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The supermarket is arguably one of my favourite places to be. I love buying food almost as much as I enjoy eating it. On my last trip to the supermarket (Spar), I popped a pack of minced beef in my basket.
Typically, I would make a Bolognese sauce with it but I decided on meatballs last minute. This is only the second time I’ve made them. Well, there was that time I made polpette di tonno, tuna meatballs to you and I. The first time, I skipped two ingredients (the egg and bread crumbs) and baked them. The outcome was very dry, I think mostly because I didn’t cook them in a sauce.

This go around, I made them with the egg thrown in and subbed the bread crumbs with whole wheat flour because that’s what I had.

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These turned out great! Full of flavour and the sauce…oh man! I know I’m tooting my horn here but I make a mean marinara. My brother asked if I was sure it wasn’t Dolmio. I’m still not sure how to take that. Shame my regular stew is very hit and miss. I need someone to teach me the way of the buka stew complete with melt in your mouth beef and I’m set.

These are typically served with spaghetti but your favourite pasta is just fine. I didn’t have any at the time (how?!) so I used up some courgette I had knocking about in the fridge. To be honest, I haven’t always been a fan of courgettes. In fact, I only stopped picking them out of my food this year. I bought them because they didn’t have cauliflower at my usual spot so I figured I would try cooking with them. The plan was a ‘courgetti’ type situation unfortunately, I don’t own a Vegetti or food processor but I am a master improviser. I made a pappardelle style noodle with my potato peeler. A quick toss with the juice of half a lime and a little black pepper, zapped in the microwave for 30 seconds to heat it up a little and we were good to go. I have to say it was pretty good. Better than I expected.
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The leftovers are going to become a marinara sub . I’m quite looking forward to it.

I’m not a measurement typa girl so I got nothing for ya but here are some recipes to guide you.
Smitten kitchen Meatballs and Spaghetti
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Martha Stewart Easiest Spaghetti and Meatballs
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9ja Foodie Spaghetti and Meatballs

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What else to do with minced beef?
1. Meat Pies
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The classic example of things to do with minced beef from the Nigerian perspective is meat pie. I’ve been thinking about other ways we use minced beef and I’m coming up short. While I’ve never tried to make meat pie outside of Foods & Nutrition class many moons ago, I don’t think I could write more glowingly about it than Dooney’s Kitchen has .

1b. Australian Meat Pies
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While we are on the matter, I have to admit a fondness for Australian meat pies. I used to lie around the corner from the now defunct Jumbuck’s which was right by my bus stop.

I was waiting for the bus one day because I’m too lazy to walk the 7 minutes to my door when I decided to pop in as the bus was delayed. Let me tell you, there has not been a better use of puff pastry in my humble opinion. The one I used to get had a dollop of creamy mash potato and bacon. Bacon makes everything better my friends. Scruffling around the internet turned up this simple looking recipe. I’m going to try to recreate the Jumbuck’s magic in the very near future.

2. Scotch Egg
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Next up is Scotch egg. We already know how I feel about eggs. I will admit to swinging by Sweet Sensation on a morning when I don’t have a lot of time to get breakfast. I get a couple of scotch eggs and have that with tea or whatever I’m drinking. Quick, cheap and satisfying. Alice put’s us through our Scotch egg paces over on Design Cook Love. Simply sub sausage meat for ground beef and you are good to go.

3. Bolognese Sauce

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We started off talking about Bolognese sauce. This is something of a controversial dish. Pop that in the search function of your favourite browser and you will see a million and one recipes that differ in one way or another. This recipe is the closest to how I make mine. Funny enough, when I was making the marinara sauce for the meatballs, I added the wine after softening the onions and garlic and reduced it to a syrup and I think I prefer the way the sauce came out.

4. Lasagna
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I can’t talk about Bolognese sauce and not mention Lasagna. Who better than Antonio Carluccio to teach us how to do it properly. (As much as I love this dish, it can be a bit of a faff to make. If like me you can’t always be bothered, La Verandah at the Blowfish hotel makes a very good one.)

5. Kofta
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We’re continent hopping a little in today’s post. Our next dish takes us across to the Middle East. Still on the meatball matter, Middle Eastern version Kofte or Kofta are a little bit of magic. I’m starting to imagine a version made using spices unique to Nigeria. Maybe Kitchen Butterfly will make this happen in her test kitchen *fingers crossed*

5. Spicy Beef Stir Fry
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Staying in Asia, we are looking to the Sichuan region of Southwest China for this spicy beef stir fry.

6. Burger

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I’ve yet to come across anyone who doesn’t like a burger. Well, except my sister who insists she doesn’t but what does she know eh? Sadly, I haven’t had a good burger in a while. Most places in Lagos will charge you an arm and a leg for a dry, overcooked burger with less than sterling toppings. Since I wasn’t ready to drop money on any of these places , I took to Google to learn the art of the burger. I really enjoyed reading this Epicurious article about how shake shack make their burger. I’ve never been in a Shake Shack but I have to say, I followed most of the tips they share and I made a pretty tasty burger.

In summary, these are the rules I picked up:
i. Keep your beef as cold as possible at all time. Keep it in the fridge until you need to form the patty and pop it back in until you are ready to cook it. Personally, I stick them in the freezer until I’m ready to cook.

ii. Don’t fuss with the patty. Seriously. Bring the minced beef together roughly into the shape of a patty with as little handling as possible. Supposedly, mauling the beef will make the end product tough.

iii. Do not season the beef before forming the patty. I know. Sounds weird but it works. Some of what I read said to season with salt and pepper while cooking but thinking about the ones from my favourite burger place, they don’t taste seasoned. Your add-ons should and will do the job.

iv. Prep your toppings beforehand. If you are like me, you will eat this standing up right by your cooker #dontjudgeme

On my own part, I used the Candys burger bun which was surprisingly good (I’m not a fan of Candys) and topped with cheddar cheese which is pretty salty on its own and seasoned mayonnaise (salt, white pepper and Italian seasoning). If you try this, let me know how it works for you.

I hope you make at least one thing on this list this weekend.

Bon appétit!

C.

PS. The link on each dish takes you to the recipe. Happy cooking!

Written by Nik-Nak