Everyone I’ve ever loved has loved a plate of mince in its various incarnations. Spaghetti bolognaise, chilli con carne or just mince and mash, learning how to cook mince to perfection has been a personal mission. I think I’m nearly there.

 ‘Mattie’s Mince Mess’ was the only recipe that could interest my brother in cooking when he was a little boy.  Mum and him used stir in all the ingredients together and then she served it with heaps of buttery mash. A perfect dinner for an aspiring rugby player/human tank.

With no disrespect to my brother’s cooking skills (although they are limited to stirring), the recipe is fairly straightforward.

However, for years I’ve been striving for that deep yummyness that my mum’s mix had.  My mince mess never quite that rich tasty moreishness – the kind that made me stand in front of the fridge and eat my mum’s mince mess cold. But last week, I think I cracked it.

Inspired by the dead mouse we found in our kitchen cupboard on Tuesday morning; I’ve called this recipe Mouse’s Mince Mix.  I would never have drunk quite as much red wine (partly meant for the sauce), and therefore been quite as generous with my ingredients and cooking time, if I didn’t have the deeply joyous task of cleaning the cupboards, floor and all the baking utensils the mouse had pooed all over in its death throes.

Not the most appetising image I know, but it worked for this recipe so do try it.

Spaghetti bolognaise

Ingredients (serves 2 for dinner, and left overs, serves 4 normal people for dinner, with garlic bread and salad)

One big onion, finely chopped

3 fat, firm cloves of garlic, chunkily chopped

3 table spoons olive oil

Two carrots, chunkily chopped

1 teaspoon each of whatever dried Italian herbs you have; I used Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Oregano and Parsley

Salt and Pepper

250g ish low fat beef mince

250g ish low fat pork mince

Big squeeze of tomato puree

Tin of chopped tomatoes

Vegetable stock cube

Big glass of red wine (I used a Cabernet Merlot)

Whole-wheat pasta


1.       Heat the oil in a big saucepan on a medium heat, add the onions, garlic and salt and pepper, fry for 10 – 15 minutes, until really the onion is buttery and soft but not changed colour

2.       Add the carrots and fry for a for further 5 – 10 minutes

3.       In a non-stick frying pan heat a little splash of olive oil and put on a medium heat, season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides and then add it to the pan and brown it off gently until you get to stage 6 (about 10 minutes)

4.       Add all the herbs to the onions and carrots and stir around for a couple of minutes

5.       Push all the herby onion and carrot mix to the outside of the pan and add a generous squeeze of the tomato puree (just under a tablespoon) to the middle and fry for a minute or so, then mix it up with everything else

6.       Add the chopped tomatoes and mix, bring to a simmer and create a rich tomato sauce (no juice left), then add the meat and stir it all up

7.       In the tin that the tomatoes were in, add your stock cube and boiling water, stir to dissolve and then watching your fingers because the tin will be hot, add to the mixture.  Simmer and stir until the liquid is nearly gone

8.       Add the wine, and a glug more, and then simmer for an hour (or however long it takes you to deep clean all your bakery items, drink the rest of the wine, clean the floor, sigh dramatically a few times and grate some parmesan.

9.       Good plate licking to be had.


Note: a good variation on this mix is a chilli con carne; don’t use carrots (maybe mushrooms instead?) instead of the herbs add a teaspoon each of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Use two – three fresh red chillies and add at stage 4.  Use a beef stock cube and less wine. Serve with rice and natural yoghurt.