Mince on Toast and Valiants, Lollies, Paintings and Mince

I’ve had a couple of trips across the Tasman and the first was when I was two years old when we moved to Sydney.  I don’t remember that trip at all and I only have a few memories of the two years we spent in Sydney before returning to New Zealand for another decade.

I do remember the endless days of clear blue sky and the heat that came from a sun that was more powerful than the one we had in New Zealand and how hot it was in our leafy backyard.  We didn’t have a pool, not many people did, but we were able to cool down by playing under the sprinkler.  I remember not needing many layers.  You could go out for the day in just a single layer and you didn’t need as much as a cardigan over your shoulders.

We had a big white Valiant Regal that wasn’t air conditioned (why would you need it), and my older sister and I sat in the back with no seat belts, and my younger sister, Em, traveled in the bassinet that sat on the back seat beside us.  Not a problem.

1969 Valiant

We made friends with the family across the street as they had children the same age.  One day one of them had a birthday and my big sister and I were invited to the party.  I don’t remember the party but I do remember being given a little plastic basket filled with lollies to take home.  It was only a short walk home but somehow I managed to eat all my lollies before I entered our house.  My big sister proudly showed our parents all the lollies she had in her pretty plastic basket.  She hadn’t eaten any, not one, but instead had saved them.  Seeing her display of lollies acutely and promptly reminded me that I had none.  My basket was empty.  I burst into tears.  ‘I don’t have any lollies’, I howled.  My father said to my big sister, ‘Now you’ll share your lollies with Charlie, won’t you?’  And my sister reluctantly agreed and the tears stopped.

Savoury Mince on Toast

Two years later we were heading back to New Zealand.  We had relatives in Sydney and one of them, my great-aunt, was a well known artist.  She and her husband had us over for a farewell lunch and lined up against the wall of her studio was a range of water colour paintings.  She told me I could choose any one I liked and have it as a farewell present.  I stood staring at the paintings not thinking much of them.  They weren’t pictures like the ones in my illustrated books.  I couldn’t work out what I was looking at and none of them interested me.  My father tried to guide me towards a wonderful water colour that was an excellent example of the type of work the artist had become well-known for.  I shook my head.  I didn’t like the colours in it.  Knowing the value of the paintings my father again tried to encourage me to take the water colour he knew to be a quite valuable.

I shook my head.  I didn’t want that painting.  I had seen another and it had a lot of blue in it and blue was my favourite colour.  I pointed to it.  My father said, ‘Yes, that’s nice, but don’t you think you’d like this one more?’  And I again shook my head and pointed to the blue one.  My great-aunt said I could have it and we walked out with the least valuable painting in her collection.  I still have it, (it has appreciated),  and today it hangs in my dining room.

We had friends drive all the way to the airport to see us off.  They even brought gifts.  I was in my father’s arms and Mrs Simpson handed me a present.  I unwrapped it and it was a book.  Beatrix Potter’s, The Tailor of Gloucester.  I wasn’t excited.  I actually was disappointed.  The book was brown and there was a boy mouse on the cover not a girl duck.  I liked Beatrix Potter’s books and my favourite was Jemima Puddleduck.  I didn’t know the book about the tailor.  I didn’t even know what a tailor was and that ‘Gloucester’ word gave me problems for years as it was not phonetic.

The Tailor of Gloucester

I looked at the book and then just stared at Mrs Simpson.  My father said, ‘Say thank you for the book’, but I said nothing and just looked at her.

‘You’re not going to say thank you?’ my father tried.  But I just wouldn’t say anything.  Mrs Simpson said, ‘Oh that’s okay, she doesn’t have to say thank you’.  And I stared at her disappointed that she didn’t give me the one with the pretty duck on the cover.

The Tailor of Gloucester was apparently the author’s favourite but I never did warm to it.  However, just like the painting, it’s still in my possession.

