I could not resist buying the new cookbook ‘Mincespiration’ from Dean Edwards. I almost did but then I started to flick through it in Asda and several recipes jumped out off the pages and cried out to my stomach “Try me!” Then my brain got involved and pointed out that ‘you do seem to buy a lot of mince and perhaps you could try using it for something else instead of making bolognaise’. I thought that was a tad unfair as I have been making a lot of meatballs recently, but I quickly remembered that it is inadvisable to argue with oneself in full view of the general public. So I closed the pages of the book, dropped it in my trolley and that pretty much is the start of this love affair or is it just a flirtation with this cook book. Next week someone elses prose and recipe offerings may grab my attention, but this last week Mr Edward’s Mincespiration I have been all yours. I started off easy with the Beef Ragu Pasta then I moved on to the Moroccan Meatball Tagine.
Beef Ragu Pasta
My standard Friday night meal (if I am not going out on a myfoodhunt session) tends to be that old classic Spaghetti Bolognese. In Dean’s book he has his version which is Beef Ragu Pasta. It was quite different from my version, he cooks his mince then adds onions, garlic, and pancetta. I normally do it the other way round, frying off my onion and garlic first, then some oregano, but no pancetta. After that point his recipe deviated well away from mine. He then adds red wine, cooks it down until reduced by half before adding tomatoes, tomato puree, oregano and beef stock and leaves to cook slowly for 1 and a 1/2 hours. In the book he says it is worth the wait. I have to agree that it was worth it. A very different taste, nice and juicy but still a thick tomato gravy. It was a little bit tangy, not too sharp, but it did benefit from the addition of some quality parmesan. Although there was plenty of tomato added to the pot it somehow was not too much. I would have liked crispy pancetta, but mine ended up being soft and melty, quite different texturally yet it worked well. I was getting a mouthful of mince and bacon together and I liked it. The meat had cooked into the sauce and as a result it ends up being quite a thick meaty gravy. It was much better than my recipe, but then again I am conditioned into liking mine after 20 years of cooking it the same way. I might try this recipe of Dean’s again, only with some cubed beef instead of the mince. I am not going to post the full recipe here, it’s in the book and basically you just mix up the items I listed and it won’t be far off.
Moroccan Meatball Tagine
When I was flicking through the pages of the book, it was the two page picture spread of the Moroccan Meatball Tagine that really caught my eye and basically sold the purchase to me of ‘another‘ cookbook. I do like a good meatball and these did look good in the pictures so this was my next venture into the leaves of the book.
First off it was a case of getting these meatballs made and into the fridge to chill for a bit. The mix was basically lamb mince, finely chopped onion, crushed chopped garlic cloves, harissa paste, fresh breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, plus salt and pepper. You just mix them all up, roll them into even sized balls of meat, and put in the fridge. Then you have the fun of trying to wash the harissa stain off your hands before you carry on making the sauce.
For the sauce you fry up onion, garlic and ginger until soft, and then add in some paprika, ground cinnamon, and crushed coriander seeds (I ground them in a pestle). You get some great aroma’s floating around the kitchen while you did this bit. First that sweet garlic and fragrant ginger smell, then the perfume of the cinnamon hits as you add it and it starts to cook and release. This combined with the spicy paprika and the coriander starts to turn the air in the kitchen into the inside of a spice bazaar. I can imagine it filled with vendors grinding up their spices and throwing them into sizzling, bubbling, and steaming pots. Well maybe it was not quite like that, but you know, it certainly creates a great smell that tickled those taste buds in a cheeky almost over familiar fashion.
For a brief moment it all started to settle down, but once I threw some chopped apricots and tomatoes into the party well then everything kicks off again. It does not help at all that your senses are getting a double hit as you start to fry those meatballs in an adjacent pan. Look will everyone on the stove just start behaving yourselves? You are all just showing off now aren’t you?
The last act in the dance before you get near the end is to add some stock and the meatballs and cover. This should put the aromas to bed for a bit, but they just sit there quietly under the glass lid abiding their time and waiting for their moment on the plate. Toward the end you add a bit of honey and some seasoning, but to be honest by this time, if you are like me you have probably joined in the party spooning bits out of the bowl, while pretending to check for seasoning. If you are not, well there must be something wrong with you.
Well now, after all that excitement it was time to eat the final dish and there might be a concern that it was going to be hard to put on a good show after all those antics in the green room. It was not a concern, considering the relative simplicity of the cast list, this recipe produced a really quite impressive mid week meal. The combinations of spices, well they seemed to be just perfect, there were sweet bits of apricot, spicy tangs all over (some even on the taste buds), the meatballs were soft inside, crisp on the outside, both spicy and sweet. So maybe there are not the subtle layers that you might expect from a restaurant dish, but there was enough in-your-face flavour on this plate to meet the expectations of any guest at my kitchen table.
If you think back to that the tagline on the front cover of Dean’s Book is ‘Over 100 budget friendly, quick and easy family meals with mince’ then you might be forgiven on tasting this dish that I had actually used a different book. I didn’t though, this little tasty beauty came from the pages of “Mincespiration”. I was pretty chuffed with the meal, I have not been to Morocco and I am no expert in cooking with that style, but I think I could get away with a whole heap of brownie points by producing this dish in polite company, or even by feeding it to my friends.
Is it even worth putting out a verdict at this point on Dean Edward’s Mincespiration? Well if you just skipped to this last section then I suppose that I should. Actually no! I wont just read it and the answer will be clear. I am just going to carry on cooking from it. I just read a recipe for Lamb and Mushroom Pilaf so I know what is coming for the next meal.
All I can say at this point is that I most definitely have my ‘Mincespiration’ now. It stands on its own as a cookbook and I managed to get all this way without mentioning that Dean was a finalist on Masterchef in 2006 and a resident Chef’s for ITV’s This Morning. You don’t need to know that you just need to know that your bags of mince are safe if you marry them up with one of the recipes in this book.
“Mincespiration!” by Dean Edwards published by Bantam Press
“Available in all good bookstores and probably those that are rubbish as well”