No matter how many food blogs, cooking magazines and culinary television series you consume, the highest rung of the learning ladder will remain just out of reach – because there’s always something new. So whether it’s getting to know an unfamiliar ingredient, a more efficient preparation technique or perhaps a modern spin on a traditional recipe, devoted foodies and home cooks should never be at a loss for ideas, right? Yeah, right!
Perhaps instead we should follow in our grandmothers’ footsteps and embrace 1001 Ways with Mince? Hmm… perhaps not! Don’t get me wrong, I love its versatility. Many of my favourite dishes have mince as their basis: lasagne, san choy bau, moussaka, larb gai and shepherd’s pie to name a few. However these days we are spoiled for choice, which often leads us to fall back on old faithfuls like mince if for no other reasons but familiarity and simplicity.
So how to break the mold? Here are 3 tips for sprucing up your protein:
1. Go to the source
One of the most enjoyable ways to discover new ingredients is by visiting your local farmers market. Not only will you be amazed at what is available outside the walls of the supermarket meat department, by talking directly to the producers you’ll get a much clearer understanding of how to cook unfamiliar types and cuts of meat.
2. Same same, but different
Often, our perception of how a dish should be has been skewed by personal experience. The maker’s interpretation defines what we believe it’s meant to look, taste and even smell. Take chilli con carne, for example. In the UK and Australia it is usually made with beef mince, whereas the traditional south west American dish (originally made with dried beef), is based on chuck (shoulder) or skirt steak.
Many dishes lend themselves to more than one kind of protein. Often a recipe which leans towards being heavy and indulgent can be made lighter – and sometimes healthier – by choosing an different type of meat. This is even more effective where the dish features pungent spices, like Indian curries, Middle Eastern kofta and Mexican tacos, or other dominant flavours like red wine and garlic.
Next time you make tacos, substitute finely sliced chicken breast, chicken mince or pork mince for beef. They soak up the flavours just as well and produce a very tasty result, but leave your tummy feeling much lighter!
Another light and nutritious alternative is to replace half the beef mince with red kidney beans.
3. Mix it up
There has been a groundswell of publicity in recent years for Western society to reduce our meat consumption, not only for its health benefits but to help preserve the environment. Whether or not you embrace Meat Free Monday, adjusting what and when you eat meat can be highly beneficial – not only for your well being and the environment but your taste buds as well!
If you’re a diehard carnivore, start by adjusting heavily meat-based dishes to approximately one third less meat, and substitute this portion with an alternative ingredient. For example:
If you have a suggestion for adding more interest without more meat, we’d love to hear about it… so leave a comment below!