Tag Archives: mash

My meatloaf

My mother’s meatloaf is the stuff of legend. In the past, whenever we had meatloaf at my house my children would look up, all eyelashes and downy cheeks and say “is this Nonna’s meatloaf?” and I would have to say that no, no it wasn’t, it was mummy’s. And they would look down and  eat it, making approving, encouraging noises but they would know, and I would know, that it wasn’t comparable. Every meatloaf I’ve tried, until this one, was just not right.

The thing about my mother’s meatloaf is that she minces her own meat, so it’s silky smooth and sublime. I like my meatloaf like I like my sausages: not coarse. I want it to be an easy transaction. And all the meatloaves I’d made before were too coarse, too dry, trying too hard.

Last year I bought Donna Hay’s Simple dinners, from whence this recipe comes.  It’s a great book. Her recipes are genuinely tasty, pretty healthy, made from a clever combination of not too many ingredients and easy to follow. She is, to my mind, just about the best cookery writer of the day (for meals ‘n’ stuff. Dan Lepard is still my man for bread). I’ve adapted it here because I’ve been making this meatloaf for over a year now and I’ve made it my own: I’ve adapted it slightly to suit our needs.

As such, this is now my meatloaf recipe, in that it’s the one I use as my go-to meatloaf recipe. I can’t imagine it will ever be made better by anyone else’s meatloaf recipe. Except, naturally, my mum’s.

(What I also love about it is, if you make this for a Sunday lunch, and it’s very good at Sunday lunch, you can make it in advance or the day before, keep it in the fridge and put it straight in the oven. Just give it 5-10 mins more in the oven at the lower temperature i.e. the first round of cooking.)

This is great served with the usual stuff, but I particularly like it with mash for a real comfort, fork-only meal.

You need:

a packet of thinly sliced pancetta, about 20 slices

110g breadcrumbs

60ml milk

400g rose-veal mince (all veal sold in Europe is non-crated, but I only buy higher welfare British veal, if you are not sure, substitute beef mince)

500g free range pork mince (I never, ever buy any other sort of pork)

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 large egg

a tablespoon of thyme leaves, stripped from the stem

salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

What you do:

Oven on to 160C if you intend to cook it straight away. Get a loaf tin which is about 22cm by 8cm and line the bottom with the pancetta (line across the width, not length if you follow). If you imagine that the meatloaf will be turned upside down on serving, this will be the top of it. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have enough pancetta to cover the whole bottom/sides, and ditto if you have a bit too much, I also line the side/sides not just the bottom. If you have very long slices then don’t worry, you can just overlap them when the tin is full of the mince. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Because I rarely have properly stale bread, and even if I did I hate grating bread (my mum always, always has properly stale bread which she grates), I put some day or so old bread into a food processor and whizz it up. Take it out then pour the milk over it and give it a little stir.

Now, what I do to make it all super smooth is this. I put the milky breadcrumbss back into the food processor with all the mince, the mustard,the thyme leaves and the egg. Add a bit of salt and black pepper. And then I whizz it all in the food processor. It comes out looking like awful meat slurry.

Don’t worry. You know it’s not.

Now, pack this into the loaf tin. It will seem like too much but keep the faith, pack it in, press it down, tuck over any overhanging pancetta slices if you have them. Then, either put in the oven or cover with cling film and put in the fridge for a day or so (obviously not over what the sell-by date of the meat is).

When you are ready to cook it put it in the preheated 160C oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the meat is just cooked through. (If you’ve had it in the fridge then increase this time to 35-40 minutes maybe a tad longer, use your common sense.)

Now, take it out and onto a baking tray, invert the meatloaf. Obviously the tin will be hot so take care with oven gloves, etc. Onto the inverted meatloaf brush with the maple syrup. Turn oven up to 180C and now bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve. It’s delicious.

 

 

 

A very good shepherd’s pie for when the weather’s bad.

I cut this out of the Independent magazine last year. It’s called Bill’s Shepherd’s Pie, but I’m afraid I know no more than that. It seems a convoluted way of making a shepherd’s pie, but you need to trust me when I tell you that it’s very very good. Leftovers seem even better, of course. And the whole thing freezes beautifully for resuscitation just when you need it.

It doesn’t have a mash topping – gasp – but chunky potatoes on top. Try it. I don’t make shepherd’s pie any other way now.

It apparently serves four, but this really depends on the size of the lamb shanks. I find it generally serves at least six, with left overs.

