With many households feeling the pinch, try these recipes to save on costs and promote a healthier lifestyle too.
Many South African households are undergoing great strain due to the ever-increasing prices of household items, thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown as well as the ongoing war in the Ukraine. As families try to adapt to their new situations, many people are resorting to bulking up their meat dishes with plant-based ingredients for two reasons: first, to make meals that feed more people on a smaller budget and, second, to promote a healthier lifestyle (as plant-based lifestyles are healthier for humans and the planet).
South Africans love mince, with some favourite dishes being bobotie, cottage pie and lasagne. And it comes with many advantages. It’s one of the more affordable meat cuts available and lends itself to immense versatility. Different minced meats can be mixed together depending on religious preference, budget and fat content. And mince absorbs the flavours added to it, and tastes wonderful when spiced.
Here are some budget-friendly bulking-up mince techniques:
- Add beans for a Mexican chilli or Spanish-style stew
South Africa has a large variety of beans available. These are found dried or sometimes canned. If using canned beans such as cannellini, kidney, butter, pinto or red beans, rinse the beans thoroughly and add to your mince when the dish needs just the last 10 minutes to simmer as these beans are pre-cooked. If using dried beans, soak them overnight and boil until al dente. Then add the freshly boiled beans to the pot after the mince has been spiced and the fat has been dissolved.
Try other legumes
Legumes are great protein sources and also very spice absorbent so they work excellently with mince. Canned legumes like chickpeas are best washed thoroughly and then added during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Dried legumes such as mung beans, split chickpeas and brown lentils are best soaked in boiled water for an hour, then added after the fat has dissolved from the mince. Split legumes, split mung beans, split red lentils and split pigeon peas cook very quickly as they have no husks – these can be added 20 minutes before the dish is done cooking.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Mince and chickpeas in pita pockets
- Starchy foods are also a wonderful way to increase the volume of any meal
Mince and spaghetti are always a family favourite. Rice, couscous, pap, millet, pasta and sorghum can be added to mince to make for new dinner options as well as added to mince stir-fries to add body and sustenance. Millet is prepared almost in the same way as couscous: cover one part of millet with two parts of boiled water until all the liquid is absorbed, then season to taste.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Mince couscous salad
- Mince and fresh vegetables are always a winner
A popular option in KwaZulu-Natal, vegetables were added to most meat dishes when the Indian Settlers came to South Africa as this helped feed large extended families on small incomes. Potatoes, peas, butternut, cabbage, carrot and sweetcorn can be added to mince to transport the meal from India, Mexico or America. When adding vegetables, always cut them the same size and add according to cooking times – potatoes cook faster that carrots, for example. Cooked mince can also be added to fresh vegetables in salads, tacos and lettuce cups.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Curried mince in rotis
- Soya products are also widely available and used with meat dishes
Dried soya mince must be boiled to rehydrate and doubles in volume when rehydrated. Rinse the soya product thoroughly to remove the excess starchy soya flavour. Add with your meat mince when cooking. Just like minced meat, it absorbs spice beautifully. If using pre-hydrated soya mince products, remember that it will not shrink like real mince. Mix 1/3 of hydrated soya mince with 2/3 of mince for a well-balanced meal.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Soya mince bake
How do you bulk up your mince to stretch it further? Share your tips in the comments below!
I finely grate some carrots into my mince, about halfway through the cooking process. This adds nor only some bulk, but also a bit of a sweet tang and some juice.
Adding brown lentils to any mince based dish works well to bulk it out. Pre-cook the lentils in beef stock for extra meaty flavour.