Monday, March 04, 2013

Mincing Matters...

Thanks to Pam for the one comment as this has nudged me to publish some recipes today using minced meat.

Meatloaf we've always thought to be very traditional to America, and so it is not often made in this country, but I have publlished several recipes before for this (but can't now remember the dates).  Recipes for meatloaf do keep cropping up in magazines over years, mainly made with beef, or beef and pork mince, and once made and the ingredients/method understood, it is easy enough to use almost any minced meat to make up our own meatloaf.

Minced meat usually is the cheapest meat of that type on sale, and the price can vary according to the meat used. In decending order, the most expensive would be minced beef steak, then cheaper cuts of beef minced, down to the cheapest, toughest and fattiest (and don't even think about buying this) minced beef. Cheaper (but good) minced would be lamb, then cheaper still,pork, chicken, with minced turkey being the cheapest.  Having said that, a lot is to do with the cut used, the quality of the meat/poultry, and where it is bought.  The above is just a guide and it's worth mentioning - (especially with the current problem with 'what's been added to our mince?'), that it is usually cheaper to buy the meat in a piece from our local butcher (cheaper still if a supermarket reduces the price of 'fresh' at the end of the day?), and mince it ourselves.

Most meatloaves are baked (obviously) in a loaf tin, but they can also be cooked in rolled form as with these first two recipes.  If you wish, omit the bacon 'wrapping' from the first, and just cook the 'filling' in a loaf tin for the given time.  
At one time veal was eaten regularly in the UK, but due to the dislike of killing and eating the very young cattle (plus the conditions of transport etc at the time), this meat has lost favour, but is now being brought back into circulation as we now - in this country - farm 'pink veal' (is that the name, if not someone please tell me?), that is more 'teenage' cattle than the calves killed before.  Think they are now a year old before being slaughtered.
Anyone who still prefers not to eat veal, then use all pork or substitute some chicken for the veal in this recipe.  Omit the bacon if using a loaf tin - OR line the tin with the bacon, and when cooked remove from the tin and return to the oven for a few minutes to crisp up the bacon.
Pork and Veal Meatloaf: serves 4 - 6
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) celery, finely chopped
5 oz (150g) crisp green apple, peeled and grated
9 oz (250g) minced pork
9 oz (250g) minced veal
3 oz (75g) stale breadcrumbs
1 tblsp chopped fresh sage
1 egg
salt and pepper
10 rashers of streaky bacon (see above)
2 tblsp apple or redcurrant jelly, warmed
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion and celery for a few minutes until softened, stirring in the garlic for the final minute.  Add the apple and stir-fry gently until all the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Put both minced meats into a bowl with the breadcrumbs, sage, and egg and begin mixing together with a fork, then add the cooled onion mixture, and then get the (clean) hands in and work the lot together until well combined, adding seasoning to taste (if using bacon, salt and just season with pepper).
Place a sheet of clingfilm on a flat surface, and put the meat mixture down the centre and use the clingfilm to wrap this into a roll about 3" x 9" (8 x 24cm), then remove the clingfilm.  Wrap the bacon around the 'meat roll' and place on a greased oven tray, brushing with half the chosen jelly. Roast, uncovered, for about 45 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until cooked through, brushing halfway through with the remaining jelly.  (If choosing to bake in a loaf tin allow an hour cooking time plus any extra to crisp up bacon if used).  Served sliced, with mustard if wished.

Next recipe for 'meatloaf' is again a 'roulade', but this time intended to be cooked in a microwave. No reason why it couldn't be cooked in the oven, as the above, and in a loaf tin if you wish. It will need longer cooking time when cooked in a conventional oven, so just use the above recipe temps and times, making sure (as always) the dish is cooked through.
Lamb Roulade: serves 4 - 6
1 lb (500g) minced lamb
1 egg, beaten
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and pepper
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
Put the lamb, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, and lemon zest in a bowl, add seasoning to taste, and - using clean hands - mix well together.  In another bowl mix the filling ingredients together, also adding seasoning to taste.
Take a piece of baking parchment (or non-stick paper) 13" 9" (33 x 23cm) and place the meat mixture on top and spread evenly, leaving an inch (2.5cm) border all round, then - reserving 2 tablespoons - spread the remaining filling mixture evenly over the meat, leaving a small edge of meat all round.
Carefully roll up like a Swiss roll, using the paper as 'helper'. then transfer  to a microwave dish (removing the paper) and place the reserved filling along the top of the meat 'roulade'. Cook on HIGH for 10 minutes, turning the dish halfway through cooking.  Remove from oven and cover dish in foil and leave to stand for 10 minutes before cutting into slices and serving..

