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Meatloaf

Hi how was your summer?

Annoying question. As if we’re American high school teenagers returning from 6 week sojourns to Cape Cod, or hilarious hi-jinx stints working at a beach bar in Florida.

How was my summer? I had a toddler and a newborn and my part-time nanny went on holiday for 2 months. HOW DO YOU THINK IT WAS.

Actually I made a stunning discovery as I walked with Sam round and round the deck of a billionaire’s yacht in Sardinia in mid-August (long story): successful women wear sportswear during the day and black when they go out in the evening.

I had been observing the billionaire’s wife, who wore sportswear during the day and black – and only black – in the evenings. I asked her what she would be wearing this autumn (as I pulled my ancient TopShop orange sundress over my massive sweaty escaping bosom) and she said “mostly black. I seem to have about a hundred black sweaters”. And I thought, I bet you do.

So I thought about it more and realised that whenever I admire what some woman or other is wearing, she’s almost always wearing head to toe black. I feel like I shouldn’t do this because it’s too EASY and it’s “BORING”. I think this because Anna Wintour famously hates black and I loved The September Issue. But she is the editor of Vogue and weighs three stone. She lives to wear colour. As do, say, Kate Middleton or the Queen. They have to wear colour so that people can see them.

I do not have to be seen and I do not live to wear colour. I live to not have a nervous breakdown because not only am I still more than a stone overweight I cannot find anything to wear when I have to go out. Answer: BLAAAAAAAAAAACCKKKK. It has made shopping for clothes, which I find a fascinating but ultimately futile exercise, a total doddle: anything as long as it’s black.

And, during the day I will wear sports luxe, i.e. running shoes, nice running capris and a marl sweater. I’m only going to spend the whole day running up and down the stairs, bending over and getting covered in sick and crap anyway. It’s a sort of workout!!! Done. Thanks.

O, the irony, then! that my exercise regime has slightly fallen by the wayside, although not totally. After nearly crippling my knees with my ten-minute runs (I did not warm up or down properly, or have any rest days) I have turned instead to doing a lot of plies in dead moments of the day, i.e. when both children are occupied just enough so I don’t have to do anything, but not so much that I can sit down with the newspaper (or have a nap).

So if Sam is having a think in his bouncer and Kitty is pulling apart whatever brilliant Marble Run I have constructed, I will stand at the kitchen counter and do plies. Sometimes I will throw in some Tracy Anderson arm exercises. My rationale is that there’s not much cardio I can do while gooning about with two kids, but if I can chuck in some leg-and-bum toning, it makes these moments of childcare feel less like a total waste of my time.

Another staggering achievement was that I did not come back from holiday heavier than when I left (though nor am I any lighter). So my morale enables me to continue with my diet, rather than falling into a pit of despair and mini Mars Bars.

I was given a while ago a copy of Marvellous Meals With Mince by Josceline Dimbleby. I promptly lost the book in the black hole of my kitchen but then re-found it the other day and last night made from it a sort of version of her meatloaf.

I have only ever eaten meatloaf once, when I was about seven, and thought it profoundly disgusting. But I have moved on and grown up since then – I have totally and completely decided on what my signature should be, for example – and found this delightful.

It is absolutely up to you what you put in it. The original recipe specified a sort of blue cheese sauce layer running through the meatloaf but I didn’t have any blue cheese. There are so many other changes to this recipe that I can, in fact, declare it as my own.

Esther’s Meatloaf

Serves 2 very hungry people or 4 less hungry with substantial side dishes

500g beef mince
2 handfuls breadcrumbs or medium matzoh meal
1 egg
5 tablespoons of ketchup
1 handful parsley, chopped. maybe some sage if you have it knocking about. Alternatively 1 heaped tsp dried oregano
1 small onion or 1/2 large onion, chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped or grated
1 big pinch of dried mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped (or a large handful of fresh mushrooms – any you like, chopped roughly)
1 tsp of dried chilli flakes (if you like, I thought the slight spiciness was terrific but leave it out if you don’t fancy it)
salt and pepper

Set your oven to 180C

1 Put everything except 2 tbsp of the ketchup in a bowl and get in there with your hands to mix it up. I have vinyl surgical gloves I use for this very purpose – or for when I am handling fresh chillies just before bath time. Season very well with salt and pepper. By that I mean a large pinch of salt and a good fifteen turns of the pepper grinder

2 Butter a 1 kg loaf tin. If you do not have a 1kg loaf tin in your life, do consider buying one. They are very useful for all manner of loaf cakes, bread, meatloaf, pates and things. I use mine all the time.

3 Tip in the mixture and smooth the top. Bake for 1hr.

4 Take out the tin and turn your oven up to as high as it will go. Tip the loaf carefully onto an oven tray and spread with the rest of the ketchup. Put it back into the oven for 10 mins, when the ketchup will be a bit blackened and bubbly.

And that’s it. I’m terribly excited about this. You can add all sorts of exciting flavours to it – CURRY?? – and I can see it as a super mass-catering solution, just double the quantities and have it cold. You could even hide hard boiled eggs inside! Oh my days!! *fans self* *dies* (I’ve got a lot of black clothes you can borrow to wear to my funeral).

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