April 18th would have been Gran’s birthday – 108 today. I will be eternally grateful that Gran and Pop moved to Northallerton from Kirkcaldy. I wouldn’t really have known them terribly well if I’d only seen them for three weeks or so every year. The last year of Pop’s life, as I remember it, was filled with watching village cricket whilst he nursed his 1/2 pint of beer; playing the violin for him, with Gran accompanying; and the best of all, watching War and Peace on their colour television. For us, it was wonderful having our grandparents, and then grandmother ‘up the road’. Andrew’s first bit of independence was walking up the road ‘to shoot Gran’. He hurled himself around the sitting room as he shot her with the Maori stick. She loved playing with him, but was slightly saddened that she was always the baddie.
There are certain foods I associate with Gran – black bun, mouldy old lemon pudding, cherry cake, Border Tart, Chicken Indiana and meatballs. I loved Gran’s meatballs – actually, as it turned out, I love all meatballs – kofte, keftedakia, faggots – you name them, I’ve never met a meatball I didn’t like. The recipe I’m giving you today is probably based on Grandma’s Dutch Meat Roll, as I used to watch her make it, but I like bacon a lot and this is mostly my recipe now as it’s changed over the years. It works either for Meatballs or for Meat loaf. Grandma used to put breadcrumbs and bacon rinds on the top of her meat loaf. I don’t do this any more, partly because I can’t remember the last time I saw bacon with a rind. I also give you the recipe for the sauces that I make to go with the two dishes.
Meat loaf/Meatballs – Ingredients
- 500 g / 1 lb minced beef (I use the leanest I can find)
- 250 g / 1/2 lb minced bacon (this can’t be bought so I mince my own using Nana’s mincing machine – in the middle cupboard in the utility room unless you’ve moved it) – remove as much fat as possible before mincing
- 1 small onion, chopped roughly
- 1 egg, beaten
- 75 g / 3 oz home-made breadcrumbs – doesn’t matter what bread they’re from
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- I sometimes add parsley for colour and I have sometimes added cumin cos I felt like it
Put the onion and garlic into a food processor – pulse until finely chopped. Add the breadcrumbs and parsley or cumin if using.
Move into a bowl and add the beef, bacon and egg. Mix – you can do this in a food mixer or by hand. Add a teaspoon of salt and lots of black pepper. At this point I make a very small patty, fry it, eat it and check the seasoning. It’s a kind of a ritual, I probably could get the seasoning right first go, but hey!
If making a meat loaf, put mixture into a loaf pan. If making meat balls, wet your hands and shape into balls about the size of a golf ball, and cover and put in the fridge for at least 20 mins.
For meat loaf, cover the loaf tin with foil, put the loaf tin in a roasting dish and put into the oven at 180 C for about 45 mins. Juices will come out of the meat (hence the roasting dish underneath) and you should check periodically and pour the juices into a pan (preferably without letting the meatloaf fall out). After 30 mins, remove the foil.
In the meantime, finely chop a clove of garlic and fry gently in about a teaspoon of olive oil until soft (don’t brown). Add the juices which you poured off the meatloaf and a tin of chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer. If you’d like your sauce more meaty, add some water and then use Bisto Gravy Granules! You could also put in a glass of red wine, but boil it for longer to remove the alcohol. Serve with Colcannon!
If you’re making Meatballs, take a large frying pan, put in some olive oil and heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Put the browned meatballs into an oven proof dish and keep warm.
Add enough oil to the frying pan to saute a finely chopped garlic clove, and fry for a minute. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil. Pour over the meatballs, cover with foil and put into a 180 C oven (again I would put on a roasting dish because there can be spillages). Cook for about 35 mins.