Thursday, June 18, 2009

Meat Loaf

My first experiences of eating meat loaf were in America early in the war when I was a refugee and not yet old enough to join the RAF. Those experiences were not happy ones.
My kind hosts ate meat loaf about once a week, cooking a rather solid lump of compressed, baked mince.
When I found myself with some frozen minced steak, and wondering what stroke of genius I might apply to it, meat loaf came to mind. Would it be possible to form a recipe that might become a regular and delicious dish for the house menu’s repertoire?
What turned out was quite delicious when hot, but very dull when cold. So the problem was not so much about how to make meat loaf as how to use it up when cold.
Frying it crumbled with mashed potato was not at all bad.
Frying thick slices in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs turned out to be a splendid way, and delicious.
Cooked rather as one would use corned beef in a hash proved to be excellent – especially when the taste of caraway seeds came to the fore.
My sister, who had been to the dentist for an extraction and was advised not to chew solid food for a while, found that the meat loaf melted in the mouth.
And my last experiment was to turn thick slices into a mousseau – by resting them in a vinaigrette with added chopped onion, capers, chopped cornichons, pickled peppercorns and chilli.


You will need:
Minced beef
Bread crumbs
Pepper and salt
Dried herbs and spices with which you feel happy (I used oregano, paprika and turmeric for colour, methi leaves, chilli, celery salt, dill, thyme, caraway seeds and Dijon mustard). The choice was made only because they happened to be handy at the time.

Grease a bread tin and, if you feel like it, line the bottom and sides with something like Parma/Serrano ham or bacon.
Into a large bowl put minced meat (it does not have to be beef. It could be a mixture of minced meats. Add half its volume of breadcrumbs (the bread I make crumbles well, but crumbled crumb from a drying sliced loaf would be fine).
Add dried herbs, with a little turmeric and much more paprika - both for colour. Add a dollop of Dijon mustard, pepper (milled if possible) and salt.
Now add beaten egg (probably two). Stir it well. I start with a spoon and then use the hands. You may need to moisten it all with milk - to form a soft paste.
Place the mixture in the bread tin and flatten it.
Now, apart, press into the heart of the mixture two lumps of ice (about the size of small walnuts). Cover them over. These will keep the loaf moist.
Bake the meat loaf for about two hours in a medium oven - with foil on top to keep in the moisture.
When cooked, turn it out on to a board. Slice it, to be eaten with mashed potato or pasta.
This is a very economical dish.

Making a meat loaf happens to be a giant leap toward making a splendid Paté/terrine. Just substitute minced fat pork and liver for the breadcrumbs. Use thyme, or something else, instead of the herbal mixture, and moisten with a spirit instead of milk and ice cubes. I bake it in a bain-marie (tray of water) uncovered. This is a great dish for a party.