Friday, December 28, 2012

The meatloaf

For those of us who are home cooks and crazy about food, it's hard to find like-minded people who share our culinary obsessions.

Whenever I have conversations with friends and acquaintances regarding food, after a while they get bored. They look at me as if I'm talking about stamps whereas I can go on and on about the importance of spices in a good Greek stew for hours.

But when I come here to write or when I visit friends' blogs, I feel at home because I know that we share the same passion; we showcase our dishes, record our thoughts and ideas about food, in the hope that there will be others out there who'll be interested in what we have to say.

Based on that passion, I always get overly excited about the prospect of sharing with you a dish that surprised me with its unique taste, a dish that I immensely enjoyed and that I know you'll love as well.

This is such a dish. It has a Middle Eastern flair and its impressive and beautiful presentation is perfect for these festive days. I never expected to love it since I've never been a fan of meatloaves but let me tell you, I enjoy being proved wrong on such matters.

It is a meatloaf stuffed with quail eggs, dried apricots and walnuts but it doesn't stop there. There's spices and sun-dried tomatoes and fresh mint and all those flavors that titillate the taste buds and make you want to eat more and more and more.

It is served with a sweet tomato sauce with saffron, ginger and long sweet red pepper that is absolutely delicious. This sauce was a revelation. When I tasted it, I imagined all sorts of dishes it could work with—spaghetti, Greek meat patties, a big juicy steak,—my imagination ran wild. It's a slightly spicy sauce with heat coming from the ginger, sweet notes from the sweet pepper and a little sourness from the tomato that complements perfectly the earthy, complex, umami flavor of the meatloaf.

It's the ideal dish to serve for a celebratory dinner, a New Year's feast, or even your Sunday dinner. Make it, share it with the ones you love and enjoy it!

Stuffed Meatloaf with Quail Eggs, Dried Apricots and Walnuts
Slightly adapted from Dutch Delicious

This meatloaf is cooked inside a loaf pan which not only helps hold its shape but also cook uniformly.

If you can't find quail eggs, simply omit them from the recipe. Don't substitute with chicken eggs because they're too large.

You can prepare the meatloaf one or two days in advance, keep it in the refrigerator and bake it on the day you want to serve it.

If you want to make sure your meatloaf is seasoned well before you get it into the loaf pan, you can make a tiny patty with the mixture and cook it in a frying pan. This way you'll know the result will be perfect and you won't run the risk of serving under-seasoned food to your guests.

Yield: 6 servings

200 g dried apricots
12 quail eggs
2 Tbsp olive oil plus extra for greasing the pan
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
500 g minced beef or veal
2 tsp dried mint
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 medium-sized eggs
45 g dried breadcrumbs
100 g walnuts (50 g finely chopped, 50 g whole)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Fresh mint leaves, to garnish

Special equipment: loaf pan (23 x 9 x 8 cm) (1½-2 liters capacity), aluminum foil

Place the dried apricots in a medium-sized bowl and add enough warm water to cover them completely. Leave to soak for 15 minutes and then drain them. Take half of the apricots and chop them finely, they will be added later to the meatloaf. The other half of the apricots will be added whole, on top of the meatloaf.

In the meantime, add the quail eggs to a small pan and add enough cold water to cover them completely. Boil the eggs for 7 minutes, then rinse under cold running water and peel them. You need to be careful when peeling them because you don't want to break the eggs up. The shell of quail eggs is thin and a little difficult to peel. The secret is in making sure to peel away the inner membrane of the egg together with the shell, otherwise the egg will break up.

While the apricots are soaking and the eggs are boiling, add the olive oil to a medium-sized frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. Once it starts to shimmer, lower heat to medium-low, add the onion, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for 3-5 minutes until they soften but don't brown.
Empty everything into a large bowl, scraping well the frying pan, and allow to cool. Then add to the bowl the minced beef or veal, the dried mint, the ground coriander and cinnamon, the 2 eggs, the dried breadcrumbs, 50 g finely chopped walnuts, the finely chopped apricots, salt and pepper and mix well with your hands until all the ingredients are well blended.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit.

