Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Potato-lovers' mince stew.

Not that it was ever called that. It was just mince. Or mince stew. But it includes potatoes three ways; quartered feature ones, diced support ones and mash, just because mash goes with stew like nothing else.

All this talk of food nostalgia prompted me to try to replicate the original; or at least my mother's original. She used to serve it for dinner and if there was any left over, for example if half the family were suddenly called interstate, my father enjoyed it on thick buttered toast for lunch the next day. Lucky man.

Take a kilogram of minced steak, six medium waxy potatoes, one old potato, three large carrots, a large onion, a garlic clove, two sticks of celery, a Massell or other mushroom - or other stock - cube (or your own stock, of course), and pepper. Three quarters of a cup of rice. Any rice, but I used Arborio for the larger grains. Or use barley.

Chop the onion finely. Dice one carrot and a half of one celery stick as finely as possible. Score the garlic clove. Place all these in a heavy pot with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sweat the vegetables very gently, stirring. Add the meat, turn up the heat. I brown it fast and evenly without sticking by using an egg slide with a short, fast chopping action, breaking the meat up and shuffling it around the pot.

Dissolve the stock cube in a litre of boiling water and add it to the pot when the meat is browned. Add the rest of the carrots in large rounds, the rest of the celery in half inch sections, the waxy potatoes peeled and quartered and the old potato diced finely. The latter should break down and help thicken the mince. Add more water if necessary. (Optional: you can boost the flavour with a tablespoonful of dissolved Gravox; or can just hit it with your favourite sauce at the table: Worcestershire, HP, barbecue, whatever. I prefer the Gravox now and no sauce later.)

Now add the rice. Cook the mince down on low heat. Watch the fluid, the rice drinks it. You want the viscosity of decelerating lava; say, several kilometres from the crater. (If you're in a volcano zone, excuse the inappropiate metaphor.)

Meanwhile, boil some more potatoes, quantity depending on how many are dining, and mash them with milk and butter and half a cup or more of chopped parsley. Don’t hold back. Parsley is full of iron and its Vitamin C content helps the absorption of this, as well as that contained in the meat. We may as well be healthy about it.

In a separate pot, boil a quantity of green beans, chopped zucchini and a chopped onion. Drain.

Place a mound of parsley mash in a large shallow bowl. Top with mince and place boiled vegetables (used to be called 'medley') to the side.

Drink: Black and tan, comprising one-third Grand Ridge Hatlifter Stout and two thirds Grand Ridge Gippsland Gold. More iron!

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