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Waiters and senior chefs used to love the meatloaf I cooked for staff lunches as a young chef. I’d use leftovers and trimmings of pork, beef and lamb, then roast the loaf and serve it with spaghetti and a spicy tomato sauce. I swear, taking pride in staff lunches on a really tight budget got me extra promotions in the kitchen. I’ve just used pork mince here, but feel free to use any blend of minced meat – lamb, beef and game all work well too.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Peel the carrots, quarter lengthways, then place in a roasting tray (roughly 25cm x 30cm), drizzle with oil and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, blitz the bread into breadcrumbs in a food processor, then use your hands to mix in a bowl with the pork, half the oregano, the crumbled feta (it’s a small amount, but it makes all the difference!), the egg and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Shape into a loaf (roughly 20cm long), then, when the time’s up on the carrots, make a space in the middle of the tray and add the meatloaf. Cook for a further 25 minutes, or until the meatloaf is golden and cooked through.
Meanwhile, halve the chillies lengthways and deseed, then put them into a medium pan on a low heat with a lug of oil for 2 minutes while you peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Scoop out and reserve the chillies, then put the onion and garlic into the pan with the remaining oregano and fry for about 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring regularly. Pour in the passata, add a splash of water to the empty jar, swirl it around and pour into the pan, season to perfection, then simmer until the time’s up on the meatloaf.
Remove the tray from the oven and carefully pour the sauce around the meatloaf. Pull the carrots to the top of the sauce and arrange around the meatloaf with the chillies, then grate the Cheddar on top of it (I like to sprinkle over a few fresh woody herb leaves like rosemary at this point, if I’ve got it). Pop the meatloaf back into the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden and delicious, and the sauce is bubbling. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water according to packet instructions, then drain. Serve everything in the middle of the table with a salad, then slice up the meatloaf, mashing the chillies into the sauce for added heat, if you like.
Tricks & tips: The chillies add great depth to this sauce, but if your kids won’t eat them, simply leave them out.