When I came back from my six-month stint in Zanzibar I needed a cheap and reliable car so my brother took me to his car dealer’s place in Kilmarnock. I got a lovely 7 year old sunshine-blue Citroen C3 with 12,000 miles on the clock for £3,000. That was less than five years ago and I drove it very happily for three years. Now I go back to the same dealer, Alan, whenever I need to talk car.
However there was an unexpected bonus to my customer loyalty when Alan told me he’d been a butcher in a former life. He still makes his own meat loaf, and willingly gave me the recipe. I have cooked it several times (and so has my brother) and it turns out great every time. As you will see, it’s very straightforward and lends itself to variations in flavouring, seasoning, even meat type; and also, if you fancy, some veggie additions (I usually add a grated carrot or courgette or a finely chopped onion). I’ve made it for my Oldies several times and it goes down very well with them – since it hails from an age of thrift and skill and appreciation of proper food. Alan says he found an old-fashioned meat loaf mould (basically, a tall tin cylinder) for maximum authenticity but I just use a loaf tin.
ALAN’S MEAT LOAF
“It’s easy,” he says, “just five ingredients to remember: a pound of best steak mince, half a pound of smoked streaky bacon, an egg, half a packet of cream crackers crushed up, and a good skoosh of broon sauce. Mush it all up, bung it in a tin, and bake it.”
For readers further afield, ‘broon sauce’ is a Scottish staple, sort of fruity, spicy and vinegary, the most famous brand being HP. But I wouldn’t worry too much about getting the exact ingredient – I’m guessing any relish-type thing would do. ‘A good skoosh’ – well, it’s up to you. I don’t measure it but I think I probably put in a couple of tablespoons.
‘Half a packet’ of cream crackers is similarly vague as packets come in different sizes. I use standard size. Again, I don’t think it matters too much – you want to get all your ingredients into a big bowl and mush it up with your hands, and you’re aiming for a good firm mixture that you can easily form into a loaf shape. The crackers of course help the meat stretch further and they give it a nice texture. Make sure you pulverise them sufficiently before you add the meat because recognisable shards of cream cracker aren’t especially appealing.
Line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper, pat your mixture in, lay another piece of paper on top, then wrap the whole tin in tinfoil. Put it in a roasting tin half full of boiling water, and bake at 170 (fan oven) for about an hour and three quarters to two hours. It slices better if you leave it till the next day. Keep any juices/jelly as it comes out of the tin and use them to make gravy, if you like it that way, and serve with mash and some simple veggies. Leftovers are nice served cold with a bit of pickle and some crusty bread.