Thursday, 3 February 2011

Lemon and Pepper Mini Meat Loaves with a Cool Yoghurt, Cream and Dill Sauce

On the subject of pepper (and I promise I'm nearly done with it, Tellicherry or not), I'm mightily fond of recipes combining good quantities of both pepper and lemon zest. These oven-baked mini-meatloaves are topped with a generous teaspoonful of each, and both ingredients feature in the meat loaf mix.
Lemon and Pepper Mini Meat Loaves with a Cool Yoghurt, Cream and Dill Sauce
The inspiration for this recipe comes from my love of  fresh dill, gherkins and anchovies, and I put this down to my Norwegian ancestry. My grandmother was Norwegian, and I'm convinced that a love of these very Scandinavian ingredients is carved into my DNA.

Also, many years ago, I saw a recipe for a moulded meat loaf in an issue of Fairlady, and it contained, I think, dill and capers. I've long since lost the recipe, but it was probably the work of Annette Kesler, long-time food editor of one of South Africa's best-loved women's magazines. Many women of my generation grew up with Annette's recipes, and I bet she's taught several other generations to cook too.

There is one important ingredients in this recipe that shouldn't be omitted, and that is anchovies. My family loathes them with a passion, and they make all sorts of off-colour jokes about my little bottles of anchovy fillets in the fridge. Little do they know that I sneak a finely pounded anchovy fillet into many of the winter stews I make, and several other dishes besides. One of the magic properties of anchovies is that they inject a subtle but lovely rich, round, savouriness into food, without adding a hint of fishiness.

I used beautiful silken white Italian anchovies in this recipe, but as these aren't easy to find, you can use two tinned or bottled anchovy fillets. Be sure to grind them finely to a smooth paste with the garlic, though, or your family will encounter a fishy flake and never eat meat loaf again.

Lemon and Pepper Mini Meat Loaves with a Cool Yoghurt, Cream and Dill Sauce

For the mini meat-loaves:
a small clove of garlic, peeled and finely grated
4 white anchovy fillets [see note above] or 2 bottled or tinned anchovy fillets
a pinch of salt
600 g lean beef mince [ground beef]
600 g pork mince [ground pork]
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup (125 ml) thick natural white yoghurt
2 T (30 ml) green peppercorns, drained of their brine and crushed
2 T (30 ml) finely grated lemon zest (loosely packed)
3 T (45 ml) finely chopped fresh dill
3 T (45 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
3 T (45 ml) chopped capers
4 T (60 ml) chopped cocktail gherkins [small dill pickles]
4 slices brown bread, whizzed in a food processer (or grated) to fine breadcrumbs
milled black pepper

For the sauce:
½ cup (125 ml) thick natural yoghurt
½ cup (125 ml) thick cream, or sour cream
the finely grated zest of a small lemon
the juice of half a lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) finely chopped fresh dill
a pinch of white pepper
salt, to taste

To top:
cracked black pepper
finely grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Put the garlic, anchovy fillets and salt into a mortar and grind to a paste. Scrape the paste into a large mixing bowl and add all the remaining meat loaf ingredients. Using your fingers, lightly knead and squish the mixture until well combined. Tip in the breadcrumbs, and mix lightly again until every thing is almalgamated.

At this point, it's a good idea to test the mixture to make sure the seasoning is right. Pinch off a marble-sized piece and flatten it into a little disk. Fry in hot oil until browned on both sides. Taste it, and add more salt and pepper to the raw mixture if necessary.

Put the mixture in the fridge for thirty minutes to an hour to firm up. (This isn't essential, but it does help develop the flavours.) To mould the mini-meat loaves, generously rub a ramekin dish (or a tea cup) with vegetable oil. Pinch off a large chunk of the meat loaf mixture, and press it firmly into the ramekin, pushing and squishing down well on all sides to force out any air pockets. (There may well be rude noises.) Alternatively, you can roll them into balls, but you will need to reduce the cooking time slightly.

Flatten the top of the mixture, then turn the ramekin dish over in the palm of your hand and smack and shake it smartly to release its contents. If it won't come loose, run a sharp knife round the edges to release any vacuum. Slide the little cake onto the greased baking sheet, and repeat the process until you've used up all the mixture. Using a pastry brush, paint a little olive oil all over the top and sides of the little loaves. Sprinkle the tops generously with cracked black peppercorns and a little grated lemon zest.

Place in an oven preheated to 200ºC for ten minutes. Then turn the heat down to 160ºC and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked right through. You can check this by flipping one of the loaves over, and cutting deep into its centre: if there is any bloodiness within, give them another five to ten minutes.

While the meat loaves are cooking, make the dressing. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Place in the fridge to chill.

To serve, place the meat loaves on hot plates. Decant the cold sauce into a jug, so it can be poured over the hot loaves. Lovely with a green salad, and baked potatoes, mash or rice.

Serves 6.
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Adele said...

We absolutely hate anchovies too, but I've started to throw in one fillet whenever a recipe asks for it, to see how it goes (very adventurous, I know). So far so good. You really can't taste the fish if you chop it very finely. I love your mini meatloaves. A nice change to meatballs.

Linda Harding said...

Gorgeous. Beautiful picture, lovely recipe and delicious sounding result. Yum!

Cursuri Franceza said...

This looks great. I too love the smell of fresh dill and I love the taste that dill gives to food. Those meat loaves look delicious. Thanks for this great recipe.