Back in my Valiant Regal days my mother would cook a dish that was one of my favourites.  Here’s my version of it…

A favourite with the kids and quick and easy for the mother

Savoury Mince

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  1/5

Cost:  This is a budget meal and is great for using up a lot of what you have on hand.

  • 2 tbspns olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 750g mince
  • 2 tbspns worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup vegetable or beef stock
  • 310g tinned corn kernels, rinsed and drained
  • handful of chopped parsley

In a large saucepan, gently heat olive oil.  Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook slowly until onion is transparent.  About 10 minutes.  Turn up the heat and add mince and cook until browned.  Add worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and stock and simmer until liquid has reduced to desired consistency.  Add corn kernels and heat through.  Stir in parsley.  Season.  Serve with hot buttered toast.  (I used sour dough ciabatta).

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  1. I too loved Beatrix potter – I have a collection somewhere. they must be at my mum and dads. Its funny as I can remember some gifts I was given as a child that I really didnt appreciate even though now I look back and think wow what a beautiful idea. xx

  2. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) says:

    That mince looks like a perfect food at a long night of doing “research.” 🙂 Hope you’re having a great weekend Charlie!

  3. Velva- Tomatoes on the Vine says:

    Thanks for the childhood journey. Most enjoyable.

  4. Barb Bamber says:

    You’ve really captured the point of view of life through a child’s (your) eyes.. it’s interesting why children do or don’t say what we expect of them.. but often they have made a perfectly rational decision:D

  5. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    Well-written, as always, Charlie. I can identify with the sprinklers and sitting in the car with no seat belts–and we made it just fine, didn’t we? The mince on toast looks like pure comfort food.

  6. A_Boleyn says:

    I’m amazed by your clear memories of your childhood. For some reason I have very few of a time when interesting things actually happened according to the rest of my family. 🙂

    I was the little sister by the way in our house and I know that on more than one occasion my brother was tempted to make himself an only child.


  7. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes says:

    I love meals like this where it’s ingredients you normally already have on hand. And budget-friendly – perfect!!

  8. I love one pot meals like this.

  9. Choc Chip Uru says:

    I know exactly how you feel my friend – as a child there is always a constant comparison or desire 😛
    You sound like an adorable kid! I love how you write about it!
    Also thanks for sharing a delicious recipe and memories from your valiant regal days 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  10. Lovely memories, thanks for sharing them with us. I wasn’t a big Beatrix Potter fan as a child either..

  11. Glamorous Glutton says:

    I love the Tailor Of Gloucester, it was one of my favourites, that moment when there was…’no more twist’ always made me cry. My uncle was a painter and I remember he gave me a lithograph when I was about five. I had no idea what the picture was of. In my twenties I took it from the loft and realised it was trees and hedgerow. I love it now. Great family stories as usual. GG

  12. Suzanne Perazzini says:

    Ah, the brutal honesty of a child. It’s lovely that you still have the objects though.

  13. InTolerantChef says:

    We had a valiant too, and four of us would squish across the back seat. No CD system or air conditioning either, we would take turns lying down in the back of the station wagon during long trips and read or sing songs to stay amused. I liked Beatrix Potter as well, but The Tale of Samuel Whiskers gave me nightmares!

  14. It’s a wonder we survived some of these trips without seat belts are any safety devices. Of course, the cars weren’t made of tin back then! Mince isn’t used much in the U.S. or at least not in my experience. I don’t even know what it would taste like or how it would add to the dish! Yet it looks really good and now I’m quite curious. I now of mincemeat pie…but I don’t think that’s going to be the same thing? I am really interested in doing a bit of discovery. Such fun!

    • In Aus, mince is what you call ‘ground beef’. It’s traditionally what we make meat pies with.
      We also have mincemeat pies at Xmas which are filled with minced up dried fruit and spices.

  15. This brings back memories – I used to have that exact same book myself… and some others in the same binding too.

    Love mince – some people really hate the smell of raw mince apparently… if it’s good fresh stuff though I think it smells absolutely delicious when cooking!

