25 May 2016

Expat Cooking Challenges...and Meatloaf!

I have not posted any recipes for some time for a number of reasons.  The first 1/4 of the year was spent sofa surfing in the UK, not really conducive to cooking and often with other people doing it for us as we were in their houses (thank you my lovely Mother in Law, Father and Sister).  Before then, in Ipoh, I had a rather unpleasant kitchen for a while.  A single working hob top on which I could not easily regulate temperature and a temperamental oven do not an enjoyable cooking experience make.  Here in KSA my oven may speak American but I have a nifty temperature conversion app on the telephone and the hob and oven do actually work.  Combine this with plenty of space to prepare and cooking is enjoyable again.  I am still waiting for our shipment when I will get things like the rice cooker, my own pans, food processor etc but in the meantime I can make basic things with our float.

One of the ways I try to extend a bit of constancy and normalcy to our children's ever changing lives is by keeping our evening meals broadly similar in each posting.  Of course different locations lend themselves to different cuisines.  Partly that comes down to what is available in the shops, here in KSA we always have tabbouleh and hummus in the fridge as they can be bought everywhere, in other postings these were one off treats that I had to cook from scratch every time.  Meanwhile toad in the hole, (pork sausages baked in batter for non English readers) was never going to be a runner here in KSA.    A certain amount of variation is also due to climate, we ate many more stews and pies in the Kazakh winters than we did salads, while lighter offerings were more popular in Malaysia.

Nevertheless, like all designated family cooks I have a repertoire of dishes that come out again and again, adapting where necessary depending on what is available in the shops.  One of my perennial favourites is meatloaf.  I know that this is often derided as a dry, unappetising meal but my family really enjoy it and I find it an endlessly versatile recipe and when made properly it is not dry at all.  In some countries I might cook it with half and half (pork and beef mince combined), here of course I only use beef.

The basic meatloaf recipe is mince, pepper, herbs and or spices (which like the meat I vary depending on where we are and what I feel like), onion, garlic, breadcrumbs and egg.  How much depends, of course, on the type of container I am using, I have a natty little form which looks like a loaf tin but has an integral lifting rack which forms the dual duties of helping to extract it (avoiding the need for lining) and draining the juices into the bottom of the pan for use in gravy later on.  I often top the whole thing with bacon (or turkey/beef facon) for extra flavour and moisture.  Any left over mix gets made into home-made beef burgers and stored in the freezer for a quick snack.

I like to stuff the meatloaf and leave the filling as a surprise for the children.  Miss EE's particular favourite is the traditional egg while Master EE prefers cheese.  The possibilities are endless, Mexican meatloaf with spicy peppers and Monterey Jack cheese,  Italian with a mozarella/basil/tomato confection in the centre.  I have thought about doing a reverse moussaka with aubergine and bechamel baked into the centre but I suspect Mr EE who dislikes aubergine would not be too keen.   I am not overly keen on lamb but a kofta kebab flavoured lamb mince meat with some sort of complimentary stuffing might be quite pleasant.  In other words this plain old housewife staple is something I enjoy playing around with, you can't really go too wrong, if the fillings don't work there is still the surrounding meat to enjoy.

The resulting meal can be served with just about anything from a fresh leafy salad to mashed potato and gravy.  Make no mistake this is a big piece of meat and can serve 8 people comfortably.  Luckily it also keeps very well, the children often take a slice for lunch the following day, bulking it out with salad or put some in a sandwich.

How do you like to personalise this very versatile meal!

For more expat kitchen posts please click on the picture below.

Ersatz Expat

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