sticky glazed meatloaf

It may be sacrilegious to say this, but this meatloaf performed in true loaves and fishes style recently. Spanning a number of meals (ie intended dinner to lunchtime rolls with relish) and across the suburb – to my mother and her temporarily housebound neighbour, it just kept on giving. All were sated and many enquired about seconds. Not customary for the humble weeknight meatloaf – but this one was holding a couple of illicit secrets close to its glazed chest. Bourbon and coffee.

I’m not sure how many meatloaves I’ve shaped and baked over the years, but most have been met with reasonable appreciation – although never requested for birthday meals. Hearty, hale and hot, they do their winter mealtime job well. However, as with all things in life, there is always room for improvement. So when Masterchef’s hale and hearty Matt P coated his meatloaf in homemade barbeque sauce, it occurred to me how just how naked our meatloaves had been.

Once this sauce was whipped up, there was plenty to dress the meatloaf in and ample over to freeze for rissole and burger nights to come.

250ml tomato sauce
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp English mustard powder
120g treacle
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp paprika
2 tbspn Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup  maple syrup
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tbspn brown sugar
3 tbspn bourbon
1 espresso shot

  1. Combine all ingredients except for bourbon and espresso in a saucepan set over medium heat.
  2. Cook for 20 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add bourbon and espresso, stir to combine.

If you need a simple meatloaf recipe to play with this one makes a good starting point. If there are herbs or condiments that you prefer, simply add them and take out those that don’t appeal. Shape the loaf and bake it for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and brush liberally with the barbeque sauce and bake for a further 30-40 minutes or until well cooked through. Slice and serve with mash and steamed greens. Now you’re ready to feed the masses.

Meatloaf glazed in BBQ sauce

Postscript: If a strong shot of coffee and good swig of bourbon has a kid eating meatloaf and a neighbour feeling better, then I say bring it.



Warm potato salad

If you roamed earth at the same time as Marcia Brady, fondue and teak veneer, then you would not be blamed for recoiling in horror at the mere mention of potato salad. Often appearing as unrecognisable dice submerged in mayonnaise or impossibly white cubes hailing straight from the can, early potato salads loomed large in glass bowls on buffets and at barbeques alike. Thankfully there was always a plethora of buttered bread-stick from which to extract ones ‘carbs’ allowing the menacing PS to be skilfully avoided.

Fortunately as we grew up, so did potato salad. In latter years it has been permitted to appear at the table wearing its skin and now dressed rather than drowned in mayonnaise. It now invites its friend texture along – so the salami crisps herself up for the occasion. And to ensure the two do not become so visually entangled as to merge into one, fresh aunt parsley attends in her contrasting manner as a wonderful chaperone for the dish.

Like us, ps has improved tremendously with age, so this weekend, build a giant bowl and treat everyone to some grown-up fare.

red-skinned potatoes (eg Desiree) – enough to fill a large bowl
a 250g whole pepperoni salami
1/2 a 235g jar of Thomy mayonnaise
juice of a lemon
cracked sea salt and black pepper
1/2 bunch continental parsley, roughly chopped

  1. Put unpeeled potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender (but not falling apart).
  2. Drain and cut into small chunks and place in large serving bowl.
  3. Thinly slice the salami and cut these slices in half (you may only need half of the salami).
  4. Pan fry the salami until crisp. Drain on paper towel and then add to potatoes.
  5. Mix together mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt and pepper and stir this dressing through the potato and salami mix.
  6. Stir through the parsley and serve warm.

potato salad makings

Postscript: serve your ps with the grill or barbeque of your choice but if you can rid your home of occupants, it’s the perfect solo fork and bowl couch meal.

gardening · recipes


Bay leaves

An unsung hero from the herb clan that any braise or casserole worth its salt would be lost without. Yet rarely does this leaf receive a sliver of the attention it deserves – while pantries across the globe hoard them in packets and jars. Seldom appearing in the weekly shop, yet always managing to be on hand – the bay leaf, our culinary Winter herb.

It is not uncommon for stock of milk, butter or Milo to exhaust in this household, but bay leaves are forever in ready supply. Other than the fact that two are only ever required for a dish, my mother is the keeper of a bay tree and visits regularly. (We are therefore secure in the knowledge that should we fall on difficult economic times, we shall never be without them). She recently delivered a branch, which has been stripped of its foliage, which now sits drying in an open jar. It is quite lovely to reach in and pluck out a few to pop into the stew du jour.

The law of bay leaf use however, is that prior to ‘plating up’ they must be removed from the dish, as the nature of their flavour enhancing role is of background chorus rather than centre stage. Unfortunately busy cooks will forget laws. So in response to this, under this roof new dinner table lore has evolved –  and is evidenced by the exclamation, “Look, I got the lucky bay leaf!”

