I don’t mind cooking but sometimes it gets a bit tedious. I like trying new dishes, but also base my meal planning around dish variations. This is the way I find to think of more ways to use one main ingredient, so building up a repertoire of dishes fast. 

Being married to a beef farmer means an easy supply of meat, and I love cooking with minced beef. There’s so much you can do with it, and I can get it prepped early in the day before leaving it on low in the simmering oven of the aga, or in the slow cooker. We like it when it’s been simmering for a few hours – it becomes really rich and well broken down. There’s so much flavour, and it helps that it’s good quality local beef.

I can sometimes find we’re getting stuck cooking the same things though – they’re easy and everyone likes them. But you need variation so I’m sharing 20 mince dishes. I’ve based it on beef mince as that’s what we eat most of the time, but you could switch some for other meat like minced pork or turkey. Just vary the seasoning, and shorten the cooking time, because these won’t survive being slow cooked as much as beef will.

20 ways with mince to make family meals

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First I want to share a tip.

Defrosting minced beef.

I hate having to wait to defrost food. It’s rare I have mince chilled because it tends to be frozen as soon as it’s brought back to the farm. But it can take ages to defrost, unless you’re good at remembering to put it in the fridge overnight, or I have the Aga on and can leave it on there to defrost. I’m impatient and if I’ve forgotten to take it out the freezer in time, I just have to work with it. And we just defrost it as we’re cooking.

How to defrost minced beef fast

The answer is while browning it. 

Preheat a large frying pan, with a bit of oil in. Put the frozen slab of mince in. With a fork or wooden spoon scrape off any defrosted pieces to brown. Turn the slab over and scrape off the browned bits. Keep turning over and scraping until the final part can be separated.  

If you don’t have room in your pan, remove the browned mince into another pan or dish until you’ve got room, and just brown it through in batches once it’s all defrosted.  I quite often leave N to do the defrosting and browning while I get chopping other ingredients. 

It’s so much faster than waiting for it to defrost, or defrosting (and accidentally cooking it) in the microwave. You can control the defrost and cooking so much better.

20 ways for mince dishes

Mexican lasagne – add Mexican seasonings, use chilli as your mince base, and tortillas for your layers.

Pasta bean bake – brown mince, add any chopped veg for flavour and bulking out (peppers and onions are our go to), add tin of baked beans and a bit of extra passata if it’s too dry, mix in al dente pasta shells, put in baking dish, top with cheese and bake.

Stuffed peppers – browned mince, add sauted veg of choice, e.g. chopped peppers, courgette and diced onion. Add lentils or beans to bulk out, chopped tomatoes or passata to avoid it drying out. Season with pepper and add herbs of choice. Half the bell peppers, de-seed and stuff with the mince mix, pop the peppers in a baking tray or dish on and bake until the pepper is tender)

Cannelloni – roll mince mixture of choice (Bolognese is fine) up in tortillas, lasagne (soak in hot water first if it’s dry lasagne to make it flexible), pancakes or even blanched aubergine slices, place rolls lined up in a shallow baking dish, top with cheese sauce and bake for 30-40 minutes

Nachos – use leftover chilli or beef hash and serve with or on nachos, with all the accompaniments

Beef hash – quick meal with great flavour

Savoury beef pancakes – think like the old 1980s Findus Crispy pancakes,. Use chilli with guacamole, cheese, sour cream and salsa, or bolognese.

Individual cottage pies. For a healthier topping choose one of a mix of mashed butternut squash, suede, parnsips, carrots, sweet potato or even cauliflower for a lower carb option. Top with a sprinkling of cheese for a luxury treat. Use lamb mince to make shepherds pie instead.

Meatloaf – a favourite in our house, add bacon around the edge, serve with tagliatelli or potatoes and veg.

Koftas – mix mince with herbs and shape into sausages around skewers. Grill or cook in the oven. Strictly speaking these should be lamb mince.

Mini mince pasties – make party size pasties with shortcrust pastry

Meatballs – easy to make, you can bake or fry these, or just cook them in your sauce

Beefburgers – mix with finely chopped onion and herbs, shape into burger shapes (use a little beaten egg to bind if they don’t old), then fry or grill

Stuffed pasta shells – make a basic mince ragu, stuff large al dente cooked pasta shells, the top with cheese before grilling or baking to melt the cheese.

Add to macaroni cheese instead of bacon, just crumble some into a frying pan with a bit of hot oil to brown all over, then add to cooked macaroni pasta and your cheese sauce of choice. Makes meat eaters happy, and makes it a more substantial dish.


Tacos – make chilli, or use leftovers to add to tacos with all the accompaniments like cheese, sour cream, salsa and guacamole.

Dumplings – brown the mince, add spring onion, small diced pepper, and a bit of soy sauce, mix then wrap small amounts in wonton dumpling wraps, before steaming.

Beef cobbler – top savoury mince with cheese dumplings (or scones)

Make a mince, veg and gravy mix a yorkshire pudding filling

Beef keema – adds a curry flavour, and serve with rice.

What other mince dishes are staples in your family?

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