In times of financial stress, one turns to sausages and mince to feed the brains and bodies of those who remain members of the working classes. If there were any butchers left in this country, you could also turn to cheap cuts of beef - bavette, onglet, popes nose etc but that's just fanciful if you live near a large supermarket that's sucked the life blood out of your high street... (try Hardiesmill for traditionally butchered cheap cuts of happy Aberdeen Angus; life sustaining nosh will arrive in the post for minimum financial outlay).
But back in supermarketland, two for one packets of mince means you can cook one and stick one in the freezer for when you're even broker (or if especially organised, cook two dishes and freeze one of them for when you're even broker and too depressed to cook as well).
Stuck for something to do one day (or rather, waiting for the novel to reassert itself as a going proposition, rather than an ill-chosen collection of words badly arranged), I tried this recipe for minced pork (you can use lamb mince too). The finished result looks pretty unprepossessing, but it tastes fantastic and has the additional advantage of using up old bits of veg left lying around in the fridge.
300g minced pork
broccoli, spring greens or finely chopped cabbage, as much as you fancy (or can find lying around)3-4 spring onions
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finley chopped
2 hot red chillis (deseeded and finely chopped)
1 tbs Thai fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
large handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Blanch the greens for one minute in boiling water. Drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a shallow pan until really hot and cook the onions and chilli until soft but not coloured. Add the minced pork and cook til its brown and beginning to go crispy. Add the greens and stir around. In a bowl, mix the juice of the lime with the fish sauce and the sugar. Pour into the hot pan of mince so that it sizzles and deglazes the pan. Season and stir in the coriander and serve in small bowls
If you have a packet of mince, a few spuds, a carrot or two and a bottle of Lea & Perrins sauce, you have a Shepherds pie, one of the cheapest, best and most comforting meals it's possible to produce. It's a dish that turns up in novels (one of Jilly Cooper's heroines cooks vats of the stuff for a coming-of-age party, looses her beau in the process but gains the love of her life) plays a background role in political intrigue (cf Jeffrey Archer) and is the subject of an ongoing often heated debate over the inclusion of carrots or tomatoes...
This version uses carrots
4-5 potatoes, chopped into chunks (I don't bother to peel them as the skin goes deliciously crispy in the oven), boiled and mashed and set aside for the topping
500g mince (lamb or beef)
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
3-4 largeish carrots, sliced into rounds
lea and perrins sauce
red wine (opt)
water or stock
handful chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the mince til it's begining to brown. Add the onions and fry until turning soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the carrots stir around and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle in a little flour and stir til amalgamated. Shake in as much or as little lea and perrins sauce as you like, stirring, and then add a dash of red wine (if using) and enough water to make a rich thick sauce, not too runny. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley.
Decant the meat mixture into an oven-proof casserole dish, spread on the mashed potato and put in the oven and cook for 40 minutes or so, or until the top is brown and bubbling. Serve with peas.
Sausage and cider casserole
The best sausages in the world were called Vigor sausages, after the butcher who produced them. We had them as children and I have never come across a better sausage since, though the chipolatas you get at Robinsons, the butchers in Stockbridge in Hampshire, run them a very close second. Sausages have now become depressingly gourmet, full of fancy foreign items when all you really want is plain pork. This casserole was made from Debbie and Andrews pork, sage and apple sausages because I had a left over tin of cider to use up and I thought it'd go well with the otherwise rather off-putting apple taste of the sausages.
Sausage and cider casserole
1 pack of 6 sage and apple sausages
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 tin of cider 440ml
Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat some oil in an oven-proof pan and brown the sausages over a low heat. Add the chopped onion and fry til soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes. Add the sage leaves and cook for a minute or so. Add the cider and stir while it bubbles and foams. When things have quietened down a bit and the sauce has turned a rich smooth brown (add water if it's too thick), stir in the cream (a couple of tablespoons is probably enough) and put the casserole in the oven. Cook for 30-40mins until brown and bubbling. Serve with mash potato