If you have ever watched Sesame Street you might remember the segment which was The Word of the Day. A list is here but I am pretty sure one word would not have featured. This word is shrinkflation which is now a common feature of my weekly grocery shop. In a nutshell, this is when you pay the same price for a reduced size of a product.
Shrinkflation has been happening now for a couple of years. Examples include: Green and Black’s chocolate bars (100 g to 90 g) and Innocent Juice (1 litre to 900 ml). A few weeks ago I noticed that Philadelphia Cream Cheese has reduced in size even further (200 g to 180 g and now down to 165 g).
Pre-packed minced beef in Waitrose is now sold in 400 g packs, down from 500 g. Shrinkflation is troubling and troublesome as my only recipe for meat loaf calls for 1 kg of minced beef.
I made the late Antonio Carluccio’s Meat Loaf in Tomato Sauce (Polpettone al Sugo) for dinner recently because it was the end of a busy day of meetings. I couldn’t find the celery I thought I had to put into a Bolognese Sauce, and so reverted to the meatloaf recipe which I have been making for over 30 years. Indeed, it was the first dish I made for Mr Gochugaru’s parents, along with Fritto Misto di Vegetali. It never occurred to me that I could have made some sandwiches instead.
The reason why this dish is so great, in Mr Carluccio’s own words
The following recipe is taken straight from the book, omitting only the steps I have thought unnecessary. I used my Thermomix to help with preparing the bread crumbs, Parmesan and onion/garlic.
For the Meatloaf:
1 kg minced beef
150 g bread crumbs made from stale bread
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
60 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
oil for frying
For the Tomato Sauce:
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 large cans peeled plum tomatoes (or 4 x 400 g cans)
10 fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
How to Make:
Mix the minced meat together with the bread crumbs, add the parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and thoroughly mix so that the meat is well incorporated.
Lightly beat the eggs and add to the mix mixture. The mixture should stick together and you can now form it into a large oval meat loaf. (It is a good idea to fry a small meatball first to check the seasonings before you make the meat into a loaf.)
In a large oval cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil and fry the meat loaf until it is a crisp golden-brown all over and retains the juices of the meat inside. Take care not to break the loaf as you turn it in the casserole. Set the casserole aside while you make the tomato sauce.
(Note: in a reversal of using pots and pans, I fry the meat loaf in a non-stick pan and start the sauce in the Le Creuset pot, before adding the meat loaf to it).
In a separate pan, fry the finely chopped onion in the olive oil. When the onion has become golden, add the garlic and fry only briefly before adding the tomatoes, drained of some of their liquid.
Cook the sauce over a medium flame for 10 minutes, stirring to break up the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and add the basil leaves.
Now add the sauce to the meatloaf [or meatloaf to sauce], put the lid on the casserole and return it to the stove. Simmer gently for an hour. Alternatively you can place the casserole in a fairly hot oven (200 C / 180 C fan) for an hour.
While it is cooking, gently turn the loaf from time to time. Remove the lid after 30 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
When the loaf is cooked you may use the rich tomato sauce to dress some pasta prepared in the meantime. The meat loaf should be allowed to cool for 10 minutes before it is sliced.
The meatloaf pan-fried, and after it has been cooked in the tomato sauce
After removing the meatloaf, I added some cooked spaghetti to the remaining sauce
A simple green salad is all you need on the side
With a little help from my friend the Thermomix: to get dinner on the table daily with no domestic help, I rely a lot on what some people fondly refer to as the German Maid. Here’s how to shave some time off your food preparation in 3 easy steps. Start with the cheese and end with the crumbs. There is no need to wash the TM bowl in between each step.
Grate 250 g Parmesan 8 seconds / speed 8. Use 60 g in the meatloaf, leaving the rest for serving with the pasta
Next, chop the onion together with the garlic 5 seconds / speed 5. This is for the tomato sauce
Finally, chop 150 g of bread and a handful of fresh parsley together, roughly 5 seconds / speed 5. Repeat if the bread is dry. This is for the meatloaf
An Invitation to Italian Cooking by Antonio Carluccio, published by Pavilion Books, ISBN 978-1851450749.
This is now out of print but available used from Amazon UK. It was published in 1986, the same year as Top Gun was released. I watched Top Gun: Maverick last night. It shaved years off my age. It is my birthday today, and I cannot believe that I was only 20 years old when I bought the cookbook and first watched Mr Cruise serve up his killer smile in TG1.