Where’s the BEEF?
Today I wanted to focus on red meat which often gets a bad rap, beef in particular. Full disclosure: I don’t eat much red meat but would be a hypocrite to say that I do not enjoy it when I succumb to temptation. Lately, many of my articles focus on chicken, vegetables and fish, but many people out there love meat, and trust me, when I consume it, I like it too! A succulent lamb chop, a tender steak, pork ribs with meat falling off the bone — just imagining it makes me hungry. Red meat for me is now more of a treat so I do appreciate it even more when indulging. With that said, I do encourage meat eaters to make room for meat-free days for health reasons.
One item I find particularly handy to have is ground beef as it is so versatile. Typically ground beef is a bit more expensive than beef mince, and can be used pretty much in the same dishes. Ground meat is a bit more refined with more flavour. Also, it tends to have a little more fat content than mince, which is leaner. In this case a little fat helps to keep the meat more moist, less dry, and easier to cook. Chuck and sirloin steak are commonly used for ground beef.
You can use ground/mince beef to make a variety of dishes such as meat sauce for lasagna and casseroles, meatballs, burgers, meat loaf, chillies, sandwiches such as the American Sloppy Joes, tacos, and our local beef patties. Nothing beats our wonderful patties; for every visitor I host, it's a rite of passage to go to a patty shop. I love patty shops because you see (inside them) a wide cross section of our society, from suits to the handcart man. Patties have democratic appeal and are cheap and cheerful; everyone, for the most part, can scrape up a dollar for a patty.
While in France, I grew particularly fond of steak tartar with a side of chunky chips and a full-bodied red wine. It is a raw dish using the freshest ground beef seasoned with onions, capers, Worcestershire sauce, amongst other ingredients, so you have to trust the restaurant where you are eating it. Likewise I enjoy a similar Ethiopian raw beef dish which is kitfo seasoned with a spicy butter. I am smiling as I can picture some of you turning up your noses, but the seasonings “cook” the meat, much like citric acid in seafood ceviches. Besides, some of you do like sushi… same difference! I am quite fond of Greek dolmades which are grape leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice — they make wonderful appetisers.
In conclusion, always try to have some ground beef at hand (if you eat meat, of course) to whip up something fast and filling. You can stretch it with pasta; I have seen many housewives make a casserole with macaroni and ground beef, or add vegetables for a hearty stew. It's also more satisfying to make a burger from scratch when time permits.
I love sharing a platter of nachos with friends. They are great with beer or a Mexican-style cocktail like margaritas. I am quite sure a few of you indulged in this dish watching the recently concluded Super Bowl where the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots.
500g ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chilli
1 can of refried beans
Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350°F
In a frying pan sauté the ground beef and onions in vegetable oil until the meat is no longer pink, then add the cumin and chilli, refried beans, taco sauce, and continue cooking for a few minutes more.
In a baking dish, add a layer of tortilla chips, and spread the meat and bean sauce all over.
Top with shredded cheese and place in the oven for about five minutes or until cheese has completely melted.
Scatter slices of jalapeno and cilantro over the dish and serve immediately as is, or with additional toppings.
This is a basic recipe for meatballs which can be served by themselves, can be accompanied with a condiment or added to a tomato sauce to accompany spaghetti for the ultimate comfort food. This recipe serves four, but quantities can be increased to feed more.
500g/ 1lb ground sirloin
100g/ 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
50g/ 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
(if you can find fresh, even better)
1 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush a baking tray lightly with olive oil.
In a bowl add all of the ingredients and mix well to combine.
Using a tablespoon, scoop out some meat and form balls with your hands; this recipe should yield at least a dozen nice-sized meatballs.
Bake meatballs for 30 minutes (if you are going to add to a sauce and cook further) or for 40 minutes if you want them cooked through to serve alone with a different side.
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