2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus a little extra

1 large carrot, chopped up into the usual sized pieces

1 onion, same

2 celery stalks chopped up fine

3 tablespoons of plain flour

200ml of dry white wine, or vermouth, or low alcohol cider (these latter two are what I also sometimes use)

500ml chicken stock, I tend to freeze my stock in 600ml portions so I add 600ml of stock and 100ml of vermouth/white wine

3-4 lambshanks

4 sprigs of thyme

800g-1K Maris Piper or other floury potato, these you need to have peeled and cut into chunks that are, you know, chunk sized. We tend to use 1kilo as a) we are quite partial to a potato and b) the dish I use is quite large.

A handful of parsley leaves, chopped up

The zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

Now, this is what you do. I have given the conventional method first, then the slow cooker method.

You preheat the oven to 160C. You heat the oil in a large casserole dish – with a lid which you’ll need later – that can go in the oven.

Into this large casserole dish you add the chopped up carrot, onion and celery and season with salt and pepper (be aware the stock cube may also be salty). Cook until soft, about seven minutes.

Now add the flour and stir around and cook for a minute or two. Now you add the wine/vermouth/low alcohol cider, stock, shanks and thyme and bring it to the boil.

No, you don’t have to brown the shanks first.

Now cover the casserole and put the whole lot in the oven for two hours *, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Take it out, put it to one side for a moment, and turn the oven up to 200C.

*set a timer for about twenty minutes before times up, and put the potatoes into salted, boiling water for 20 minutes, until very tender. Drain then return them to the pan and add half each of the parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in a glug of olive oil, breaking up the potatoes a bit as you go. You want to rough them up a bit in an ‘Eastenders” way, not obliterate them entirely.

Lift the lamb shanks from the casserole dish, trying hard not to think of them as baby sheep’s legs. Let them cool so you can handle and then take the meat from the bones (if the meat didn’t fall off when you lifted the bone up) and break the meat up into bite sized chunks with your hands.

Return the chunks to the casserole it cooked in and now stir in the remaining parsley, garlic and lemon zest and simmer for five minutes or more until the sauce has reduced (you may need to do it for longer than five minutes). Now spoon the whole meat-sauce lot either into individual dishes, or into a suitable oven proof dish. Top with the roughed up potato chunks and bake for 20 minutes in that 200C oven until you get lovely golden bits.

Slow cooker version

I am presuming your slow cooker also has a saute function, if it doesn’t then do that bit in a conventional pan.

Put the slow cooker onto saute function and put in the olive oil. I put mine on low. Now add the chopped up carrot, onion and celery and season with salt and pepper (be aware the stock cube – if using – may also be salty). Cook until soft, about seven minutes.

Now add the flour and stir around and cook for a minute or two. Now you add the wine/vermouth/low alcohol cider, stock, thyme and lamb shanks. Don’t worry if the lamb shanks stick out a little, just try to submerge as best you can. If you cook this for a very long time (see later) then you may want to lift the lid and turn them round so that they all get a go in the juice.  Bring the heat up (still on saute setting) so it starts to bubble.

(No, you don’t have to brown the shanks first.)

Now switch off saute function, select slow cooker mode low (or medium or high if you don’t have too long) close the lid, and set for as long as you’ve got. I have done this in two 12 hour batches so that the lamb cooked for 24 hours. But you can do it on high for two hours or medium for four etc. I prefer a long, slow cook for this.

When time is up, lift the lamb shanks out – they fall apart – and put in a separate dish. Leave the juice in the slow cooker for now. Skim off the fat – there may be lots – and discard into the bin (not down the sink! We don’t want fatbergs).

Carefully take all the meat off the bones and separate out from any undesirable bits, tear the meat up into bite-size chunks and put back in the slow cooker. When all is done add half the parsley, lemon zest and garlic (the other halves will go with the potatoes) into the meat ‘n’ ting.

Now select the reduce function (again if you don’t have it at this point decant into a large pan) and reduce down for about 20 mins. It’s at this point I start attending to the potatoes, but you can do it before if you are more co-ordinated.

Now preheat the oven to 200C.

Put the potatoes into salted, boiling water for 20 minutes, until very tender. Drain then return them to the pan and add the other half each of the parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in a glug of olive oil, breaking up the potatoes a bit as you go. You want to rough them up a bit in an ‘Eastenders” way, not obliterate them entirely.

Pour the bite-size meat and juice into your casserole dish for the oven and top with the potatoes and cook for 20-25 mins until potatoes are tender and golden (if you have a fancy oven that can put the heat on the top only you can give them a blast for the last few minutes).

**Eat with some fortifying green veg and serve with my chocolate sponge and chocolate custard recipe.

Apologies for the picture. It’s not easy taking one that looks really good, but don’t let it put you off. At least my pics aren’t as bad as Martha Stewart’s photos of what she’s eating.