Make weeknight dinners delicious with pancetta-wrapped meatloaf
Wake up. Go to work. Go to (insert after-work activity here). Get home. Look at fridge. Cry a little on the inside. Sound familiar? Sophie Gillatt and Katherine Westwood, aka The Dinner Ladies, have heard your cry for help. Balancing families and busy lives, the two ladies came up with the idea of preparing dinners for time-poor friends so they would always have homemade food in the fridge or freezer. Today their idea has grown to a fleet of trucks delivering thousands of homemade meals each week to hungry homes, and a brand-new cookbook aptly called The Dinner Ladies. The book features 170 recipes perfect for cooking now and eating later, so you always have a back-up meal in the fridge or freezer. You’ll find everything from veggie-focused thinner dinners to family favourites, such as this recipe for pancetta-wrapped meatloaf.
1 small brown onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, cut into 3 pieces
1/4 red capsicum, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, cut into 3 pieces
2 1/4 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
550 g minced pork and veal
1 small handful parsley, leaves and top stems, finely chopped
2 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped and finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
50 g breadcrumbs (use rice crumbs or gluten-free breadcrumbs if you’d like)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons tomato paste (concentrated puree)
100 g pancetta, thinly sliced
mashed or baked potato
Put the onion, carrot, capsicum and celery in the bowl of a food processor and process until evenly chopped, pulsing and using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add the vegetable mixture, garlic and one teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until the veggies are sweet and soft and most of the moisture has evaporated. Empty into a bowl and leave aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork and veal with the now cool vegetables, as well as the parsley, thyme, egg, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the tomato paste. Mix really well – clean or gloved hands will do the job most thoroughly – until the mixture is uniformly coloured with herbs and vegetables, adding more breadcrumbs if it’s too wet. Roll a small ball of the mixture, flatten it, and cook in one teaspoon of olive oil in a small, non-stick frying pan over medium to check for seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
Take a 10 x 20 cm/1 litre capacity loaf tin or terrine mould (a plastic takeaway container does the job nicely too) and line it with overlapping strips of pancetta. Fill the tin with the uncooked mixture and pat down well, so that the mix is evenly spread into the corners. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least three hours to firm up.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Up-end the meatloaf on the baking tray to un-mould it like a sandcastle. If it’s proving stubborn, run a knife around the perimeter of the mould – it should slip out easily.
Put the tray in the centre of the oven and cook for 45 minutes. To test if the meatloaf is cooked, insert a skewer or sharp knife into the centre and lightly touch the end to your lip – if it’s not piping hot, return it to the oven for a further five minutes and test again. Alternatively, use a meat thermometer and check that it reads 70°C.
After removing from the oven, set aside for ten minutes before slicing thickly and serving with potato, coleslaw and tomato chutney.
The uncooked meatloaf can be completely made up to one day ahead, covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated, or frozen for up to three months (defrost before cooking). If you’re not using the mixture immediately, it is essential that the vegetable mixture is fridge cold before mixing with the meat.
Images and recipes from The Dinner Ladies by Sophie Gilliatt and Katherine Westwood. Published by Murdoch Books. Photography by Ben Dearnley.
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