Meatloaf Polpettone

This festive meatloaf recipe is studded with pistachios and poached for a meltingly soft texture that’s fit for a feast.

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Serves: 6-8 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: N/A

Straight from the Forq Kitchen!
by Daniela Bowker


Meatloaf Polpettone

Forq goes in search of the “big meatball” (translated from the Italian) to experience an Italian take on meatloaf

This meatloaf recipe, or polpettone (to give it its authentic name) is based on the polpettone recipe found in Yotam Ottoenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s terrific book, Jerusalem. The recipe was Ottolenghi’s Nonna Luciana’s polpettone recipe, which she would serve at the Jewish festival of Passover as a starter for the Seder meal. As a consequence, the meatloaf here is a festive recipe that includes expensive ingredients like pistachio nuts. It’s also a much more time-consuming recipe to prepare than your average meatloaf recipe, and the meatloaf is poached instead of baked. But, this is holiday food, not everyday food. And when you’ve tried it, you won’t begrudge the time and effort.

When I found this meatloaf recipe, I knew that I had to serve it at my family’s seder (and since making it, knew that I needed to share the recipe widely), but I made a few changes here and there to accommodate family preferences as well as to expand the meatloaf and make it sufficiently large enough to serve as a main course rather than a starter. However, unless I were to invest in an even larger casserole dish (or perhaps a fish kettle) I doubt that I could I make this meatloaf any bigger. The recipe serves six people with left-overs, or eight people without.

If you ever need a meat extender in a pinch? Crushed puffed rice cereal!

The original polpettone recipe (read: meatloaf recipe) calls for all beef. In order to make it a little more special, and also to make the meatloaf (or polpettone) a little more appealing for my mother who isn’t so fond of beef, I chose to make the primary meat in this meatloaf recipe veal. However, an all-veal meatloaf might struggle to hold up to the strong flavours in the recipe, so there is some beef in here, too.

As well as making a Passover meal, which requires that it adhere to the strict dietary requirements of the holiday—nothing leavened, so no breadcrumbs—I was also catering for a coeliac, which demanded a completely gluten-free recipe, too. In normal circumstances, using matzo meal, or the ground-up crackers that Jewish people eat over the eight day Passover holiday instead of bread, would have been perfect. But regular matzos are not gluten-free and I couldn’t find a gluten-free version near me. So I improvised: I used crushed puffed rice cereal instead. A word of warning, though: lots of puffed rice cereal (think Rice Crispies) aren’t gluten-free and lots of Jewish people won’t eat rice over Passover (it depends on their family heritage). I was just fortunate it all worked out in this instance.

But if you ever need a meat extender in a pinch? Crushed puffed rice cereal! Whatever the weight of the original meat extender specified in the recipe, for example breadcrumbs, which are typical, you will require approximately half the weight of Rice Krispies if you choose to use those instead.

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Now–for the tongue that is called for in the recipe. I love tongue and so do most of the members of my family. I do appreciate, however, that not everyone is as enthusiastic about offal as I am. If tongue seems a step too far for your meatloaf recipe, and you’re not making something kosher, using a good prosciutto would work. For anyone who’s happy to try tongue but hasn’t ventured there before, you can usually find it at the deli counter in your supermarket, beside the other charcuterie. Ask the assistant to slice it thinly for you.

Finally, when it comes to rolling and securing this meatloaf before placing it in the pan to cook, you may need a second pair of hands to help you wrap it and tie up the ends of the cloth sausage tightly. Set aside a few hours to make and cook this meatloaf recipe, and then revel in a celebration of beauty and deliciousness when you serve it!

Directions

Here’s how to make this delicious meatloaf recipe:

Take two of the eggs, crack them into a bowl and beat together with a pinch of salt and the chopped flat leaf parsley.

Heat a splash of oil in a large frying pan and pour in the egg mixture and cook slowly to make a thin, very thin, omelette. Set it aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl combine the ground veal and ground steak with the crushed Rice Krispies, pistachios, gherkins, salt, pepper, and the other two eggs. Use your hands to bring it together to a smooth mixture.

Take a clean, old tea towel and lay it out on your counter-top. Do use one that you don’t mind sacrificing to the culinary gods and you might not be able to salvage it when the meatloaf has cooked. Tip the meatloaf mixture into its centre and use your hands to press it out in a rectangle approximately 35 by 30 centimetres (14 by 12 inches) and 1 centimetre (quarter-inch) deep.

Lay the ox tongue over the meatloaf mixture, not worrying if it doesn’t reach to the edges. Now place the omelette on top of all of that.

Using the tea towel to help you, begin to roll the meatloaf along its long edge, creating a neat, compact sausage shape with the tongue and omelette running through its middle. I even tucked the ragged ends into the sausage shape to neaten it.

Now wrap the meatloaf tightly in the tea towel, securing the ends with string. It helps to have two people doing this, one to keep the meatloaf wrapped tight, another to tie the string.

Meatloaf Polpettone

Meatloaf Polpettone

Tying the meatloaf in the towel

In the largest casserole dish you have, bring a weak chicken stock to the boil, along with the ribs of celery, the carrot, thyme, bay leaves, onion, black pepper corns, and a sprinkling of salt. The casserole will need to roughly half full.

When the stock has reached the boil, carefully lower the meatloaf into it, cover with the lid, and lower the light so that it can simmer, mostly submerged beneath the stock, for two hours.

Meatloaf Polpettone

Meatloaf Polpettone

Lowering the meatloaf into the stock

After two hours, the meatloaf should have cooked through. Carefully remove it from the pan and place it in a large serving dish. Put a board on top of it and weight it down to help expel any excess moisture as it cools.

The original recipe calls for the meatloaf to be chilled before being sliced and served, topped by a salsa verde. I, however, served it at room temperature to be sliced at the table, but still with the salsa verde, to universal approval. It was worth the effort.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 500g (1lb) minced veal
  • 250g (8oz) ground steak
  • 60g (2oz) crushed Rice Krispies (you can batter them in a ziplock bag using a rolling pin, or get out the food processor)
  • 80g (3oz) unsalted pistachios, shelled and stripped of as much their papery skins as you can easily manage
  • 100g (4oz) gherkins, chopped into 1cm (half-inch) lengths
  • 200g (6oz) ox tongue
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Chicken stock
  • 6 to 10 black peppercorns
  • Salt

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Who’s Cooking Today

Daniela Bowker

Daniela Bowker allegedly lives in the UK and supposedly writes for a living. She definitely travels and eats food for fun. She’s tried a sweet bean stew in a backstreet eatery Hong Kong, pad thai on a street corner in Bangkok, and had meroavi Yerushelami at the market in Jerusalem, not to mention reindeer in Norway, caponata in Sicily, and tagine in Morocco.

She often manages to work food analogies into her everyday writing, so do be on the look out for likening self­portraits to lasagne and multiplicitous images to cakes over on Photocritic. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram, and on Flickr, too.

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This festive meatloaf is studded with pistachios and poached for a meltingly soft texture that’s fit for a feast.

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