How do you elevate a midweek minced beef recipe? Why, add black garlic of course!
Black garlic is exactly that - it's garlic and it's very black, having been aged in balsamic vinegar. Balsajo is the black garlic I used today and we love it. The cloves are stickily dark like soft liquorice, but they don't taste of liquorice! If you're expecting it to taste of raw garlic, it doesn't do that either. It has a taste all of its own, being sweet but slightly tangy and incredibly delicious. I haven't yet eaten an entire clove like a sweetie, but the thought is there!
So today we were due to have just plain common or garden beef mince in gravy, which I always try to make as flavoursome as possible. Just because it's a midweek dish, doesn't mean it should be lacking in flavour or interest.
Having received the Balsajo as a competition prize a few days ago, I was keen to try it out in as many different incarnations as possible - so I backed off on a few ingredients that I would normally include in a midweek beef mince and added a nice whack of black garlic. The challenge to it was clear - see what you can do with this!
Because the black garlic has a quiet, sweet flavour, it's effect on the savouriness of the mince dish wasn't a big slap in the face sort of effect but very much one of infusing that mellow richness throughout the meat and gravy. Just gorgeous. Every so often you picked up a little chunk of black garlic on the fork, enabling a more intense flavour to come through.
I was astounded at the price for our Balsajo black garlic. Being so keen on it we were eager to replace our bulb once it was finished and so looked online to find out more. The Balsajo website has a handy "Where To Buy" section, from which we discovered that if we turned up at our local Sainsbury's with the princely sum of £1.50 (December 2015 price) clutched in our hot little hand, all would be well. Now how often does that happen? Not very often, not with "artisan" products that are unusual and slightly off the wall, I've found. Colour me seriously impressed.
So all that has made me very happy. After all, it's one thing being given an item to review (although, as I say, I won it in this instance), but quite something else if once you've decided you love it and cannot be without it, to find out that you need to re-mortgage the house in order to do so. As long as Balsajo keep making this delicious product, I'll keep on buying it and I recommend that you do, too.
MINCED BEEF WITH BLACK GARLIC (serves 3-4)
1 tbsp olive oil
500g reduced fat minced beef
smoked sea salt (normal is fine)
ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 bay leaf
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves black garlic, sliced
quarter of a tsp ground cinnamon
half a tsp dried rosemary
1 Knorr Rich Beef stock pot
1 tsp Bovril
1 heaped tsp French mustard
2 tbsp Bisto Best beef gravy granules.
To serve : mashed potato and seasonal vegetables (I used carrot, broccoli, runner beans and peas)
Heat the olive oil until really quite hot in a large, deep frying pan. Add the beef and break up the block into small pieces as it cooks. Add a small pinch of smoked sea salt and a good helping of black pepper. Fry until the beef has all browned, the moisture has evaporated and there is just oil left under the beef. Leave the beef to caramelise for at least two turns, then remove it with a slotted spoon into a bowl.
Remove all but 1 tbsp of the fat from the pan and reserve in case you need more as you cook the vegetables.
Add the onion, garlic and bay leaf and fry until the onion is transparent and soft. Do not let the garlic burn.
Add the tomatoes and black garlic and stir to combine. Fry until the tomatoes are starting to break down.
Add the cinnamon and rosemary and stir to combine.
Add the stock pot and sufficient water to just under the level of the mince.
Add the Bovril and mustard and stir to combine. Bring to a lively simmer, then cover the pan and leave to cook for some 10-15 minutes.
Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary - the dish can cope with lots of black pepper but remember that the gravy granules are high in salt!
Pull the mince to one side of the pan and remove from the heat. Sprinkle in the gravy granules and stir immediately. Return the pan back to the heat and stir gently. Once the gravy has thickened, you are ready to serve.
Serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.