Meat loaf is an iconic American dish with European origins, which has become one of my favorite meals to make at home because it’s so adaptable. And it has personal significance for me because it’s the first dish Michael cooked for me. My aromatic version offers a hint of heat, a bit of sourness, and an unexpected whisper of sweetness.
Because ground meat releases a lot of water when cooked, I prefer to bake the shaped loaf directly on a baking sheet, which helps the liquid evaporate during cooking. If you can get your hands on a special meat loaf pan with a perforated insert, you can use that instead.
[Ed. Note: hear recipe creator Nik Sharma talking about the multicultural influence on his food in this interview.]
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups [280 g] finely diced onion
4 garlic cloves, grated
One 1 in [2.5 cm] piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tsp garam masala, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated
1 cup [40 g] packed chopped fresh mint
1 cup [40 g] packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup [70 g] dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 lb [910 g] ground beef (15 percent fat)
1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup [65 g] ketchup
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 Tbsp jaggery or muscovado sugar
1 tsp amchur
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
To assemble the meat loaf: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, coriander, and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl, and cool for 10 minutes. Squeeze the grated apples and discard the juice. Add the apples, mint, parsley, bread crumbs, salt, and black pepper to the bowl with the onion mixture, stirring gently with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, and eggs, and stir to combine. Shape the loaf by hand and place it on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet or in a 9 in [23 cm] loaf pan with a perforated insert.
Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the glaze: Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C]. Bake the meat loaf in the oven for 1 hour. Spread the glaze over the surface of the loaf, and return it to the oven for another 25 to 30 minutes, or until it registers 160°F [71°C] on an instant-read thermometer and is slightly firm to the touch. Let sit for at least 10 minutes and serve hot or warm.
This meat loaf has layers of flavor. The garam masala and cayenne add heat to the beef, the Granny Smith apples add sweet-tart notes, and the Worcestershire sauce bumps up the umami. The pomegranate molasses gives the glaze a sour contour, while the jaggery and amchur (ground dried unripe mango) lend it a fruity flavor, which goes beautifully with the spiced beef.
Most families in the Indian subcontinent have a stash of garam masala in their kitchen; the ratios of the spices differ from region to region. Use this spice mixture as an all-purpose, savory seasoning by letting it bloom a little in hot oil at the start of cooking or adding directly later in the cooking process.
Makes about 1/4 cup [25 g]
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
One 2 in [5 cm] cinnamon stick
12 whole cloves
1 tsp whole black cardamom pods
1 tsp whole green cardamom pods
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mace
Heat a small, dry stainless-steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, and black and green cardamom pods. Toast gently, shaking the pan, until the spices become fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Be careful not to burn the spices; if they do burn, discard and start fresh.
Transfer the toasted spices to a mortar or spice grinder. Add the nutmeg and mace and grind to a fine powder. Store the spice mix in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
Reprinted from Season by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018
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