With young kids in tow, having time to feed the whole family a decent meal can feel like a challenge. Food stylist, cookbook author and mother, Georgina Hayden shares how she does it with this quick and versatile Sloppy Joe recipe. Think of it as a messy burger… with extra veg. Family food made easy.
Photography: Georgina Hayden
It sounds short-sighted but I’d never really understood the drama of school holidays. That is, until I had a kid. Now they make total sense. What do you do with kids when trying to juggle work and childcare and keep them from screaming ‘I’m bored’ at five minute intervals?
Persephone is not even near school age yet, but over Christmas and New Year I had an insight into this fraught and manic world and it’s full on. Christmas was brilliant but by the end of it, we were all going a little stir crazy. Come January, Persephone ran back into nursery pretty much shouting ‘laters mum’ and didn’t look back.
The next challenge of school holidays is the amount of cooking and eating there is to do. And if you’re dealing with more than one child, cooking often becomes all that more fraught too. One doesn’t like this, the other only eats that… and on it goes.
This is where my Sloppy Joe recipe comes in.
I feel pretty confident saying that as long as you have kids who eat meat, this recipe will be a hit. An American classic, it’s a perfect mid-week lunch or tea as it’s so easy, takes less than half an hour from start to finish and uses everyday ingredients. Think of it as a messy burger. With extra veg. Heck, you can even switch up the veg if you like. Don’t have a green pepper? Try a red, orange or yellow one. No sweet potatoes? No bother. Kid loves mushrooms? Chuck a few of those in too.
Now, let’s talk about condiments. Some parents may dismiss this recipe because it uses ketchup, which I understand. But what I would say is banish away thoughts of overly sweet, vinegary ketchup and think of it as a bottle of preserved tomatoes. Yes there is some sugar, but it’s getting much easier to buy less processed, less sweet versions (Farmdrop stock two varieties and they are both brilliant).
I don’t ban any ingredients or foods in my kitchen, as long as they’ve been properly made, and I use other items in moderation. I never want to make food an issue or have ‘naughty’ foods. Ketchup doesn’t have to be an everyday addition to your dinner table, but equally I do believe everything has its place. And this is a time when it comes into its own, creating the perfect gravy to your messy Sloppy Joe bun. So, pile the buns up high, place the cheese and grater on the table and let everyone be sloppy. Happy half-terming.
Sweet Potato Sloppy Joes
Serves: 4 to 6 (depending on ages)
– 1 onion
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1 sweet potato
– 1 green pepper
– Olive oil
– A knob of butter
– 400g quality beef mince
– 1 heaped tablespoon tomato purée
– 125ml quality tomato ketchup
– 2 teaspoons honey or soft brown sugar
– 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (more if you like)
– ¼ – ½ teaspoon English mustard
– Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 4-6 brioche buns
– Mature Cheddar, to serve (optional)
1. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Peel the sweet potato and chop it as finely as you can (½cm to 1cm pieces if possible). Halve, deseed and chop the pepper the same size.
2. Place a large frying pan or a wide sauté pan on a medium heat and drizzle in a little olive oil and add the butter. Add all the chopped veg and sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Add a splash of water to the pan, cover with a lid and reduce the heat a little. Cook for 5 more minutes to soften.
4. Add the mince to the pan, whack the heat up and fry it for a few minutes so that the beef browns and any liquid is released and evaporates away, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
5. Stir in the tomato purée. Fry for a minute, then add the ketchup, 200ml of water, the honey or sugar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. How much mustard depends on your personal taste and the age of the people you are feeding. For very little babies, just add a touch. You can always add more afterwards.
6. Bring it all to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, preheat your grill and toast the halved buns. The meat is ready when it is still a little oozy. It shouldn’t be dry and there should be a glossy gravy. Taste and tweak the seasoning accordingly.
8. Spoon the mince onto the toasted brioche buns, top with grated Cheddar if you like and serve.
For quality beef mince, brioche buns and all other ingredients featured in this recipe, go to farmdrop.com.
Seeking more meal ideas to feed the whole family? Check out more of Georgina Hayden’s recipes in the Farmdrop series, from a quick fish pie recipe to Thai fish curry to breakfast cauliflower cheese fritters to this cowboy bean stew.