This is how I do mince.
900g minced beef (if there is a choice between coarse-ground and fine-ground mince, choose the coarse)
2 medium-large onions (I use red onions but white ones will work too)
30g dried wild mushrooms (mixed wild mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, or whatever you can find)
Start by soaking the dried mushrooms in a jug or bowl. I use hot water, just enough of it to cover the mushrooms. I leave them to soak for about an hour. Once they have been soaked, take them out of the jug and cut them into smallish pieces. They are going to go into the mince, and people won’t want to find a huge bit of fungus on their plate. Keep the liquid from the mushrooms because it’s important.
Peel the onions and chop them finely. Fry them lightly (on oil or butter, you choose) until they go soft. They will turn slightly translucent at the same time. For best results, don’t use a very high heat, and salt them lightly because that seems to help the process.
Put the onions and mushrooms into a bowl.
Fry the minced beef. I do this in two 450g instalments. The aim is to turn it from a pink lump
into separate, brownish-grey grains.
Fry on a little oil or fat, not butter. With a wooden or plastic spatula, chop the lump into smaller lumps and turn them over
As you carry on doing this, you will get more grey-brown and less pink until there is no pink left at all. At the same time some liquid will come out of the meat, so that it seems to be boiling rather than frying. Don’t worry about this but turn up the heat a little bit and carry on chopping and turning over. When the water has evaporated and the mince is all the same colour, turn off the gas, and tip everything from the frying pan into the casserole:
If you taste a bit of it at this stage, it will feel like rubber and taste like it a little bit, as well. Don’t worry.
Put some more oil into the frying pan and do the second lot of minced beef in the same way as the first. Put it into the casserole.
Take the onions and mushrooms from the bowl and put them into the casserole as well.
You can add some spices at this stage. I use juniper berries, crushed with the side of a knife:
Juniper is very good with pork, but I like it with beef as well.
Some people add peppercorns, also slightly crushed, but I think it’s so discouraging when you’re eating mince and crunch a peppercorn by mistake, so I add some ground pepper instead. If I have bay leaves, I put in a couple, and in winter I also like to add some warming spices. This time I’ve used powdered cloves – they are very aromatic, so I use about half a level teaspoonful: no more.
The one thing left to add is the liquid from the mushrooms. I heat it up and dissolve a stock cube in it (I use the Kallo organic chicken ones, because they are not too salty – not the low-salt ones, though, because they taste of nothing).
When you have poured the liquid into the casserole and mixed everything up nicely, it will look something like this.
Put it into the oven (which you turned on some time ago) at 200˚ for 30 minutes. Leave the lid of the casserole off.
At the end of this time the mince will have browned a bit on top. The liquid may have reduced a little bit, but the onions give off liquid of their own, so don’t worry if it all still looks wet.
Put the lid on, and put it back into the oven. Reduce the heat to 160˚ and let it cook for 2 hours.
At the end of this time, the mince should be a decent shade of brown and it should be moist but not drowning in liquid. If it seems too wet then I give it a stir, raise the heat to 200˚, and put it back in the oven without the lid, making sure to look at it and stir it every 10 minutes, so that it doesn’t burn.
Removing the fat
Minced beef isn’t usually very fatty, but just in case, what I do is this:
1. Push all the mince to one side of the casserole.
2. Tip the casserole so that the liquid flows away from the mince.
3. Put the lid back on.
4. Leave it to cool for a few hours. I usually leave it overnight.
5. Put it in the fridge for a bit.
6. With a spatula or something, gently scrape the solidified fat off the liquid (which has now turned into a jelly).
7 Warm it all up and mix the liquid back together with the mince. I do this in the oven but if you have the sort of casserole that can be put on the stove, you can boil it up on the stove and mix it together there.
Now it’s all been cooked, and is hot, it’s time to check the seasoning. It probably needs more salt, because the stock cube at the very beginning wasn’t very salty. Taste it and see, but remember that you probably need very little extra salt. You can’t take it out after you’ve put it in!
Let it cool, put most of it into boxes which you will freeze for later, but keep some to eat now.
While you are transferring the mince, try to get the bay leaves out because they have sharp edges and are not good to eat.