Next recipe is a cross between a spag bol and a lasagne, but more interesting than either.  Not the cheapest version, but as a worthy offering to guests, so think we can allow ourselves the luxury of spending a few pence more (as the dish would probably be less expensive that another 'posh nosh' meal).
The advantage of this dish is that it can be prepared a day ahead, and kept covered in the fridge (also suitable to freeze, thaw before cooking).
Pastitsio: serves 6
9 oz (250g) macaroni or pasta penne
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 tblsp stale breadcrumbs
meat sauce:
1 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1lb 8oz (750g) minced beef
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
4 oz (100g) tomato paste (1 small can)
5 fl oz (150ml) beef stock
2 fl oz (50ml) red or white wine
half tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
4 oz (100g) butter
3 oz (75g) plain flour
1.75 pints (1 ltr) milk
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
Cook the macaroni as per packet instructions and when just tender (it will be cooked more after assembling the dish, so needs to be only 'just' tender at this point), drain, then put into a bowl and mix in the eggs and cheese.  Tip into a greased, shallow large 5 pt (2.5ltr) ovenproof dish and press down to level the surface.
Make the meat sauce by heating the oil in a large frying pan and cooking the onions until softened. Add the mince, and stir-fry until the mince has changed colour, then stir in the canned tomatoes, the tomato paste, stock, wine and cinnamon, then simmer - uncovered - until thick.  Cool for 10 minutes before stirring in the egg. 
Meanwhile make the cheese topping by melting the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and stir until bubbling.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in most of the milk, then return to heat and cook until the sauce boils and thickens, adding remaining milk if it is too thick. Then stir in the cheese.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes before folding in the egg yolks. 
To assemble the dish:  top the pasta (already waiting in the dish) with the meat sauce, then pour over the cheese topping.  Level the surface and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered, at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about an hour or until golden brown.  Stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This next dish can be served either lightly spiced (as per recipe) or given added 'heat' with the addition of curry powder (or curry paste) this being stirred into the onions/beef before continuing with the remaining method.  Without the extra curry flavouring, and using half (or even less) the given amount of beef, this would make a good accompaniment to a chunky vegetarian curry instead of serving with the normal boiled rice.  Made up as given, eat this as a dish in its own right.
Golden Beef Rice: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb (450g) minced beef (or less - see above)
8 oz (225g) long-grain rice
2 tsp turmeric
1 pint beef stock
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds
3 oz (75g) sultanas
3 oz (75g) frozen peas
4 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and sliced
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until softened, then add the meat and stir-fry for a few minutes until browned.  Stir in the rice and turmeric, fry for a further minute, then add the stock. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally.  Add the almonds, sultanas and peas, and continue cooking for 10 minutes, again giving a stir now and then, tucking in the tomatoes for the final minute (they look better if they are still fairly firm).  Serve hot with salad (or - if using less meat) serve with a vegetable curry.

Was able last night to watch the repeat of 'Food and Drink' that I had missed the first time round. As ever, delighting in the enthusiasm of Michel Roux, and how good to hear that he is not too proud a Michelin chef to use tomato ketchup, and enjoys eating custard made with (shock, horror) custard powder. 
Although called by its French name, the 'Floating Island' dessert he demonstrated was almost exactly the same (but without the caramel drizzle) that I cooked on 'Bazaar' some many years back. So perhaps, adding the caramel, this would now make another 'posh nosh' dish to serve to guests.  Myself used to poach the meringues in milk, before using this to make the custard, but they can be poached in water (as shown my M.Roux), as they end up exactly the same.

Religion and food seems to go together, some not according to the faith, and although understanding the why's and wherefores of 'forbidden foods' am still surprised when I see a TV cook (whose religion is known - and often mentioned) serve AND eat food that I would have expected they would never touch. 
Anyone who remembers the old 'Food and Drink' (with Michael Barry and Gilly Goolden) might recall that at no time did Michael Barry cook pork.  When being included with 'the team' for photo session for a Radio Times Christmas culinary supplement, I asked why pork dishes were never  demonstrated.  This was because Michael was a Muslim.  In fact in 'real-life' noticed his skin was fairly dark, and appeared much lighter due to TV lighting, make-up etc.  
Not sure why, maybe due to religious regions (I was to stand at his side holding a glass of wine), even though he was there, Michael had his photo taken separately, this then 'edited' into the final picture where there was no 'join' to show he was not - at the time - actually part of our group.
I still have the picture/supplement, although - due to its great age - rather faded.

