Meat loaf should take me back to my childhood years but it’s not really a part of Maltese cuisine- unless you sort of stretch Bragoli as a kind of unctuous meat loafy thing-(Beef olives in Maltese they’re called Bragoli)
But when I started to develop recipes while working on cook books and television for the manufacturing industry, no book passed the editorial team without at least one, and preferably two meatloaf recipes (yeah ok. it was the seventies and eighties last century after all….).
My time at National Panasonic and Sharp in particular gave me the opportunity to develop so many really interesting variations on traditional comfort food, reconfigured to suit microwave cooking. The film crews favourite was a saucy meatloaf simmered in a thick tomato-y Bar-b-acuey sauce that resulted in the tastiest loaf and it never lasted long. When Josh was little I used to make meatloaf cooked in a sauce of homemade tomato, maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce spread on top of the loaf while it was cooking to give it an extra touch of sweet and salty taste, especially good cold for sandwiches the next day. Remember Joshie?
So,after a post on Facebook, I had a lot of requests for my recipe. so here it is.
I would love to say that this recipe originated generations ago in my family; however, if it did, it would contain ingredients such as flour and bread-crumbs, things not suitable for my health and my new found focus on a Paleo lifestyle.
For the meatloaf, the two bad ingredients that are in there are usually gluten in the form of bread crumbs and any commercial bottled tomato sauce or ketchup. It’s not great to just leave the breadcrumbs out because it really changes the texture of meatloaf for the worse, especially if you then cook it in a microwave. So what I do is substitute minced mushrooms and some other small amount of moist vegetable-minced zucchini, minced carrot or additional onions for the breadcrumbs.
To get a nice sweet tomato topping without using a commercial sauce, use one small can of crushed tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and simmer it on the stove until it thickens up or use a good quality passata. Of course you can make a great fresh tomato and red capsicum salsa from scratch too. This way you get the great tomato smokey taste, but with fewer empty carbohydrates and more nutrition.
The challenge is finding ingredient(s) that can be used as the bonding agent for the loaf. In traditional recipes, these ingredients would most commonly be flour and eggs. As we know, there are many healthy substitutes to wheat flour that we could use successfully like almond flour for example; however, I know that some of my friends struggle with nut allergies as well, so in that case I suggest you omit the binding agents altogether and substitute finely minced mushrooms.
I dont stress about the egg at all- but if you need to omit eggs, this recipie can cope because you’ve added in the extra moisture in the form of the finely minced mushroom and vegies. You may be surprised how successful and very tasty this is.
If you can add an egg so much the better to hold it together, and the result is a delicious and juicy meat loaf.
Worcestershire sauce often contains some soy sauce and honey is high in fructose, but the amount used is small enough not to be an issue. If you’d prefer to stay away from those two items however or if you just don’t have them handy in your kitchen, feel free to only use some homemade tomato sauce or other tomato based sauce to spread on the loaf for an equally pleasing result.
The whole point with this paleo thing is to just relax and enjoy- be aware of what you’re eating, but it’s not about slavishly following some strict guidelines every single mouthful- not for me any way.
The question to ask yourself is would my grandmother have eaten this? (or is it a post war abomination distilled in a laboratory by Nestle, masquerading as food?)
And using grass fed pastured animals that we’ve raised ourselves makes this humble economical mince meal a real treat.
- 1 Kilo ground beef (grass fed Dexter beef of course-I prefer the flavour of half pork mince and half beef mince- and we farm both so…..);
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt;
- 1 tsp ground black pepper;
- 1 egg;
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped;
- 2 cups white button mushrooms, very finely chopped (or substitute half a cup of finely ground almonds);
- Half a cup of other finely grated moist vegetable (carrots, zucchini, sweet potato, cauliflower)
- 1 very finely chopped mild chili ( or not- I like to substitute a generous teaspoon of dried McCORMICK Bush Spices- my favourite ‘commercial’ spice at the moment);
- 3 tsp fresh herbs of your choice (I prefer parsley but you can use the leaves only of thyme, oregano or coriander finely chopped);
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped;
- ½ cup tomato sauce as described above;
- 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup or raw sugar, optional;
- ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce, optional;
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tbsp cooking fat*
- Preheat your oven to medium hot (175 C /350 F).
- In a medium sized skillet placed over a medium heat, melt the cooking fat, add the mushrooms and onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft but not coloured.
- In a large bowl, combine the meat, salt, pepper, egg, onion, mushrooms, herbs, garlic and nut flour if used. Mix well, making sure to break-up the meat. Add the cooked mushrooms as well. It’s very important that the mushrooms are evenly distributed to ensure the loaf bonds well.
- Lightly grease a suitable sized pan (a loaf pan is easy) with additional cooking fat and fill it with the shaped meat mixture. Place in the hot oven and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes. (The loaf should start to shrink up and any excess fat or moisture will drain into the dish)
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, stock, sweetener and Worcestershire sauce to make the sauce for the top of the meatloaf.
- After cooking for 15 minutes, drain the collected fat from the loaf if required, then pour the sauce on the top of the loaf.
- Continue cooking for another 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when tested with a skewer.
Ok a note about the fat. I always always cooked with either butter or virgin cold pressed olive oil or a combination of butter and olive oil. But Rebecca has switched me onto coconut oil. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat which makes it really stable under heat and solid at room temperature. If you buy the virgin coconut oil, it well leave a great yet subtle coconut taste and smell to your dishes. The taste is something I like in almost any situation except cooking eggs, where I prefer cooking with pure home rendered leaf lard or butter.
You’ve probably realised by now that I don’t believe that good fats make you fat and that saturated fats are in the good fat category.
In fact, fats make you happy, and their absorption by our bodies is way more complex than you imagine. Coconut oils main fatty acid content comes from Lauric acid (47% to be more precise). Lauric acid is a rare fatty acid that is a medium chain fatty-acid, which is supposed to be the easiest fatty acid to digest. Lauric acid also has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
It’s really hard to find Virgin Coconut oil in country Australia-(try Costco- OMG I just said Costco….) let alone Malta or other places- so for the amount of greasing you are doing here- don’t stress. A light smear of oil is fine- once the meat has its first cooking the loaf shrinks back and you can drain off any fat that’s accumulated and it won’t need to much else. The sauce will bake on -no matter what you do anyway.
what you are trying to avoid is using any vegetable oil high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and Omega-6, they’re the ones that will end up killing you! Example of those include corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil. and the myth of oil high smoking points is moot- once a hydrogenated oil had begaun smoking its already very bad for you…. Even olive oil overheated breaks up into compounds you don’t want to know about. If this subject is all new to you, I suggest you read this great article on the importance of fats.
To convert this to microwave (1000w oven). Cook shaped loaf in glass loaf dish on medium-high 10 minutes , drain, top with sauce ingredients and continue cooking covered on medium 30- 40 minutes or till firm. Stand covered 20 minutes before serving with reduced sauce over.