Sunday, 19 December 2010

Thoughts on comfort food and the making of meatloaf!

While we get excited about the miraculous creations and combinations of the great chefs, when it comes down to reminiscing about food our thoughts don’t turn to great restaurant meals but to those cheap supper dishes mum used to make. I could tell you about a recipe for “hostess supper” that came off the side of a macaroni packet or of ‘spaghetti muck’ a dish of cheese and tomato pasta. These dishes speak of more than taste – although they do taste great. The remind us of family, home, comfort and safety, of those lost days when we were young, happy and pretty carefree.

And it’s not just me who feels this way – I’ve joked often and found agreement that nursery food and food you eat with your hands is the best. We don’t turn to fancy dishes when we’re down but to pizza, to stews, to casseroles and to curry. Frankly we’d rather an egg sarnie or tomatoes on toast. Here’s Antonio Carluccio talking about his mum’s meatloaf:

“I distinctly remember the tremendous satisfaction with which this dish used to appease our appetites when my brothers and I were young. It had two advantages: the sauce in which it was cooked provided an excellent dressing for the pasta which was served up as a first course. Then the meatloaf – cut into slices – appeared as a tasty main course accompanies by peas with ham.”

Your mouth’s watering isn’t it? And you’re thinking of that special dish – whatever it may be! I’ve been making Carluccio’s meatloaf for so long now it has become something of a family special. And how flexible can you get – not just that great tomato sauce but a loaf you can serve hot on a cold winter’s evening or cold with salad in the sunshine of a Summer garden party!

For the meatloaf:

2lb Minced beef
6oz Bread crumbs made from stale bread
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
2 oz freshly grated parmesan
Salt and black pepper
4 eggs (maybe fewer)
Oil for frying

For the sauce:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
1 Clove garlic
2 cans tomatoes
10 fresh basil leaves
Salt & black pepper

In a large bowl mix the beef, breadcrumbs, parsley and parmesan thoroughly. Add seasoning. Beat the eggs lightly and add to the mixture which should stick together so you can form it into a large oval loaf – a bit like a bread bloomer. In my experience you seldom need all four eggs – the amount depends on how damp the mince is and how dry the breadcrumbs are. I add one egg at a time until the mixture is sticky enough to form a loaf. It’s always an idea to have some extra breadcrumbs to hand in case the mixture gets too sloppy!

In a heavy casserole heat the oil and fry the loaf until it is golden-brown on the outside – take care turning it to avoid it breaking! Set this aside to make the tomato sauce.

In a separate pan, fry the onion and garlic and then add the tomatoes. Cook for 5-10 minutes breaking up the tomatoes and then season and add the basil. Pour this sauce over the meatloaf in the casserole and bring back to the boil. Turn the heat right down and simmer for an hour – it’s best to turn the loaf occasionally during this process to ensure it’s evenly cooked and doesn’t stick. It the sauce is a bit thin, take the lid off the pan for the last 15 minutes to thicken it. Alternatively, the casserole can be cooked in a moderately hot oven for about an hour. There’s no need to turn the meatloaf if it’s cooked this way but you may have to reduce the sauce a little after removing the loaf!

Serve the tomato sauce with good short pasta as a first course Italian-style followed by the loaf – either with peas and ham or any other vegetable! Or refrigerate the loaf and have cold for a great lunch with pickles and salad!



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long ago, I ran riverside tea rooms and boat hire.
Trying to think up a children's menu, I put down 'marmite soldiers' and 'ghastly green jelly and ice cream'.
Both were a rip roaring success - with adults.......