I have always associated meatloaf with American diners that are known for serving comfort food. In fact, I had my first meatloaf from a diner when I was in high school in the States. I had a thick slice of meatloaf, served with mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy and banana milkshake to wash it all down (calories be darned!).
When I went to university back in the UK, I made my first meatloaf by importing a fairly traditional American recipe (the one that's topped with tomato sauce or ketchup). But I suppose each family would have their own variations to make meatloaf. Just to be clear, I don't personally know Ed. Nigella managed to extract this recipe from her friend's mother.
Last night I invited my friends Mark and Anna, two of my favourite people to feed, for a meatloaf dinner and we all agreed this meatloaf was absolutely delicious. Meatloaf is mostly minced meat, so I think it's important to get good, freshly minced meat from the butcher. Pre-minced meat from the supermarket tends to be dry which gives a crumbly texture to the meatloaf, making it harder to slice.
The mince is simply seasoned with salt and Worcestershire sauce, along with an egg and fresh breadcrumbs to bind the mixture. Cooled, slowly cooked onions in duck fat (yes, duck fat) are then added which gives such beautiful flavours to the meatloaf.
Three hard-boiled eggs are placed inside the meatloaf before wrapping the meatloaf securely with streaky bacon. Now, you know why this meatloaf is so good!
Please don't be alarmed. Yes, indeed there's duck fat, the fat from the mince itself and bacon in this meatloaf. But this is meant to be comforting and I wouldn't eat this every day. I could but shouldn't.
I sliced the meatloaf rather generously so that every one gets some egg. I served the meatloaf with baked potatoes, sour cream and chives, steamed sugar snap peas and however untraditional, but necessary, English mustard. Gravy wise, I don't think it's needed here as the meatloaf is so moist, but if you must have gravy with your meatloaf, do make your favourite gravy.
For pudding, we went back to east side of the Atlantic and had strawberry and almond crumble. This is like the winter version of the luscious summer favourites, strawberries and cream. Just think: plump strawberries, top them with vanilla, almondy, buttery crumble and bake in the oven until the berries bursts with pink-red juices.
Nigella says serving this crumble with lashings of cream is obligatory, not optional. Well, I've gotta do what Nigella says.
Strawberry and Almond Crumble
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 6 (in theory; in practise just me, Mark and Anna)
500 g strawberries, hulled
50 g caster sugar
25 ground almonds
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
for the topping:
110 g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
75 g cold butter, diced
100 g toasted flaked almonds
75 g demerara sugar
well chilled double cream, to serve
1 x oven-proof pie dish approx. 21 cm diameter x 4 cm deep
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the hulled strawberries into your pie dish and sprinkle over the ground almonds, caster sugar and vanilla.
For the crumble topping, put the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and rub in the cold butter with your fingers until they resemble rough, pale oatmeal. Stir in the flaked almonds, and sugar with fork.
Tip this over the strawberry mixture in an even layer and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, by which the crumble topping will have darkened to a pale gold and some pink-red juices will be seeping and bubbling out at the edges.
Leave to stand for ten minutes before serving, and be sure to put a jug of chilled double cream on the table alongside.
P.S. Back to the meatloaf, make sure you leave yourself one piece for leftover meatloaf sandwich for lunch the next day.