The popular saying is ‘as American as apple pie’ but it might just as well be meatloaf, especially in soul food. It’s one of those dishes that embodies the soul of our nation: good, honest, home-cooked food, made with love and care. There are many variations on meatloaf, some including lots of chunky vegetables and some without. I like to include the vegetables but I chop them up in a food processor first, or use a hand blender to reduce them to a fine pulp. This way it saves the kids from moaning that they don’t want any, or sitting there picking them out. I remember my daughter sitting for hours at the table, taking her meals apart and discarding any visible vegetables.
A hand blender is a useful kitchen tool and not at all expensive. It may not be the Rolls-Royce of equipment, but believe me, it does the job.
900g minced beef 2 onions, peeled 2 garlic cloves, peeled 1 green pepper 1 red pepper 1 celery stalk 6 pieces of stale Cornbread (page 42), or 4 slices of stale white bread 3 eggs 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons American mustard 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 tablespoon Momma’s Cajun Seasoning (page 50) 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional) 3 tablespoons chopped coriander 2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs 12 streaky bacon rashers
Place the minced beef in a large bowl and set aside. If you don’t have a hand blender or food processor, you will need to chop all the vegetables finely by hand, but the easiest way to make a good meatloaf is to chop them into rough chunks, then put them in a bowl and blend them together with a hand blender.
Crumble in the cornbread or bread and add the eggs, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, chilli flakes, if using, coriander and mixed herbs. The mix should be quite sloppy and wet. Make sure your hands are clean, because I believe the best way to make meatloaf is to get your hands into the mix. Pour the chopped vegetable and bread mixture into the mince and combine well.
Once the mixture is completely blended, shape it into 6 oval meat loaves, about the size of a balled-up fist. Wrap each one in streaky bacon by crisscrossing 2 rashers over it, then place on a baking tray.
Alternatively, you can line two 900g loaf tins with the bacon rashers, then press the meatloaf mixture into them. Place in an oven preheated to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and bake for 40 minutes for the small loaves, or 1 hour for the larger ones. Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.