Beef Mince (Ground beef), with home-made gravy and mash

Beef Mince (ground beef), with home-made gravy and mash

This is loosely based on a dish that was usually made once a week during my childhood. I guess most countries have their take on beef mince (ground beef). The Italians certainly have their bolognese. And yet I’ve never eaten bolognese whilst in Italy. Would never dream of it as there are so many other dishes to choose from. Anyway, the problem I had with this dish growing up was that the onions were never caramelised. So, I used to sit and assiduously pick out all of those whitish squares of, for me, undercooked and crunchy onion. Which would invariably lead to mumbling from the Patriarch to my right. Usually a variation-on-a-theme-of-starving-children-in-far-off-countries. My lunch and I’ll eat it how I want to!

Praties (sounds like pray-tees), if I knew how to spell the colloquialism meaning potatoes, is what I’m having with this. Just mashed with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a knob of butter – and a drizzle of single/light cream if there’s any left. This dish as I remember it was always really tasty, regardless of how plain the ingredients probably were. No garlic, nor spices allowed by the Muttering Patriarch. And the gravy was possibly granules. Still, I used to wolf mine – even though, by the time I picked out every single piece of onion, what was left was only lukewarm.

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to cook with mince this way before. Which surprises me. Admittedly, I’ve cooked with minced beef for chilli con carne. This time I can’t quite believe how easy this was to make. And, how warm, sweet and aromatic it tasted. Even the celery leaves (something I’ve never eaten before) complimented the gravy beautifully. Perfect for Spring equinox.

Beef Mince (Ground beef), with home-made gravy and mash


PREP: about 15 mins ~ COOKING TIME: up to 1 hour ~ READY IN: 1 hour +

  • olive oil
  • 300g (10.58 oz) x onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 x garlic clove, peeled and chopped or crushed/minced
  • 1/4 x teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to personal taste
  • rapeseed oil
  • 250g (8.81 oz) x pack minced (ground) beef
  • 100g (3.52 oz) x celery, washed and stalks chopped in half
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x carrots, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
  • 1/2 x beef stock cube – optional
  • 500ml (1.05 pt US Liq) x water
  • 1 x dried bay leaf, ripped
  • 1 x large fresh parsley sprig
  • 2 – 4 x sprigs of fresh thyme (non woody stems only used)
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x salad potatoes per person
  • 1 x tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 x tablespoon plain (AP) flour
  • 1 x teaspoon set/clear honey, for glazing the carrots
  • small handful of celery leaves per person, thoroughly washed – optional

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  1. Pour in a good glug of olive oil to a heavy-based pan and add the onions. Put on electric heat No 2 (out of 6) and stir through occasionally. For the first 10 minutes I add a lid. After about 20 minutes turn heat down if necessary and add the garlic. Try to cook the onions for as long as possible as their taste is so much sweeter. When the garlic is nicely golden add the cayenne pepper and take off heat.
  2. Put a large heavy-based saucepan on heat No 4 with a little rapeseed oil. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add the mince/ground beef and allow to settle. If heat is too high reduce to No 3. Brown the mince evenly, stirring through often to prevent burning. If there’s a lot of fat or juice then carefully mop that up with kitchen towels and discard. Add a little more oil if necessary. Keep stirring through until the mince starts to take on a golden hue. The meat will taste so much better for it. I cook the mince until the base of the saucepan starts to take on a golden colour. It’s the only way I can think of to describe it. When that begins to happen do stir through often to prevent burning. This will give your gravy much more taste.
  3. When mince is nicely browned pour in the water, add the stock cubes with the fresh herbs and bay leaf. Add the celery and carrots when they have been prepared. Up the heat to No 4 and bring to a boil. Lower heat to No 2 and allow to simmer, stirring through occasionally for about 30 minutes. If more gravy is needed then cover with a lid to avoid the stock from reducing. Instructions for a runny roux to help thicken the gravy at end of post. As it was fairly mild here I had the window open and didn’t use a lid. Because of that I didn’t need to thicken the gravy.
  4. After about 10 – 15 minutes remove the carrots and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the potatoes and get them on a boil. When cooked drain and mash with whatever you prefer. Here, I’m just using extra virgin olive oil to keep the flavours light.
  6. If you need further instructions for creamy, mashed potatoes then click: Pork shoulder steaks with creamy mashed potatoes
  7. About 10 minutes before the end of cooking time put a heavy-based pan on heat No 4 with a drizzle of olive oil and the honey. Place the carrots in and allow to reheat, turning them over occasionally to get them evenly coated. Turn down heat if any sign of scorching appears.
  8. If you want to thicken the stock to a gravy like consistency then put a small heavy-based pan on heat No 1. Add the olive oil and flour and stir through. If any bubbling occurs take off heat and allow to cool. Put back on heat for a couple more minutes to ensure the flour is cooked out. Simply pour into the stock, without the celery and herbs, and stir until the gravy thickens slightly.
  9. About 4 or 5 minutes before serving this remove the celery and herbs and discard, add the celery leaves and allow enough time for them to wilt.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Feed the Piglet:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny H Hepburn


  1. hehe well isn’t that just another dinner from my childhood?! I used to get this in school and at home, it’s been a loooooooooooooong time since i’ve had it!!


    • Thank you for your comment! This is such an easy recipe I’m surprised I’ve never cooked it before. The secret is to caramelise the onions for as long as it takes for the meat to cook. That way you’ll have a far sweeter overall flavour.


  2. Reblogged this on Feed the piglet… and commented:

    As neither local supermarket had (ground) pork mince available yesterday for a new post lined up I ended up cooking with beef instead. This, I suppose, is along the lines of a Sloppy Joe. Which is unintentional. It’s a simple little dish that I grew up on. With variations all over the country, no doubt. Yet, for it’s simplicity it’s something I’ve always liked. Even if I’m not a big fan of any type of minced/ground meat.


  3. That looks like great comfort food and easy to prepare. I hear you re: the non-caramelized onions. I love that you add cayenne to it and some thyme. Yum! Thanks for sharing. Your story reminded me of so many unappreciated meals that I “endured” growing up even though my mom is an excellent cook.


    • Yes, even though the Matriarch was a good cook it was always to appease the Grumbling Patriarch. Admittedly, there were very few foods I didn’t like. Raw and virtually raw onions just happened to be one of them. Can do guacamole with a little red onion. And must re publish its post. Shame I had to go with reblogging for the end of the month rather than a new post!


    • You’re right! What I just about managed to take photos of today I’d made last night. It does store well. Although, this time I ended up using up the inner stalks of celery, which wasn’t a good move. Must add to use outer stalks within the ingredients list.


  4. I do hereby confess, I actually love mince beef. I like chili con carne, I like spaghetti bolognaise, I like the humble meat pie, and shepherd’s pie, and yes, even a really good homemade hamburger. And I know I’d love this dish you recreated from your childhood here.


    • Loving your confession! I really would like to like all of those dishes you’ve mentioned. Hah! Try making sausagemeat for two weeks and you just might end up with an aversion to anything that resembles it. And I won’t eat anything like this in a café, unless it’s organic. The idea of chomping on a bit of gristle, or too much fat, really churns my stomach! I really would be far better off mincing my own meat 🙂


    • Don’t be surprised, as most people never do. I never did either, always using veg granules to finish off making a gravy. These days I never use the stuff. Huh, I’ve yet to make fresh pasta 🙂 Well done!


  5. Loving the classic flavours you’ve used here Johnny – looks like pure comfort food for a cold ‘almost’ winter’s night! Where are the gorgeous glazed carrots in the photos? Or did they get munched before the photo shoot??


    • Well spotted! I did have carrots sort of featured within the original post, but did my usual and hid them this time around as they’re not my favourites. Decided to keep them within ingredients and instructions as it is quite a good way to use them. Reality is, it’s almost as if I have to hold my nose and eat ’em. What I completely forgot about were the celery leaves. And they were sitting right next to the plate! Unfortunately, the battery of my camera is playing up. Well, dying a slow death. So the first couple of shots the flash went off. What?! It hadn’t remembered its usual settings. Then I had to recharge the battery. By that time I was for giving up!


  6. Just like the poster above, I have to say, that’s some gorgeous ground beef! (And beef mince sounds so much nicer than ground beef in my opinion… haha.) This sounds so comforting and hearty, love it.


    • Hahaha! As a kid that’s probably close to what I thought. What gets to me are food writers within publishing over here that insist on giving instructions on pan-frying onions until translucent. I’d love to see them sitting down, served with a plate of onions cooked that way, and see how many of them would eat ’em!


  7. Bake the potatoes and skip the vegetables (okay, maybe a few boiled carrots) and we’ve got the same meal at my childhood table. You might occasionally change things up with some overcooked pork chops. Yours actually sounds appealing. Ken


    • I’m guessing lots of people grew up on this sort of fodder. To be fair, the Matriarch was a good cook. Veg and meat was always cooked perfectly – except onions! And I still don’t like them cooked that way.


  8. This bought back memories. I had forgotten about those little pieces of firm onion which I never cared for. I always the only one who thought it was satisfying to see the neat pile of onions I had manage to sort on my plate! Cameralising the onions in my mind makes this recipe perfect. I haven’t cooked mince for years, I had just forgotten about it. You have given me a nudge to perhaps putting back on the menu.


    • Thrilled with your comment! And so pleased I wasn’t the only one picking out those little bits of onion. Yes, I probably arranged the onion pieces around my plate. Just like I used to with the crusts of a particular bread I wasn’t keen on. Those were strategically placed underneath the same plate! It was all a creative process I was happy with 🙂 In fact, chances are I spent more time doing that than practising my piano scales!


  9. I am completely taken by surprise how closely this minced beef recipe resembles my mom’s and I have just started making this myself! I remember having these types of meals as a youngster and after reminiscing a few months ago I pulled this one out of memory and prepared it for my son. He absolutely loved it, and so it goes…I am making it quite often. I found a wonderful source for “ground” chuck and it is incredible. My mom’s family was from Leeds…maybe this recipe followed them over here? I can see now I need to revisit your archives Johnny!


    • Is this dish from a generation ago, do you think. As I never see this sort of thing around. Yet, it seems to be similar to a Sloppy Jo. Even though I’ve never had that before. Have to admit my version is probably a lot lighter in colour and flavour compared to what I grew up with. Then, the gravy would’ve undoubtedly been made with Bisto. A product I never buy. And isn’t this an odd coincidence that my version is similar to your Mom’s. I really like that. Even though I’ve no idea how this recipe would be made over here. As for the meat! How come my beef mince tasted like chicken?! I ended up having to buy it in the other store – never, ever again. The quality was poor. Okay, I had a nasty cold last week and most food was wasted on me. Still! This week I’ve gone off meat completely! Lots of houmous, pitta and salad and huge portions of fairly spicy aloo gobi. Thankfully I’ve got my taste buds back 🙂


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