Make more of mince: try these Sloppy Joes for family-friendly comfort food

Children will love this fun-to-eat food. Just don’t forget the napkins

Gorgeous organic Irish minced beef is readily available everywhere. I always buy a pack when I’m shopping but it often ends up in my freezer as a standby. It’s incredibly versatile, being the key ingredient in the best beef burgers, lasagnes and cottage pies. These are all very family friendly foods that my children love.

I find the term savoury mince quite dull and uninspiring, but it is a key component to so many dishes. Add a little cumin and chopped coriander and it’s perfect for serving with a big bowl of tortilla chips and rice.

Sloppy Joes are another way to serve up that protein-rich minced meat. As you may have noticed, I can’t help adding lentils, beans or some form of extra nutrition when it comes to cooking for my family.

I sometimes add tinned Puy lentils to this recipe along with some extra passata and seasoning. Or else finely diced celery and mushrooms can be added to the mixture. For this version I’ve added two tablespoons of chia seeds. They do soak up moisture so add a splash more water if you use them. Being high in omega 3 and 6, protein and fibre, they are just what my growing children need to keep them full and happy. And they can’t detect the little seeds in among the meat.

My Sloppy Joes are a little less sloppy than the regular ones as dinnertime is messy enough. Traditionally these would be served with a pile of salted crisps and gherkins but I know my kids would just fill up on crisps first. I can see how delicious it would be though and how the texture of the crisps is ideal with the meat. Choose a brioche or a more filling whole grain bun.

I sometimes make this mix and use it to fill baked potatoes; it’s pure comfort food. Tomato ketchup is usually a key ingredient for Sloppy Joes but I find that passata and the treacle or brown sugar combination works just as well.

Try not to let your sauce simmer down too much as you don’t want it to be dry. Top this messy bun with some grated cheese for even more indulgence. Just don’t forget to serve these with a pile of napkins for wiping fingers and faces. Despite the washing required, we’ve been using fabric napkins for the past few years and they really do add to the whole ritual that is dinnertime.

SLOPPY JOES

Makes four to six

Ingredients
1tsp olive oil
350g minced beef
½ red pepper, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
1-2tsp smoked sweet paprika
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tsp brown sugar or treacle
1tsp wholegrain mustard
250ml tomato passata
2tbsp chia seeds
4-6 bread rolls

To serve: green salad, gherkins, grated cheese (optional)

Method
1
Heat the oil in a wide heavy-based pan. Add the minced beef and fry for 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the onion and pepper, continue to move the mix around the pan so it cooks evenly.

2 Once the onions are soft, add the paprika, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Stir well to combine. Leave to cook for a minute before adding the passata. I usually add a little extra water at this stage when I add the chia seeds. But no need for extra water if you're not using the chia.

3 Stir it all together well and lower the heat to a simmer. Leave to cook for a few minutes while you toast the buns.

4 Toast the buns on the inside only as this will ensure they don't get soggy. Spoon the Sloppy Joe mix into each bun along with grated cheese, if using, and serve right away.

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