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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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Prison-Style Meatloaf – How to Stretch Your Meat Further

The main point of this prison-style meatloaf video is to show you what happens when you make meatloaf like your grandparents did. And no, I’m not accusing your relatives of spending time in the joint. During the Great Depression this type of dish was a popular strategy for stretching what little meat you had, into as filling a meal as possible.


As times got better, people went back to meatier versions, and now only low-budget, high-volume food service operations feature this culinary dinosaur. I did an Italian meatball-inspired version, which was quite nice, but this method will work with virtually any meatloaf recipe.

Most modern meatloaves call for about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dry crumbs per two pounds of meat, and here we’re using 1 1/2 cups. It makes a significant difference in the texture, producing something much softer and moister. While not as “meaty,” this does make for an interesting alternative to play around with. I’m looking at you, family of 10.


As I say in the video, I decided to spike my tomato sauce with too much balsamic vinegar, which rendered it not great. So, if you’re going to follow this recipe, just use a regular pasta sauce, or your favorite meatloaf glaze. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 1 giant meatloaf (about 10 large portions):
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground chuck
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (about a packed 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 cups very dry white bread crumbs (not toasted!)
1 1/2 cups milk to soak (squeeze out excess)
3 or 4 cups of tomato sauce to bake in, optional

Date bread

If this looks familiar, it’s because it is almost identical in every way to a Banana Bread For Dory (q.v.) but it uses dates instead of bananas.

I wanted to try this out because my friend Becky B brought over a sticky date cake the other day and it reminded me of the packet of dates in the larder I had been meaning to use to make a sticky toffee pudding, but have never quite found the excuse for.

It’s also because I do LOVE that banana bread recipe but quite often don’t find I have quite the right number of overripe bananas to justify it. So I wondered if it was possible with dates. And it is! It is still a sort of date bread, rather than a cake, because it’s not especially sweet, which I think is a good thing. You could definitely spread this with butter, for example. Like all cakey/breads that are not a sponge, this keeps very well in tupperware for a few days.

Becky B did a terribly clever thing with HER date cake, which was to soak it, in the manner of a lemon drizzle cake, with a caramel sauce that she bought from Waitrose – it was Bonne Maman, she said: “Confiture de Caramel”. She thinned it with some hot water, pricked the cake all over with a skewer and then went MAD with the sauce. It was really, really fab. My mother always says that things that other people have made for you are always more delicious than something you have made yourself, but still – Becky B is a terrific cook.

You can also make your own caramel sauce if you are that sort of person – there is a recipe somewhere on here, have a rummage.

So here we go

Date bread

150 veg oil
200g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
250g dates
75g natural yoghurt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
225g wholemeal spelt flour (get it from Waitrose)
2 tbs caster sugar or cane sugar

1 Pre-heat your oven to 170C and butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it (YES you must do this, don’t be lazy) and line a baking sheet, too.

1 In a bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs

2 Chop up the dates roughly then put them in a bowl and pour over boiling water to just cover them. Leave them to soak for 20 mins then drain them and sort of gently mash them through the sieve to get out most of the water.

3 Add the youghurt to the dates and mix together. Sprinkle over the bicarb of soda, baking powder, and salt and stir again.

4 Mix the date mixture and the sugar/egg mixture together. Then sprinkle over the flour and stir until things are only just combined. Over-mixing is disastrous here so stop as soon as you can’t see any more flour. Spoon the batter into your smugly-lined tin.

5 Sprinkle some sugar – caster, cane or granulated -down the spine of the loaf and then put in the oven.

7 Bake for 45-50 mins.

HOW is Kitty, people say to me. How is she, how is she? I don’t talk about her that much any more because she is just off my hands. She turns two in February but she has been off since she turned 18 months old and could walk, talk, ask for things, watch tv, sit and draw or look at her books, play imaginary games with her stuffed animals, scoot around the kitchen on her little trike and so on. She is an actual person these days and it’s such a relief, I can’t tell you.

When I look back on some of the darker things I wrote when she was small I feel awful, so guilty. But it must have been bad for me to write those things, it must have been like that. She’s now this little chattering pixie, everyone wants a piece of her, everyone wants a smile and to hear her squeak “I’m knackered!” – her first party trick.

I used to dread her waking up in the night – the thought of it made me feel actually sick with anxiety. Now sometimes I wake in the night and hope that she might wake, too and need me. But she never does.

Here is a picture of Kitty with her bunny, her hair a bit wild from her nap. Note how she is gripping the bunny quite hard round the neck – I think she is trying to get him to tell her where the chocolate is. I can get pictures printed on t-shirts, mugs, bags and mousemats for a small fee if anyone is interested?

Though I can see the benefits of babies, I suppose. They are not constantly after your iPad and whatever it is that you are eating. And they don’t have a massive fucking tantrum when you try to stop them from doing incredibly dangerous things.

 

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