Friday, 27 May 2011

Meatloaf - more interesting & versatile than I thought

If you think of meatloaf as basically a gussied-up square burger cooked in the oven you really can't go wrong.  My mum used to make her version when I was little and I loved it so thought I'd try giving I a bash myself.  True to form I made it up and threw it all together before it occurred to me to look on the brilliant BBC GoodFood website to see what should be in it, but it worked out just fine. I started by making a basic burger mix, as always adding more seasoning and herbage than it feels like you should:

1 kg lean minced beef and / or pork, 2 finely chopped medium onions, squished or very finely chopped garlic (about 5 cloves in my case), salt & pepper, mixed herbs – I used sage, oregano & thyme, 2 tsps of English mustard (I'm guessing horseradish would be wonderful here), 1 small chilli, 2 eggs, good quality streaky bacon

NB: a quick thought about the herbs: as a rule I always try to use anything & everything as fresh as it can be but herbs are often the exception.  I always have a good stock of dried herbs (dried myself from fresh herbs either grown or bought) as the flavour strengthens as they dry.  Whilst fresh are still best in many things I cook, I do prefer dried in burgers and therefore meatloaf.

Combine all the ingredients except the bacon in a big bowl and cover with cling film.  Leave out of the fridge for the flavours to get stuck in for at least an hour, though I left mine for about three hours. Line a non-stick loaf tin (if yours isn't non-stick, give it a light layer of butter or oil) with the strips of streaky bacon, taking care to overlap them generously so that they completely cover the meat when it is turned out and leaving enough hanging over the edge to cover the top of the meat.  Press your 'burger' mix firmly into the bacon-lined tin until it is almost overflowing and cover with the overhanging bacon.  Fill a wide & deep roasting dish about 2/3rds full of water and stand the loaf tin in it (meat side up) and cook on about 170C / gas 4-5 for around an hour until the top is browned & glistening.  Leave it to stand for about 10 mins to cool, then turn out and slice.

I served mine hot with really rich onion gravy (recipe below) but I'd imagine a dollop of ketchup in a bun would be nice, as would a big smear of mustard.  The leftovers (and there were a lot) were brilliant cold with salad and pickled chillis, though I would have loved some cornichons even more.  We even had enough to slice up and add to an already meat-heavy BBQ the day after that!

Gravy: thinly slice a medium onion and sweat (horrible expression) gently in butter or olive oil. When they are soft, sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of soft brown sugar over them and let them bubble gently to caramelise.  Add some super-rich beef stock (I used 2 Knorr stock pot extra strong but actually Bovril would have been fine and homemade even better), the juices from the loaf tin and about half a bottle of red wine and simmer until thick & glossy.

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