Bring colour to winter meals

Indian mince

Indian mince

Sat, Jan 28, 2012, 00:00

Coming to the end of winter season, with regards to fruit and veg, is actually a bit of a turning point. Soon, Irish beetroot, leeks, parsnips, cauliflower and celeriac will go out of season. Although at this stage I’m fairly fed up with the lot of them, once they become scarce I remember how fond I am of winter vegetables and start pining after all sorts of honey roast roots and purees.

Spring and summer veg are all big babies in comparison to the hardy and robust winter stock. They stand up to all sorts of roasting, boiling, mashing and smashing, unlike the delicate leaves and beans that will adorn our plates when the sun is shining.

But in the meantime, here are two more ways to jazz up this month of deathly-dull dinners and abstinence galore: spicy mince and a veggie Niçoise dish.

The Niçoise stew is a great example of simple, rustic cooking that’s incredibly cheap and good for you, as well as providing great flavour.

You can make this a lot more unctuous by having little slices of baguette with some melted Gruyère cheese on top to dunk into the stew when it’s made, or by making a delicious rouille or home-made garlic mayonnaise and dunking a big spoonful in to enrich the stew. But I left it plain (as we’re all still trying to be good in this house, at least for a few more days) and even the toddler ate some.

The recipe contains saffron, which is one of those spices that was so overused for years I could barely touch the stuff. But I do like the earthy and exotic richness it brings and that tangy medicinal flavour goes well with the tomato base.

The mince recipe was adapted from a Diana Henry one, which she in turn adapted from Madhur Jaffrey, so it has definitely done the rounds. It was delicious, and the lime is incredibly good with it. In fact, if you re-heat this dish, be sure to squeeze more lime on to it. The piquancy and sharpness of the lime just lifts the mince perfectly. This could be served with a big bowl of rice or on some naan bread.

Store cupboard ingredients lift a dish like this from our regular cottage pie, spag bol or shepherd’s pie into something a little more lively. (Plus a few limes and chopped coriander, which I know aren’t exactly store cupboard ingredients, but they do their job brilliantly.)

Indian mince

Serves 4-6

2 tbsps olive oil

Approx 800g mince beef

2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped