Finishing this Minced Beef with Vegetables before my daughter returned from school brought to my mind a conversation we had about a year ago, possibly after the umpteenth time I told her to either not waste food, or to turn off the lights when she left a room. You know, the same things our mothers nagged us about when we were kids.
– “Mommy, are we poor?”
– “No, we’re not.”
– “Does that mean we’re rich?”
Darn kids, and their existential questions at inconvenient times.
I am one generation removed from farmers, and the life I live would definitely qualify me as “stinking rich” in their eyes. In fact, considering how the vast majority of the world population lives, they’d be forgiven for thinking you too are. After all, at the very least you, like me, have access to the internet right now, most likely own your own computer or smart phone, have clean water, indoor plumbing and — seeing as you’re reading a food blog — you have food available. Imagine that, a life of luxury!
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the food we eat today, our comfort food, the food we love most, is most probably the kind of food that a poor peasant created at some point to feed her family. From the French bouillabaisse, made by poor fishermen’s wives with the fish they kept after a day’s sale, to the Brazilian feijoada, a black bean stew with the bits of pork the slavemasters deemed too disgusting to eat, and were passed down to the slaves. Today these dishes are iconic, served with pomp and ceremony at fancy restaurants the world over — after getting rid of the cheap fish and “disgusting” bits of pork, of course.
Many a great Dominican dish — if not most — has been born out scarcity and poverty. The art of “rendir“, to bulk out, to stretch meals, has been ingrained in our way of cooking. Adding vegetables to meat dishes is a greatly cherished tradition in our country, even after we get past the need to stretch our budget to feed an enormous family. It became tradition, and ironically, it’s probably the best thing we could do for our health.
Minced beef with vegetables is a dish that we cook often at home. We serve it as a quasi-stew, with just a bit of rice, or leave the potatoes out and top some boiled pasta with it, or cut down on the vegetables for a more meat-heavy dish. Any leftovers will find their way into soups, or as a filling for empanadas. It really is a poor man’s dish: simple, flavorful, comforting, versatile, inexpensive.
- 1 1/2 lb [0.7 kg] of lean minced beef
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt , or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (peanut, soy or canola)
- 1 large white onion , diced
- 3 cloves of garlic , chopped
- 3/4 cup of tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- 1 large carrot , peeled and diced
- 3/4 lb [0.35 kg] of waxy potatoes , diced
- 1 stalk of celery (with leaves), chopped
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon of hot sauce , or to taste
- 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
Season meat with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook and stir until all the liquid has evaporated and meat is browned.
Add onion and garlic, and cook stirring until they have heated through.
Stir in tomato sauce and water. Lower heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer until it breaks the boil (5-7 min).
Mix in potato and carrot. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, adding water as it becomes necessary to maintain the same level.
Add bell pepper and celery, Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, adding water as it becomes necessary to maintain the same level.
Season with hot sauce and salt to taste. Mix in the parsley and remove from the heat.