Occasionally a week comes along that doesn’t rock my world. They’re the weeks when silly things go wrong, when you receive not-great news, or, like this week just gone, when an instantaneous and thoughtless bad decision leads to a bit of grief. You know the weeks I mean… Everyone has them. They’re the times when you just need a hug, or something like a hug. Which brings me to the point of this post: comfort food, the sort of thing that hugs you from the inside out. Or which feels like it is. Meatloaf is one of those foods.
Growing up in a very small, remote town, comfort food was mum’s version of spaghetti bolognese, chow mein, or just chops or sausages with vegetables (usually mashed potatoes, peas and carrots). I never heard of meatloaf until I read Judy Blume’s books, and it was certainly not something that I had eaten. As an adult, the idea of meatloaf was less than appealing. This was partly about the aesthetics of it – admittedly, meatloaf won’t win any beauty contests – but it was more about my prejudices about what constituted ‘proper’ food.
The first time I tried meatloaf, I was in my mid-thirties and had made it after a) H had tried it at childcare and gobbled it all up (anyone who has had a non-eater will know that this means you need to make that dish for every meal from now on) – including the vegies on the side, and b) a recipe for meatloaf had just appeared in the ‘Good Weekend’ magazine, written by Matthew Evans, the Gourmet Farmer (http://www.matthewevans.net.au/). At the time, he wrote a weekly recipe column, unadorned by photographs and with a pithy little story about the provenance of the recipe: meatloaf, he wrote, was just like a terrine and therefore, not just kids’ food.
Since then, I’ve made this countless times and each time, regardless of the variations I make, it still tastes awesome – and everyone loves it. This past weekend, I made one batch and from this got 2 mini meatloaves and one bigger loaf. With vegetables and/or salad, it feeds our family of four for two dinners and one lunch…
My recipe below varies from the original Matthew Evans version, but I love his name for it, and so have kept it here. My additions are indicated in the ingredient list in italics, below.
Not your ordinary meat loaf
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
5 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped if stems are woody
50g bacon, finely diced (or 1 rasher)
600g beef mince
400g pork mince (for ease, I generally just use 50:50 of the two mince types)
1/4 c tomato sauce
3 tbsp barbeque sauce
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
fresh breadcrumbs from 2 slices of bread – sometimes I use about 3/4 c cornflake crumbs
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly milled black pepper
50g grated Italian parmesan
I find it works fine without the Dijon or parmesan; I often forget the parmesan until it’s in the oven!
1. Preheat oven to 200C. Heat the oil in a large wide frying pan over a modest flame and cook the onion, celery, bacon and thyme, with a lid on but stirring often, for about 10 mins or until the onion is very soft.
2. Let this cool slightly, then mix it into the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. You will need to use your hands to combine it, or it will take ages to mix.
3. Press this mixture into a lined 1.5 litre loaf tin or similar.
4. Bake for 50-60 mins or until a roasting fork inserted in the centre comes out warm, and there are no more pink juices (it won’t hurt if it’s slightly underdone). It’s a pretty moist recipe, and the cooked juices are nice spooned over your slice of the meatloaf.
5. Serve the meat loaf hot with baked or mashed potatoes and plenty of tomato sauce. Any leftovers are best served at room temperature.
As I’m not a food stylist, I couldn’t take a nice photo of my meatloaf – so forgive the aesthetics and don’t let this poor photo put you off!