Take the loaf pan and grease the inside all over with olive oil. Then line the bottom and the sides with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. I use two pieces of foil; one to cover the pan lengthwise and another one to cover it widthwise. Make sure your foil doesn't have any holes otherwise juices will run through and the meatloaf will stick to the pan making it difficult to remove.

Take one-third of the meatloaf mixture and spread it evenly at the bottom of the pan. Take 6 quail eggs and divide them on top of the meatloaf mixture and then add the next one-third of the mixture on top, being careful to press it firmly so it's nice and tight (be careful not to squash the eggs though). Then divide the rest of the quail eggs over the top and add the rest of the meatloaf mixture. Press it well, making sure you have an even top. Cover the top of the meatloaf with the whole apricots and walnuts and then cover with the overhanging foil.
At this point, you can place the meatloaf in the fridge and keep it for one-two days. Take it out of the fridge at least 1 hour before baking it, so it can come to room temperature.

Place the loaf pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake the meatloaf, covered with the foil, for 50 minutes. Then uncover the top of the meatloaf and bake for 10 more minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven and allow the meatloaf to cool for 5 minutes. Then, remove the meatloaf from the pan carefully by pulling it out by the overhanging foil. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then remove the foil from the meatloaf carefully so it doesn't break. Transfer the meatloaf to a platter and garnish with some fresh mint leaves.

Serve, cut into slices, with the sweet tomato sauce.

Sweet Tomato Sauce with Ginger and Saffron
Slightly adapted from Dutch Delicious

As with the meatloaf, this sauce can be made one to two days in advance and be kept in the fridge. Just reheat it before serving.

Yield: about 400 ml / 6-8 servings

Pinch of saffron threads
100 ml dry white wine
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, mashed
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 long sweet red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp runny honey
400 g canned whole peeled tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh mint leaves, to garnish

Special equipment: immersion blender or regular blender or food processor

Add the saffron threads to a small bowl and pour over the wine. Allow the saffron to soak for 5 minutes.

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, turn heat down to medium-low, add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté for 3-5 minutes until they soften. Then add the red pepper, the cinnamon and the honey and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add the wine with the saffron and the canned whole tomatoes and crush them with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper, bring the sauce to the boil and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on.

When the sauce is ready, use an immersion blender to blend the sauce directly in the pan until you have a smooth sauce. If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer the sauce to a regular blender or food processor and process there.

At this point, you can refrigerate the sauce for up to two days and reheat it when you want to serve it.

Garnish the sauce with fresh mint leaves and serve with the meatloaf.


  1. This is the prettiest meatloaf I've ever seen! And that soup looks saffron in anything :)

    1. Thanks Ahu, I'm glad you like it! That's a sauce though, not soup :)

  2. I am with Ahu - this is the most beatiful meatloaf I have ever seen! I can't wait to try it - the favor combinations are exquisite. I also agree with you about sharing food with friends - their eyes begin to glaze over so quickly... So I, too, am glad to have you in my life to share these joys. Wishing you and S. a magnificent celebration this weekend. I know the food will rate five stars! ***** ~ David

  3. you know there is a dish of a meatloaf here with eggs, but using quail eggs makes it so so stylish! love the addition of dried fruits too. Now I have to make it; quail eggs are sold in most supermarkets here and of course the other ingredients are easy to come by. what a find!
    Wishing you a wonderful New Year and more food discoveries in 2013

  4. For the few times I've had meatloaf in my life they've always been of the "regular" variety with nothing more than a little tomato paste smeared on it before baking. Which makes me think why I haven't concocted one myself.
    This meatloaf you have here is beautiful. The spices and flavours are right up my alley and I know I'd enjoy every mouthful. I think you've planted a seed in my mind to create my own version.

  5. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe with us.
    As always, the description is very detailed and clear
    and the pictures are superb!
    It gives a perfect impression of what the dish will look like.
    I will definitely try this recipe!
    I wish you and your loved ones a happy New Year!
    greetings, Caroline

  6. What an interesting combination of flavors and ingredients, a truly original meatloaf. I had never seen anuthing like it before, I am very intrigued! Wishing you a happy new year!

  7. Thank you all for your comments and wishes! Happy New Year all!!