The big dig

Cynthia Stone
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I’m getting ready to move and you know what that means. The freezer has to be cleared out. I started a few weeks ago and I’ve been making great progress, but now I’m down to the tough stuff.

This week I excavated around a tray of ground beef that must have taken half a cow. Now it’s thawed and I have to come up with some options.

Ground beef stroganoff

Don’t get all foodie on me — this is pretty good. It got rid of a sizable chunk of the monster ground beef package and I got to use up canned soup and dried pasta. This dish will serve 4 with generous servings, or 6 if you start with a salad.

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1 large diced onion

1 tbsp. each vegetable oil and butter or margarine

1-1/2 lbs. extra-lean ground beef

1 tbsp. hot or sweet paprika

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup boiling water

1 cup sour cream, low-fat is OK

4 to 6 servings cooked egg noodles

Fry mushrooms and onion in oil and butter until golden and soft. Add beef, paprika, salt and pepper and fry until meat is completely cooked through. Discard any fat in the pan. Push the meat aside to get a clear spot and add tomato paste. Fry until it thickens and starts to stick to the bottom — it will also darken a shade or two. Add flour and stir until it is completely absorbed. Add mushroom soup and water and simmer together until entire mixture is thick and smooth. Stir in sour cream and heat through but do not boil. Serve over egg noodles. Any vegetables on the side go well with this but my choice would be hearty greens or maybe Brussels sprouts.

Indian beef and peas

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. This is an easy dish but packed with flavour. Serve it on rice if you prefer, but I like it stuffed into pita breads with a little yogurt and mango chutney on the side for dipping purposes.

Garam masala is a commonly used spice mixture in India, and while you can make it yourself, it’s available in most grocery stores ready to go, and it’s just about as good. If you would like to give it a try, there are a thousand versions on the Internet.

When a recipe calls for frozen peas, thawed, you don’t have to take them out of the freezer in advance. Just run a little hot water from the tap over them and they’re ready to go.

You can substitute canned but the texture and taste won’t be quite right. This is plenty for 4 but could be stretched to serve 6.

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. grated fresh gingerroot

2 tsp. ground coriander

2 tsp. hot or smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. garam masala

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef

1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. chili paste (optional)

2 cups thawed frozen peas

1 tsp. malt vinegar

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

4 to 6 warm pitas

Fry onion in oil in a large frying pan until it is wilted and starting to brown.

Add garlic and ginger and cook just until fragrant. Add coriander, paprika, cumin and garam masala and heat, stirring 1 minute.

Add beef and fry until cooked through and starting to brown.

Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and chili paste and simmer together, covered, about 15 minutes over low heat.

Add peas and heat through. Stir in vinegar and cilantro and serve with warm pitas.

Meatloaf and tomato garlic sauce

Can you have too many meatloaf recipes? This one is satisfying but made a little more interesting by a slightly spicy, slightly sweet sauce.

One of the most common mistakes made with meatloaf is overworking it and making it tough. This recipe incorporates a classic trick — milk-soaked bread — to keep it moist and tender.

2 slices white sandwich bread, diced

1/4 cup milk

1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. each salt and dried thyme

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning (yes, that’s right)

2 slices bacon, minced (optional)

Tomato Garlic Sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 red or green bell pepper, diced

1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 cup ketchup

2 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (or to taste)

Soak bread in milk 10 minutes. Mash with a fork to form a paste.

Add to ground beef along with Worcestershire sauce, salt, thyme, pepper, poultry seasoning and bacon and mix well but don’t knead it as if it were bread.

Form a loaf on a baking sheet or fill a loaf pan with the meat mixture. Bake 45 minutes at 350 F.

Discard any fat in the pan.

Top with about 1 cup of the sauce and continue baking another 45 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce.

To make the sauce, fry onion in oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until just starting to brown.

Add garlic and green bell pepper and fry another couple of minutes, until fragrant and soft.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer together about 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Brussels, India

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