THE Owl and the Pussycat obviously knew a good thing when they saw it. Dining on mince with slices of quince might not be a regular affair these days, but their dish emphasises just how versatile it is.
• 1kg best minced beef (preferably freshly minced steak)
• 1 small onion, peeled and very finely chopped
• 1 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 level tsp ground cumin
Combine all the ingredients and season generously with salt and pepper. Divide into six and shape into burgers. Chill well then bring to room temperature for half an hour.
Grill the burgers for five to six minutes on each side (until cooked, but still juicy). Serve in ciabatta rolls with salad and pickles.
MOUSSAKA WITH FETA AND OREGANO
Serves six to eight
• 3 large aubergines
• olive oil
• 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
• 1kg lean minced lamb
• 150ml red wine
• 2 heaped tbsp tomato purée
• 3 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 250ml lamb or beef stock
• 500g Greek yoghurt (regular, not reduced fat)
• 3 large eggs, beaten
• 150ml soured cream
• 200g feta, crumbled or grated
Wipe the aubergines, cut off the ends and then slice into rounds. Place the slices on a chopping board, sprinkle with salt and leave uncovered for about an hour.
Then rinse the slices and pat thoroughly dry. Heat two to three tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergines (in batches, adding extra oil) until tender and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy saucepan and cook the onion and garlic for about five minutes. Then increase the heat and add the mince, stirring well until it has browned all over. After this, add the wine and bubble over a high heat until the liquid is reduced by about half. Next, add the tomato purée, oregano, cinnamon, stock and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir and cook uncovered over a medium heat for about 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cool slightly and check the seasoning.
To assemble the moussaka, lay half of the aubergines in the base of a large ovenproof dish, tip in the mince and then layer the remaining aubergines on top. You can chill, clingwrap and freeze the moussaka at this stage if necessary. Defrost on the day of cooking.
Whisk together the yoghurt, eggs and soured cream, then stir in the feta and plenty of salt and pepper. Pour this over the aubergines.
Bake the moussaka uncovered in a preheated oven (180°C / 350°F / gas 4) for about 75 minutes. Leave it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes, then serve with Greek salad, warmed pitta bread and tsatziki.
MEATBALLS WITH PINENUTS
• 75g Italian salami, chopped
• 500g minced beef
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
• 3 heaped tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• 50g freshly grated parmesan
• 50g fresh breadcrumbs
• 1 large egg
• 40g pinenuts
Mix everything together and season well. Form into 16 balls and leave to chill for 30 minutes. Then fry the meatballs in one or two tablespoons of olive oil, over a medium heat, until brown all over and cooked through.
Drain on kitchen paper and then serve with a fresh tomato sauce and pasta or mashed potatoes.
There is, however, one cloud on the horizon:
The European Union has recently threatened to bring in legislation that means beef must be minced no longer than six days after slaughter. According to butchers in this country, though, this threatens our traditional practice of maturing beef for at least two weeks. Since mince is the most popular purchase from British butchers, the news is extremely worrying. One Scottish butcher wonders if it has anything to do with the fondness of Brussels-based bureaucrats for steak tartare or beef carpaccio, both of which are only made with super-fresh meat since they are served raw.