Pork, apple, and mustard meatloaf

Pork, apples, and mustard: a combination devised by the culinary gods. There’s savouriness from the meat, sweetness from the apple, and tang from the mustard. It’s everything that you might want in a dinner dish–and certainly in a meatloaf–and is so easy to put together it belies how tasty it is. It’s a perfect mid-week meal for when you want something a little unusual, but not challenging to prepare.

To bring more interest to this meatloaf, I’ve combined ground pork with sausage meat, as well as introduced some herbs to round off the flavours. You can buy basic sausage meat from your butcher for a fuss-free meatloaf, but if you have a preferred sausage you could always buy half a pound of those and skin them. There’s no reason why you couldn’t go for an all-ground-pork base, whether for thrift or convenience, but be sure to increase your seasonings to compensate for those you lose from the sausage meat.

Sage or thyme works a treat with the pork, apple, and mustard combination. I’ll leave it to you to choose your preferred herb. However, if the sausage meat that you use includes a particular seasoning, you might wish to echo that in the meatloaf mixture, to tie together the flavours.

It is important that when you grate the apple you give it a good squeeze to rid it of any excess liquid. A sloppy meatloaf mixture is difficult to handle and you’ll find that it shrinks unpleasantly in the oven, too. It’s easy enough to drop the grated apple into a sieve a squash it with a wooden spoon. You can always reserve the juice to drink yourself as a cook’s treat.

Being British, I’ve grown up with a fondness for mustard that’s eye-wateringly strong, but I appreciate that’s not to everyone’s taste. I do think that you need a little kick from a hotter mustard, though, so think about using a combination of two mustards of different strengths if all English doesn’t appeal.

Now let’s talk about cider. Over here in the UK, apple juice is just that, the unfermented juice from pressed apples. What we call cider is what’s known as hard cider in the US–potently alcoholic apple juice that’s a perfect thirst quencher on a summer’s day. The gravy for this meatloaf uses a combination of cider and stock to give a fruity, meaty sauce. As it’s quite light, I would recommend using a chicken stock. Beef would be overwhelming but vegetable might not stand up to the meatloaf. Don’t feel that this gravy recipe is restricted to accompanying this meatloaf alone, either. It would be great with any other pork dish that benefits from a gravy, especially a roast joint (mmm… crackling), and also with chicken. Chicken with apples and mustard isn’t such an outlandish combination. If you’ve not tried it before, give it a go.

This is the perfect meatloaf for autumn, when apples are in season and the nights are beginning to draw in, leaving you wanting a comforting supper to stave off the growing chill.

You will need:

450g (1 lb) ground pork
250g (8oz) sausage meat
2 slices bread, made into crumbs
1 eating apple, grated and squeezed of its juice
1 tablespoon mustard
1 egg
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or thyme, whichever flavour you prefer
Salt and pepper

1 onion, chopped finely
1 tablespoon of oil or butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
300ml (10floz) cider
300ml (10floz) chicken stock

You will need to:

Begin by making your breadcrumbs. I use the end slices from a loaf of bread that has gone a bit stale. Waste not, want not, as the saying goes. If you use stale bread or the crust slices for your breadcrumbs, do toast it first; it makes them more pleasant to work with. There’s no compulsion to toast the bread if it’s fresh, although I find myself doing so anyway. I prefer the finer texture of toasted breadcrumbs. All they require is a quick whizz in the food processor.

Heat your oven to 170º Celsius (340º Fahrenheit).

When the breadcrumbs are ready, take all of the meatloaf ingredients and mix them together thoroughly in a large bowl. You’ll find that using your hands here is easiest. You can always wear a pair of gloves if you find the sensation unpleasant.

Transfer your meatloaf mixture to an oiled loaf pan and place it in the heated oven. It will take between 45 minutes and one hour to cook through. The top will have browned and the meatloaf will be pulling away from the edges of the pan when it is ready.

While the meatloaf is cooking, it’s time to get on with your cider gravy.

Fry a finely chopped onion in a tablespoon of fat until it has caramelised. Do it slowly, with a pinch of salt to help prevent the sugars from burning. When the onion has caramelised, stir in a tablespoon of plain flour and mix to a sticky roux.

Slowly pour in the cider, mixing all the while so that it won’t go lumpy. When all the cider has been added and come to the bubble, pour in the stock. Stir well and leave it to bubble and thicken over a medium-low heat. Just before you’re ready to serve check it for seasoning and then pass it through a sieve to get rid of the onion bits and any lumps.

Leave the meatloaf to stand for fifteen minutes before slicing it and serving with the gravy. Mashed potato is the traditional accompaniment to meatloaf, and it suits this recipe down to the ground. Serve it with vegetables of your choice, but let me whisper ‘leeks’ in your ear, and maybe even a glass of cider, if you feel like it.

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