I’m not going to mince matters. (As they say!) I think mince is a better invention than sliced bread. And we have a German, Karl Drais, to thank for this popular mealmaker.
Drais invented the first hand-powdered meat grinder (mincer) in the 19th century. He also invented the hobby horse — the precursor to the bicycle, the typewriter, the stenograph for court shorthand, a wood-saving cooker, the railway handcar (later called the draisine) and two four-wheeled human-powered vehicles.
But it is the meat grinder that takes pride of place. Minced meat is a universal favourite. It is easy to digest — great for the young and the elderly — and can be combined with a wide variety of international herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables.
French terrines use a combo of ground meats including very finely minced sausage meat; the Americans love mince formed into patties for burgers and barbecues; the traditional Italian lasagne is a minced beef classic; and Greek koftas with cinnamon and yoghurt have become a popular takeaway.
Karl Drais was not lauded for his many inventions as he lived in turbulent times in a repressive society. But I couldn’t imagine life without my husband’s version of Spaghetti Bolognese. So here’s to Drais. Not to mince matters!
VIETNAMESE CARAMELISED PORK
Seed the chilli for a milder taste.
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1 small onion, diced
2 teaspoons grated root ginger
1 small chilli, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g minced pork
5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Sauté the onion, ginger and chilli until softened. Add the garlic and minced pork in batches, pressing with a fork to break up any lumps. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and fish sauce, stir, then cook for 1-2 minutes, until caramelised. Repeat a couple of times until caramelised to your taste.
Great served over rice and accompanied by sliced cucumber and tomatoes. Serves 4.
Patties: 500g minced lamb
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, ground cumin, garam masala
1/4 cup ground almonds
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon yoghurt
To serve: 4 pita pockets, 1 cup microgreens or sprouts, 1/2 cup chutney
Combine all the patty ingredients well. Form into four patties.
Grill or cook in a ridged frying pan for about 4 minutes each side.
Serve in the warmed pita pockets with the microgreens and chutney. Serves 4.
CHINESE CHICKEN STEAMED BUNS
Steamed buns can be purchased from Asian food stores and some supermarkets.
2 tablespoons canola oil
400g minced chicken
2-3 teaspoons each: grated root ginger, soy sauce, chilli bean paste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small bunch coriander
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons cornflour
4 large or 8 small Chinese steamed buns
4 tablespoons chopped honey-roasted peanuts
1 medium carrot, spiralized or julienned
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Sauté the chicken in batches, pressing with a fork to break up any lumps.
Add the ginger, soy sauce, chilli bean paste and garlic. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Reserve about 8 coriander leaves. Chop the remainder and add to the chicken with the water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Mix the cornflour and a little water to a paste. Stir into the chicken cooking until thickened.
Meanwhile, place the frozen buns in a large steamer. Cook for 10 minutes or until heated through. Split in half and fill with the chicken. Top with the reserved coriander, peanuts and carrot. Serves 4.