter ideas to spark your mince-spiration.
T-paper, flour, mince. The grocery shopping priorities of our nation were revealed unceremoniously when Covid-19 made “panic buying” a household phrase earlier this year. It wasn’t all doom and gloom: ways with mince – a nostalgic, reassuring topic – occupied the collective consciousness. And so it was that mince on toast, that no-nonsense comfort food that had quietly been making a comeback of sorts in cafes around the country, now began to enjoy a hearty renaissance in home kitchens as we looked to make the best of what we had to hand.
It was an iso-meal (or many) of mince on toast that sparked the curiosity of the folks at Hawke’s Bay’s First Light Farms, and got them thinking they’d like to craft a homage to a product that many of us will always consider a staple. They had the mince-spiration to take a simple product and keep it simple – with a difference. Using whole cuts – no off-cuts – First Light married both its wagyu beef and its venison with Freedom Farms bacon to create the Ultimate Kiwi Mince. Grass-fed wagyu brings its nutty sweetness, free-range venison its signature earthy richness, and bacon raised the Freedom way shoulders on in, bringing a welcome hint of umami smokiness. A delicious trinity of proteins waiting for you in the butchery department of all good supermarkets.
Starting a meal with this mince is starting with a hefty advantage in flavour and texture. You could keep it simple, adding nothing more than a little salt and pepper, and be richly satisfied. But ways with mince is a beautiful thing to ponder, and this mince, in particular, demands attention.
- Make lahmajoun – Middle Eastern topped flatbread. Soften chopped onion and brown mince, seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, in a hot greased pan. Stir through a load of chopped parsley and some finely diced tomato. Spread pureed tomato over thin homemade pizza bases, or large pitas. Top with mince mix, drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden on top. Add extras as you wish – diced red pepper, feta or halloumi, za’atar, black olives.
- Make the ultimate yet simple mince and cheese toastie by layering pan-fried mince with a tossed blend of grated havarti and vintage cheddar onto a doortop slice of both-sides buttered bread (homemade sourdough? Well done!). Grind over plenty of black pepper. Top with another thick slice of buttered bread and toast in a hot pan or sandwich press till the bread is deep golden and the cheese is escaping from every exit. Sprinkle the toastie with a little sea salt and finely chopped parsley before devouring dangerously hot.
- Amp up breakfast by letting mince into the bacon-egg party, along with a bunch of greens. Heat a pan, add olive oil, and saute garlic and mince until browned. Add your greens (baby spinach or kale, silverbeet, celery leaves, chopped kai lan all work well here, and if you happen to have cooked sliced potato, that too) and saute for a few mins then add a splash of stock or apple cider vinegar to help the greens wilt and tenderise. Make hollows in the mince and greens mix and crack in as many eggs as you fancy, tilting the pan to let the whites spread around and bind everything together. Lower heat and cook until whites are no longer translucent (or transfer to your oven to cook through, if your pan allows it). Season, divvy up and serve (on toast if you like) with a nice sharp relish or hot sauce.
- You don’t always have to start a mince recipe with browning. Take a leaf from the Isaan flavour book and go larb. Simmer mince in a little beef or vegetable stock until just cooked through, take off the heat and stir through plenty of finely sliced shallot, copious amounts of roughly chopped fresh coriander and mint, finely sliced spring onion, and a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and a little palm sugar. Spruik with fresh chopped chilli or dried chilli flakes if you like heat. Garnish with ground roasted jasmine rice. Serve with sticky rice or steamed rice and lettuce cups to wrap it all up in.
- In a little vegetable oil, saute crushed garlic and ginger until fragrant, add mince and a decent splash each of soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar and Shaoxing cooking wine, turn up the heat and cook, stirring, until mince is crisping up. Stir through a small amount of ground Sichuan pepper, a pinch of chilli flakes, and cook for one more minute, then dish up over steamed rice or springy noodles, with steamed bok choy, blanched bean sprouts and toasted crushed peanuts, and garnish with a good drizzle of pure sesame oil, and a dollop of addictively tasty Laoganma chilli oil.
- For a tasty nibble, combine mince with an egg, chopped coriander, a little cinnamon, paprika and cumin (add a bit of cayenne if you like). Roll into small balls and thread a couple at a time onto medium-length skewers. Bake on a lined tray in a hot oven, turning once or twice, until golden and cooked through. Serve on a platter with a dipping sauce made by stirring equal parts Greek yoghurt and creme fraiche with fresh lime juice, and ½ tsp sea salt, with a spoonful of rose harissa swirled through.
This content was created in paid partnership with Freedom Farms. Learn more about our partnerships here.