Yesterday the Barefoot Contessa was making (and tasting) a dish containing prawns and other shell fish (for her, being Jewish, 'banned' foods). But then Nigella (also Jewish) eats pork (and prawns), so am wondering if her husband does also, he being Arabic.
Cheff Duff loves eating pork, as does Alan Richman (again both Jewish).  With their great love of food and cooking, perhaps not unusual for many TV cooks to be of this faith, and all power to their elbow.
Perhaps religious laws relating to these 'banned foods' have been relaxed.  Or is it that people now believe they have freedom to eat what they wish without expecting to be turned away from the gates of Heaven? Well, we're all a bit like this I suppose, for whatever religion we are, there are not many who stick ridgedly to the rules these days.  So perhaps time for me to relax my belief that when people are proud to tell others their faith, they are hypocrites when they fall by the foodie wayside.  Are there Mormon's who do drink tea/coffee/Coke?  Some Muslims I know drink beer and maybe also wine.  Orthodox Jews that I have know personally have told me they eat bacon because they don't consider this to be part of a pig, and even if they did, they just love eating crispy bacon so much they will give any excuse to eat it).

As a Protestant Christian myself (originally, but still trying to find the 'true' faith, so 'in name only'), am grateful that we have no banned foods that I can recall (although others - such as the Methodists - ban the drinking of wine or spirits I believe), and unlike the Roman Catholics who have other (non-food) forbidden acts, all I need to do is try to keep to the Ten Commandments (and not even able to keep to all of those if truthful, but I do try).  I nearly joined the Mormons, but not happy at all at having to give up tea or coffee (why should I?), and so dug my toes in and declined their offer of baptism and moved on to another faith in the hope I'd find the 'true one' (never have done yet). Does that make me too stubborn for my own good, and the only right way has to be MY way?

Yet - again like most people who have 'lapsed' and even those who are atheists, myself am happy to join in and keep the main 'religious days' (in my faith: Lent, Easter, Christmas, etc... perhaps more for the celebrations and food, remembering only the reasons why, and not attending church services), and - at the drop of a hat - would gleefully join in celebrating the Hindu Diwali (all that lovely food!). My one wish is to go to Leicester when the Diwali celebrations are held (lasts about a month from end of November to almost Christmas), and said to be the best in the world.  Even people who live in India come over to Leicester to celebrate this.
Perhaps sitting down to eat good food together could help warring faiths think more kindly of each other.  We should have respect for each other anyway.  Trying to persuade (and even force) people to believe in something they really don't wish to, to me feels more like the devil is behind the coercion.  Certainly no 'force' stems from anything good.  Or is it me again wanting everything MY way, and not wishing to conform to other and better ways whether 'forced' or gently persuaded?

Back to more earthly (or even universal) thoughts.  Watched an interesting programme last night on Channel 4 about the recent meteor that exploded in Russia on the 15th of Feb.  A similar programme shown on BBC 2 also yesterday evening, so the repeat of this I'll be watching tonight.  It's amazing how small an object can cause such devastation, especially when it explodes in the air before actually reaching the ground.  Thank goodness the impact was in a fairly remote area, and the meteor (or the final bits of it) didn't land in a built up area.  Suppose if a similar size meteor landed in the sea, it would cause a huge tidal wave (tsunami). 

I cannot for the life of me remember what day it is today, all because our visitors came mid-week last week when normally they would be here at a weekend.  So my week has gone topsy-turvey.  After giving it much thought believe today is Monday (although it feels as though it should be Friday), so had better make sure before I plan what to do the rest of this week (which will turn out to be longer than expected). 
The weather is still being good, slightly overcast at the moment, but the sun managing to filter through, a slight breeze, and still no rain so hopefully these few rain-free weeks have given the ground time to soak up some of the ground water that was lying around.  Maybe, this could mean the ground would soon be in good condition to plant many arable crops, and we end up with plenty to harvest.  But as ever, we have to wait and see.

As the comp is behaving perfectly now it is left on 'stand-by', this means I come to sit at the comp without any frustrated waiting for it to 'warm up' (and this has taken up to 45 minutes before I can get onto every 'page' I need).  So I start the day with a much lighter spirit, and already looking forward to returning for another 'chat' with you tomorrow.  Hope to see you then.