  16. This is totally the kind of dish I would make back in Australia after a long day. Mince! Some veggies! Lots of worcestershire sauce! Books!

    I was never a big Beatrix Potter fan. Bring on Hairy Maclary!

  17. Aren’t we funny sometimes with our ‘favourites’ and ‘not favourites’? I’m glad you still have that painting, and am very impressed with your sister sharing her lollies with you! (I’m not sure I would have!)

  18. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    I just bought a thing of mince. I was going to make something rather tricky but lost interest once I unpacked everything. This I think I could manage!

  19. lovely meal and great story telling i want to see the painting 🙂

  20. The Squishy Monster says:

    Beatrice Potter was one of my faves as a kid…the food looks amazing as always, my friend!!

  21. kitchenriffs says:

    We’re going to pout until you show us a picture of the painting. Or at least give us a lollie. 😉 Fun story, great everyday recipe. Thanks.

  22. That reminds me of when my grandma gave my sister and I bracelets. I didn’t like the one I was given and made my sister trade with me. Oh the things we do as kids. Love the story of the lollies. Totally reminds me of something Miss A would do too. 😉

  23. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Hehe yes some kids really find it hard to say thank you. I think I was one of them so I’m not offended when kids don’t say thank you 🙂 I’m dying to see that paiting now too! 😉

  24. OrgasmicChef says:

    Good thing she’s your sister and not me. I would have shouted, “she ate hers on the way home and these are mine to eat!” I might have had to share anyway but I would have said my piece. Your sister is a saint. 🙂

    Americans make a version of this called sloppy joes and they eat it on hamburger buns. It’s very messy but delicious. I should try your version.

  25. I love Beatrix Potter and even bought little minitures for my own girls when they were little – I think they only appreciated them when they got older. Valiants I discovered when I came to Australia in 1976. We lived with Paul’s parents for a while and she would always have savoury mince with toast for lunch. Great memories. How lovely that you still have the blue painting!

  26. The Cafe Sucre Farine says:

    Such sweet memories and it’s funny how certain foods can take us right back in time!

  27. Juliet Batten says:

    You definitely knew what you liked and what you didn’t. It was asking a lot to expect a child to be able to choose a painting, but at least you did select one in the end.

  28. we always had this meal with mashed potatoes, whenever I see it, it always reminds me of being very small too!

  29. Eva Taylor says:

    We were given a painting from my husbands friend’s father’s collection; he was an unfamous artist. We still have it.
    The dish sounds warm and comforting. Are you into spring yet?

  30. Children know what they like and don’t like. I credit your Dad for actually letting you make that choice. I don’t think many would have done the same. Now, about those lollies …

  31. This is so beautiful recipe (and great shots) my son will love this one. Thank you, love, nia

  32. ahhh…. running under the sprinkler – one of life’s simple pleasures. 🙂

  33. I can’t believe she shared her lollies with you after you ate all yours 🙂

  34. Funny! I was just talking to my son the other day about “the olden days” when I was young and we didn’t have seat belts in our cars. Not only did we not have seat belts but we were allowed to stand on the seat! My mother just looked on with a cigarette in her mouth. Ha! Amazing any of us survived our childhoods. Now everything is so “safe”.

    Your Savoury Mince looks delicious! I’m going to have to make this sometime this week!

  35. I’m making this tonight Charlie. Think I might stuff it in some pita pockets (clearly my husband is away !). YUM !

  36. corrie @ corriecooks.com says:

    My second car was a valiant with a sunroof. I was sooooo cool. 🙂 damn thing kept visiting the mechanic too often so I sold it for a red Rambler Rebel. I was even cooler but that thing made even more visits to the mechanic than the Valiant. Now I have a 2003 Kia. I’m not cool any more but at least it has never broken down in the 9 years I have had it. 🙂 Hey everyone has to grow up some day!!! 🙂 Your mince on toast is similar to South African Bobotie pie.

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