How to make runny mince. It’s delicious – honest!

For all of my formative years, our Saturday evening meal was runny mince with mashed potato and carrots.

It was a working class household in the 1980s (and ’90s), and the carrots were from a tin – and we shared one small tin between four of us. Looking back now I wonder how we had enough to go round! It certainly makes me think when I am dishing up hearty portions for our family now.

Despite its simplicity, I adore this dish and it’s possibly my number one taste of home. I have fond memories of being allowed to take my plate into the living room so that I could watch Beverley Hills 90210 in peace, free to concentrate on the antics of Brandon, Brenda et al while tucking in.

It was also the first meal that my parents taught me to cook. I recall my mum telling me ‘you’ll never starve as long as you know what to do with a bag of spuds and a pound of minced beef’ before I left for university!

Whilst at home recently, it was requested as an evening meal by Mum, so, given that it had fallen out of favour with us a bit, I was delighted to oblige. To accompany it, I put on a pan of potatoes to boil plus carrot batons and some turnip / swede. Peas would also be nice, if you preferred.

As ever when cooking mince, I dry fried it whilst breaking it up into pieces, before draining the fat and then adding a large chopped onion, one stalk of celery (finely chopped). I let the onion and celery soften over a low heat for as long as the softening took.

I then added some lukewarm water to the top of the mince, added a dash of Worcestershire sauce and Bisto powder (made into a paste into a cup) and brought the heat back up gently, stirring frequently, so that it came together. Beware – Bisto powder added to very hot water instantly turns into black tarry lumps.

My mum likes her runny mince really thick, but I refrained from hitting her preferred levels of gloop.

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After draining the potatoes and mashing them hard – lumps are the enemy – with a knob of butter, it was all ready to go. Even though it’s a meal which many people would look at and think ugh, how unappetising, I loved it. It was hearty, tasty and simple, and really nostalgic. And I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

In this wet and miserable January, I’ll certainly be making it again soon.

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Nigella Lawson’s Meatzza! (I know, I am a Nigella slave)

As you can probably see from my bookcase pic, I have a serious case of Nigella adulation. But I had, as yet, not really got into Nigellisima properly, preferring to slip back to cooking quick family meals from Kitchen or Nigella Express.

But the Meatzza caught my eye – it’s hard to miss. She says it’s the most requested dish from that book (by her family) and you can see why! It was totally easy to prepare – mix together the few listed ingredients press into a pan, top with tomato mix, mozzarella, basil and bung in the oven. Done!

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It wasn’t healthy but boy was it appetising. The husband’s face, as I set it down in front of him, was a picture.

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Spag Bol à la Dingwall

Spaghetti Bolognese must be a family favourite in every home – we have it regularly! It’s one of the best things to make with the ubiquitous mince in our gaff, and it’s a great way to get veg into a child. I add carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, onions (of course) to ours and then blitz the sauce in the blender before serving to our daughter.

It’s something I was taught to make, not by Dad (who was a fan of using just a jar of a popular sauce), but by my university friend KD. After dry frying the mince, draining the fat and adding garlic and onion as normal, she taught me to add some tomato puree, then some mixed herbs and canned tomatoes.

These days, I am a fancy pants who throws in a swig of marsala or red wine, and I’m in heaven if I have fresh basil. Oh, and I never had money for parmesan in my student days. These days, I grate it liberally all over, the crowning glory of what’s one of the simplest, and tastiest, family suppers around.

So, thanks K! I don’t think I have ever told you how much I appreciated your introduction to a semi-proper spag bol. I promise to make it next time you visit.