Big, gooey slow-cooked, shredded beef Sloppy Joes topped with sharp mature cheddar and tangy pickled jalapeños is your childhood favorite beefed up.
Are you ready for big, messy, proper weekend food? Because that’s what we’ll be discussing in class today.
I have had a serious, and I mean serious thing for Sloppy Joes ever since I was a child. As a South African, we didn’t know Sloppy Joe’s and I think it was “It takes two” (that classic Olsen twins movie) that got it started. That scene where the fancy one takes a bite of what she calls “the big gooey messy burger” and then falls in love, had me intrigued. And let me tell you, that fascination has never stopped. I’ve been making them every since (the first time with the help of my grandma who had no idea why I wanted “bolognese on a bread roll”). And now my kids love them as much as I do.
How do you make Sloppy Joes?
Instead of using beef mince (ground beef), I decided to make a really slow, almost-ragu with beef shin. When cooked low and slow, the shin becomes meltingly tender and enriches the sauce with its marrow and beefiness. To get some extra nutrition into the kids (and ourselves), I made a really vegetable-heavy base for the sauce consisting of onions, red bell peppers, carrots and a few turnips I had in the fridge. But you could add chopped courgette, aubergine, mushrooms and even leafy greens like kale or spinach.
Because the vegetables also cook for hours and hours, they become so soft, you can just squish them with the back of your wooden spoon. This helps to thicken the sauce and is great for any picky eaters who pick out cubes of carrot and discard them with their noses turned up. The shredded beef is then added back to the sauce and cooked, uncovered, until the mixture has reduced. This is a fantastic alternative to pulled pork and all the vegetables add so much flavour and complexity to the finished dish. Not to mention that you’re getting a pretty hefty portion of veg in without even knowing it.
What can you put on Sloppy Joes?
I served the Sloppy Joes topped with grated mature cheddar (what else?!) and a few pickled jalapeños. You really need something sharp and acidic to cut through all the richness in the meat sauce. Any pickle will do, but I love the tangy bite the jalapeños add. You could serve these by themselves but I added potato chips because when is that not a good idea? Although this is a classic kid friendly dish, I think my husband and I enjoyed it even more. Add a few beers and good friends and you’ll have one helluva meal!
Ground beef recipes
Slow-cooked shredded beef Sloppy Joes with pickled jalapeños
for the meat sauce
- 1 kg sliced beef shin
- 1 large red onion finely chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper finely chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper finely chopped
- 2 turnips finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 x 400g can whole tomatoes
- ½ cup red wine optional
- 1-2 cups beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cup tomato sauce ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- salt & pepper to taste
- bread rolls toasted
- grated mature cheddar cheese
- pickled jalapeños
- Pre-heat the oven to 150°c.
- In an oven-proof casserole pot, heat a generous splash of oil and brown the beef on both sides. Remove and set aside.
- In the same pot, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables have started to soften and are fragrant.
- Add the remaining vegetables and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, red wine and 1 cup of the beef stock along with the herbs. Add the beef back into the pot and allow to come back up to a rapid simmer. Add more stock if necessary (the beef needs to be covered) and cover. Place the pot in the oven and allow to cook for 4-5 hours until the beef is meltingly tender. You might need to add more stock every now and then if the pot cooks dry.
- When the beef is cooked, remove it from the pot and place the pot with the vegetables back on the stove. Allow to simmer gently and with the back of a wooden spoon, squish the vegetables against the side of the pot. This will thicken the sauce.
- Shred the beef and discard any excess fat and the bones and place back in the pot.
- Add the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and Balsamic and season to taste.
- To serve, fill the rolls with the meat sauce and top with the cheese and pickled jalapeños.