For your next ‘stew du jour’ this Moroccan-style Oxtail braise will ensure two of your lucky leaves will be put to good use.

ox tail braise

3kg oxtail pieces trimmed of fat
plain flour for dredging
1 tbsp ground ginger
4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
8 cloves
800g can crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
zest of 1/2 an orange
2 cups beef stock

  1. Mix together the flour and ginger and coat the oxtail pieces. Dust off excess.
  2. Heat oil in large heavy based pan and add meat in small batches to brown all over. Transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Add onions, garlic, celery, cinnamon and cloves and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, orange zest and stock. Cook for another couple of minutes.
  5.  Pour this mixture over the ox tail and cook on low for up to 6 hours or until meat is tender.

(This can also be done in a casserole dish in the oven. Simply add 1 1/2 cups of red wine with the stock and cook at 160 degrees celsius for 2 hours or until meat is tender and falling off the bone.)

Dried bay leaves

Postscript: This post is dedicated to Z and her new slow cooker.



chicken and leek pie

Apart from the usual positives of sharing a roast dinner with the neighbours, another perk came in the form of a new idea. What usually becomes of the remains of a roasted chicken in this house, is sandwiches and dog scraps (in that order). Never has a scrumptious chicken, leek and mushroom pie ever crossed my mind as the finale for these birds.

Fortunately, I have a kitchen savvy pal living right opposite, who was not only quick to point this out, but even speedier to extract the leavings and seal them in an airtight, assuring me they were perfect for such a purpose. As we cleared and reset for dessert, she had rattled off her method, which as I scraped and stacked, I quickly committed to memory. The following night, the family received such pie – a far cry from dog scraps.

If you can keep this plan in mind after your next chicken roast, I am able to attest that the end result is going to be: happy families and disappointed dogs.

1 leek
200g button mushrooms
75g butter
2 tbspn flour
500ml chicken stock
2 big handfuls of shredded cooked chicken
2 sheets puff pastry
milk to brush

  1. Slice leek and mushrooms thinly.
  2. Melt butter in a large frying pan and cook leek and mushrooms until soft.
  3. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. You will have a thick mass.
  4. Gradually add stock, stir and cooking until you have a consistency that you like for your pie filling.
  5. Add the chicken and stir until heated through. At this point season, but be very careful with the salt as sometimes the stock contains enough. Set to one side.
  6. Line the base of your pie dish with one sheet of the pastry and prong it all over with a fork to prevent it rising. Bake in a 180 degree oven until par-cooked (about 10 minutes).
  7. Push down any risen puffed bits on the base and add the pie filling.
  8. Cover with remaining sheet of puff pastry and seal by pinching the edges together all the way around. Lightly score the top of the pastry with a sharp knife and brush with milk. Put the pie back into the oven for a further 20 minutes or until well browned. Serve.

chicken and leek pie filling

Postscript: Don’t forget, if you have a spare moment, post chicken pie, join me over here at the new Plain and Simple Facebook page.



Ostensibly a batter, it is quite remarkable what the contribution of a tray (or two) of yorkshire puddings will make to a succulent roast of beef – with all of the usual trimmings alongside.

In response to a carnivorously deprived teen, recently returned from a Fijian school trip, having existed largely on noodles and yam for two weeks – roast beef became the order of the day. To accompany it, without question, a mountain of yorkshire puddings.

Of the selection of roasted proteins, beef was my childhood favorite, as I grew up with a mother who would never consider serving it without yorkshire pudding. This culinary custom stemmed even further back to my grandmother, who turned out roast beef from a wood stove – her pudding rising to high peaks from the intense heat at the top of the oven (and I’m sure the eggs laid by the backyard chooks were also a contributing factor). She produced hers in a large oven tray and sliced it into wedges, whereas ours have evolved into puffy puds by pouring the mix into cake pans.

I use my old patty pans (which due to age and overuse are far too unsightly to photograph), but the current ones are fine. Big texas muffin tins will work, but you will need to fill them with extra oil and the batter won’t stretch very far. Look for the old patty tins – raid a relative’s kitchen cupboard – I’m sure thousands are out there waiting for their second life.

1 cup plain flour
pinch salt
2 eggs
1 cup (or so) of milk
olive oil

  1. Pre heat oven to 190 degrees celsius.
  2. Sift flour and salt into mixing bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre and break in the eggs.
  4. Beat until egg is mixed in (all thick and lumpy).
  5. Gradually add milk, beating with a wooden spoon until lump free and is of pancake batter consistency. You may or may not need all of the milk. Let stand for the afternoon.
  6. Fill patty cake pans with 11/2 tspns olive oil. Place cake pans in the oven so oil is hot (10 minutes).
  7. Ladle batter into heated pans and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until risen and brown.
  8. Serve immediately smothered in gravy. Makes about 12.