Eilene is having friends over for Tuesday night shows and I always try to make something exotic for them. Looking at the recipes for Game of Thrones, they are either too simple, too complex, or take too long to make.
Also, Eilene requested sweet potato fries, a very un-Game of Thrones menu item. In the end, I decided that I would make store bought baked fries, to simplify my life—I really don’t do a lot of deep frying in the house because of Jan’s dietary restrictions. The question remained: What could I make that was both exotic and would go with fries?
In the end, I decided to make a meatloaf. While I could make this a simple meatloaf, like my mother used to make, that would not be up to the standard I have set for myself. To give it a more Game of Thrones twist, I decided spice it with baharat and to stuff it with eggs and spinach.
Before I left home for the first time, I sat down with my mother’s recipe box and wrote down my favorite dishes. I have learned a lot about cooking since my mother’s day. Sorry Mom, if I did violence to your recipe, but it is for a fairly violent show.
This morning, I started with a copy of Mom’s recipe. As I look at it now, the only thing I did not change in some way was the ground beef. The dish is meant to be a comfort food, but with enough of the exotic spicing and medieval flair that it would be at home in the show. We will see if the kids like it tonight.
Baharat is a Arabic North African spice blend that can be used on beef, chicken, rice and vegetables. One thing most Arabs would not use it on would be pork, because pork is not ḥalāl (حَلَال “lawful”). Game of Thrones is loosely based on a Northern European Medieval culture. They might have had access to the spice blend, but they would not follow the dietary restrictions.
I do not “boil” my eggs any more. A few issues ago, Cook’s Illustrated had an article about how to make the perfect boiled eggs. The author had discovered that there was no way to “boil” an egg with any predictability, it would always come out either over or under cooked. The solution was to take the eggs out of the water.
Put a half inch of water in a pot and place a rack in the pot—I have a perforated steamer plate that came with my rice steamer that is perfect. Put the eggs on the rack and set to pot to boil over a high heat. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat and put the lid on the pot. Time the eggs for exactly seven minutes. Remove the pot and fill it with cool water to stop the eggs from over cooking. If you timed it right, the whites will be completely firm and the yolk will be in that state of thick liquid, soft boiled perfection.
Note: Some may have noticed the detailed instructions in my recipes. My main reason for writing them that way is so that my daughters, Miriam and Eilene, may one day be able to recreate their favorite dishes.
I write my recipes with little assumed knowledge of cooking. The reason for this is that in my mother’s original recipes there were vast quantities of assumed knowledge. To give an example of this, I will give you the complete instructions for making my mother’s meatloaf.
1. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly.
2. Place in an ungreased loaf pan and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 1¼ hours.
3. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before slicing.
Karl’s Game of Thrones Stuffed Meatloaf
1 Tbs. butter
½ cup onion, chopped finely
1 tsp. sea salt
½ cup celery, chopped finely
½ cup red bell pepper, chopped finely
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs. baharat
1 tsp. pepper, fresh ground
1 cup milk
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup oat meal, toasted
1½ lb. beef, ground
½ lb. pork, ground
4 eggs, separate uses
¼ cup parsley, minced
10 oz. frozen spinach
1. Melt the butter over a medium high heat in a sauté pan. Sauté the onions with the salt until translucent, about three minutes.
Tip: I have found that if I just stick the raw vegetables into a meatloaf they do not always cook completely. Also, they shed their moisture into the loaf making for a soggy meatloaf. Sautéing may take more time, but it allows you to develop the vegetables flavors more fully.
2. Add the celery and red bell pepper. Continue sautéing for 4 more minutes.
3. Pull the vegetables to the side of the pot and add the garlic to the hole in the center. Stir fry the garlic of one minute, until fragrant, and then mix it into the rest of the vegetables.
4. Add the tomato paste and the anchovy paste and continue cooking for two more minutes.
Tip: The tomato and anchovy pastes increases the umami, meaty, flavors of the meats. However, I am not using so much that the final produce will taste tomato-y or fish-y.
5. Add the baharat and pepper. Sauté for one minutes until the spices are fragrant.
6. Stir in the milk and baking soda and turn off the heat.
Tip: The soda breaks down the proteins in the beef and prevents it from toughing up. However, do not use too much soda or it will make the meat taste “soapy.” If you use this technique, you must also not let the meat sit too long before cooking it—meaning overnight. The warmed milk insures an even distribution of the baking soda. It also helps to warm the fat in the meat a bit making the meat easier to mix.
7. In a clean, dry skillet toast the rolled oats for 4-5 minutes until they are golden brown.
Tip: Stir constantly so that individual flakes do not burn.
8. Put the meats, oatmeal, one egg, parsley and milk mixture into a large mixing bowl.
9. Use your (clean) hands to mix the ingredients in the bowl thoroughly.
10. Refrigerate the mixture for about 15 minutes.
11. While the meat is resting, soft boil three large eggs. Cool them in cold water and remove the shells.
12. At the same time, put water in a separate pot and bring it to a boil. Add the frozen spinach and cook it for five minutes. Drain and put the spinach in cool water to prevent it from overcooking. Take handfuls of spinach and squeeze as much liquid as possible out of them.
Note: This will leave you with dense “pills” of spinach.
13. Pam a large loaf pan and spread the meatloaf mixture over the bottom and sides of the pan. Reserve about a third of the mixture.
Tip: Take handfuls of the meat and flatten them into sheets about half an inch thick. Press them on to the bottom and sides of the pan. Smooth out the layer of meat with a spatula. When you are done you will have a pan coated with a half inch layer of meat with a rectangular trough in the middle.
12. Take half of the spinach pills and fluff them to break up the clumps. Spread the spinach in the bottom of the trough.
13. Lay the three eggs, end to end along the trough.
14. Fluff the remaining spinach and spread it over the eggs.
15. Flatten the remaining meat mixture and spread it over the pan. Pinch the edges to seal the trough.
Note: You may now just put the pan in the oven and bake the loaf, like my mother did. However that is not what I do. Jan loves the crusty bits of browned meat on the outside of the meatloaf, so I have a technique that maximizes this.
16. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
17. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Tip: This give the meat time to firm up and seal the pinched together edges.
18. Line a large baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
Tip: This aids in clean up, but you could just Pam the pan.
19. Run a knife around the edges of the loaf pan to free the meat from the sides of the pan.
20. Flip the loaf pan over and rap it onto the baking pan.
Tip: With luck the meatloaf will fall right out of the loaf pan without tearing. If it does tear, pinch the edges together and smooth with a spatula.
Note: When you bake this meatloaf it will have a rich browned crust on five sides, instead of only one.
21. Put the meatloaf in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
22. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and cover it with a sheet of foil. Allow it to cool for five minutes.
23. Transfer the loaf to a serving platter and cut into ½-¾ inch slices