Tag Archives: Cook

Second-Hand Car Dealer’s Meat Loaf

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.

The-Secrets-of-Selling-Like-a-Skeazy-Slimy-Used-Car-SalesmanHowever 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.


“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.

500 Mile Challenge

After yesterday’s excitement it’s back to the drawing board …

Big Dinner cheery

Three of us are organising a Big Dinner on Sat 14th March to raise funds for the above project, which is aiming to raise half a million pounds for aids to enable amputees in Africa to walk again. As the slogan goes, ‘as you sit down to dinner in Scotland, someone in Africa will be standing up to walk’. Our event is a week later than most of the dinners, which will be taking place tomorrow night, because the bottlewasher and I are working elsewhere. I’m hoping our little event will raise £150. I’ll be back with the full story of how it went, and some good pictures – and if anybody else reading this is hosting or attending a Big Dinner – then bon appetit! and have a good one.

Win some, lose some …

Parsnip Weekend (see my last post) was fun but the results were mixed. The Tatin had a good flavour – very good in fact – but the pastry wasn’t the right type, I felt, and the portions had been overestimated. Or maybe it’s just that my friends and I like to eat more than had been set out for us! So I’m going to experiment with different kinds of pastry and will get back to you with a revised recipe.iPhoto Library

The cake – well – it had a good texture but was a bit dull. The only tasty thing was the hazelnut topping, which I must say was lovely; but I don’t think I’ll make the cake again. It’s not as moist as carrot cake, which is the obvious comparison.

The soup was great – spicy and tasty and warming. I used parsnips and a potato, onions and garlic, chilli and ginger, and a grating of orange zest. And chicken stock from the freezer, but it would have been just as good with vegetarian stock cubes I’m sure, if that’s what you prefer.

And now I’m into the Christmas preps. Cranberry, orange and port sauce made, following Delia Smith‘s classic recipe. Also her Chocolate Truffle Torte (both from the 1994 edition of her Christmas book). White bread crumbed and frozen for bread sauce on the day. FriendP1010681 Vera doing turkey and trimmings; friend Joseph doing starters. I’m on veggies, sides and puddings, and a surprise late requirement – a veggie alternative for Vera’s son’s girlfriend. So I’ve been perusing my nut loaf recipes and adapting one to suit her likes and dislikes. Joseph suggested Asda mini vegetable rissoles, and was confined to barracks in disgrace! No, Joseph, this nut loaf needs to be as nice for our new veggie friend as the free-range turkey will be for the rest of us …

The photo represents something of a starting point, but sadly my kitchen table right now is nothing like as clean and orderly as this. It’s all stacked up with recipe books and things torn out of magazines and half-written Christmas cards and sellotape and empty mugs and a de-fleaing kit for cats …

Apocalypse Averted

Well my lemon and coconut cake didn’t seem to kill anybody. It was widely described as ‘moist’, but in all truth I found it a bit greasy.  And the lack of sugar may have been worthy but it wasn’t what I’d call delicious. Which seems a shame – just as I thought I was teaching my taste buds to eschew the rooth-rot stuff.

I had a very quiet birthday yesterday, occasioned by, I’m sorry to say, more of the tooth-rot. An emergency extraction, to be precise. So I had to cancel my plans and slope around the house in my pyjamas and slippers (direct link between pyjamas and toothache/brain receptors). I made a pot of egg and lemon soup – Avoglemono P1010583according to Claudia Roden – and it was absolutely fabulous and very restoring. It’s one of those things I’ve been intending to make for years. The egg and lemon mix thickens the broth – and how! I was amazed at how rich and creamy it all went, almost instantly, and with no hint of curdling. And the taste was great – sharp and fresh but very comforting. So that’s a definite new addition to my repertoire. I urge you to try it, it’s very easy. I used the instructions in my Claudia Roden Mediterranean Cookery book, but here’s a different link – it’s all the same process. (See the nice pepper mill in the picture? That’s my birthday present from my friend Grace. It has a lifetime guarantee so here’s hoping.)

I also made a coffee and walnut cake last night. I’m brushing up myP1010586 baking because I have just started a wee, part-time, occasional job cooking for four old guys in a very sheltered housing complex. I don’t know if they’ll like coffee and walnut cake – might get stuck in their teeth – but it’s all just variations on a theme. This one is going with me to  Jess’s – she, Shirley and I going for our regular-as-broken-clockwork Thursday swim. Of course we need cake afterwards and so far we all have sufficient teeth to do the job. And in case you think I’ve deserted the literary world for food food food, we’ll also be looking at the Edinburgh Fringe programme to identify a few good events. More of that later.

Who loves Cabbage?


I remember brutal exchanges with my mother over the eating of cabbage, when I was maybe nine years old.  It was a power struggle to the death (or bedtime, which always came first).  I thought I would never learn to love cabbage, but I was wrong.

Many years ago in Paris I had an evening meal, alone, at a little restaurant off the main drag, somewhere north of centre.  What always strikes me about restaurants in France is that waiting at tables is seen as a respectable profession, with mature, knowledgeable, and capable people at your service.  On this occasion I was trying to decipher the menu and needed to know the meaning of a certain word.  My waitress was short, dark, aged and wiry, and when I asked her for a translation, she unhesitatingly pulled up her skirt and made a stabbing gesture towards her knee – ‘genou!  Madame, c’est genou!’  So I figured out the dish I was interested in contained pigs’ knees, otherwise known as pork knuckle.  I went on and ordered the choucroute garni and it was a feast in every way – a huge plateful and utterly delicious.  Choucroute is pickled cabbage, probably better known as sauerkraut.  The French serve it with several different kinds of pig meat – the pork knuckle but also some bits of bacon and lean ham and sausage.  The sweetness of the meat offsets the sharpness of the choucroute.  It’s a substantial and economical meal, and like so many dishes born of thrift, a delight.

I have often wondered about making sauerkraut from scratch but it seems to be a bit of a palaver.  The quantities recommended in the recipes I’ve seen are huge, and of course since it’s basically a preserving method, that makes sense.  But nowadays when I’m usually cooking for one, it seems a bit excessive.

However I was given a lovely book for my birthday recently – Elizabeth David on Veg – and she provides a lovely little recipe on a domestic scale for something which to my mind captures the unctuous yet piquant combination of pickled cabbage and ham.  My oldest (as in, longest) friend was visiting me on Saturday and she it was who gifted me the book.  So I cooked up the recipe, which involved Savoy cabbage, butter, cream, a splash of wine vinegar, nutmeg and pepper.  (Yes I know, butter and cream – all I can say is I substituted half-fat creme fraiche, but still…)  I then topped it with sliced ham, warmed through in a tin foil packet in the oven, and it was great.  The vinegar sharpened the whole thing up beautifully.  I’ll definitely make this again.   Possibly even tonight, since Lieutenant Wunderkind is due home…