Grain Free Chicken and Vegetable Meatloaf

Chicken and vegetable meatloaf with vegetables is one of our favourite family dishes. I make it on regular basis, particularly often in winter. It is juicy and delicious meat dish with amazing versatility of the recipe, allowing to incorporate different ingredients and giving opportunities to prepare variety of meals out of it. Many nourishing, nutritionally balanced and healthy dishes can be created, based on the mix of chicken mince and lightly cooked or fresh vegetables. I use this mix not only to bake the meatloaf itself, but make meatballs to use them in main dishes or soups. With an addition of herbs, I use this mix as a stuffing in three bird roast – a special dish for Christmas table. The original chicken meatloaf recipe includes onions, leek and white cabbage as vegetable ingredients. However, fresh cabbage is not on the list of allowed ingredients in this blog. To adapt chicken meatloaf recipe to suit these limitations, cabbage was excluded and replaced by extra quantity of onions/leek.

Contrary to the rule of this blog presentation, where all step by step photos include the images of one particular dish, prepared according to the described recipe, photos for this post were selected from many different preparations of chicken meatloaf at different times. This was done on purpose to provide most detailed view for all the stages of the process.

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For the best tasting meatloaf I use chicken thigh meat, chicken breast can be used as well, I will only recommend to increase quantities of vegetables and be more generous with olive oil when sautéing onions and leek, to avoid meatloaf being on the dry side.

Ingredients:  

  • 500-700g chicken mince (breast or thigh skinless)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1  large leek (or 2 small)
  • 2 large onions
  • sweet red peppers, chili, garlic and flat  parsley paste, I make myself (this spice mix can be substituted by finely diced sweet red peppers/capsicum, deseeded hot chili and parsley)
  • good pinch of fennel seeds
  • 1+ table spoon of ground cumin
  • 2 table spoons of sesame seeds
  • 2+1 table spoons of cold pressed olive oil
  • salt and ground black pepper for seasoning

Preparation:

  • add egg, ground cumin, pepper, salt to chicken mince

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  • add chili, garlic and parsley paste or freshly chopped spice mix

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  • clean and wash leek if necessary
  • cut leek in quarters
  • slice leek not too thin

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  • heat olive oil (2 table spoons) in a pan
  • add fennel seeds

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  • add sliced leek and lightly fry it while chopping onions

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  • chop or slice onions similar to leek, not too thin

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  • add onions to frying leek
  • season with salt and black pepper

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  • sauté vegetables on medium/low heat until just becoming translucent
  • leave them in the pan to cool down a little
  • add warm vegetables (with all juices from the pan) to chicken mince with egg, spices and garlic paste
  • combine all the ingredients well

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  • the mixture have to be very soft
  • line baking tray with foil (you can use narrow strip of baking paper on top of the foil for the base of the meatloaf to sit on)
  • brush the foil with remaining table spoon of olive oil
  • spread chicken mince mixture and shape it as a narrow log

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  • occasionally I use hard-boiled eggs to make more protein rich dish

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  • when using eggs, insert them into half of the mince mix spread and cover with the other half
  • put the sides of foil up and press the mix to shape the meatloaf
  • release the side of the foil, finalise shaping the loaf with spatula
  • sprinkle the top of the loaf with sesame seeds (optional)

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  • cover meatloaf in foil, long sides first, short sides the last
  • be careful not to make cuts in foil, during baking meatloaf will release plenty of liquid, it’s the best if it stays inside

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  • cook in preheated to 200C fan-forced oven for 30min
  • take the tray out of the oven
  • carefully open foil wrapping, you will see that there is 1cm+ layer of juices

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  • reduce temperature to 160-165C
  • put the tray with meatloaf back into the oven with open and raised to the sides foil to keep the juices in
  • bake for another 50-60min, until meatloaf becomes light brown colour
  • all the juices will evaporate by that time and the foil on the bottom will be nearly dry

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  • let meatloaf rest for several minutes and transfer it to a serving board (if served immediately as a warm dish)

Significant note:

You will never get the same taste if the meatloaf is baked in a loaf tin. All juices will stay in the tin, they will be absorbed into meatloaf, making it too wet and watery, with the taste of boiled onions as the predominant one. It might sound strange, but baking meatloaf as a free-standing log, with excess juices freely  leaving it, completely changes both taste and texture of the meatloaf.

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This meatloaf is amazingly juicy and tasty, both warm and cold. It can be served with roasted vegetables or simply with fresh salad.

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It is also wonderful served cold, even straight from the fridge. As a meat, cooked for a long time, it is an excellent option for takeaway lunch, adding extra convenience without any need for reheating.

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We often use it with either fresh salad or fermented cabbage and beetroot salad on our day trips or as picnic food. I do not have any images to show the look of chicken meatloaf with hard-boiled eggs, but have one with lean beef mince.

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For those of my readers who do not have the same strict limitations in types of meat and vegetables that can be used, this recipe might serve as the starting point, with any desirable changes applicable. There variations can include different sources of meat, such as beef, lean beef, lean pork, spring lamb, turkey meat or any of their combinations. Vegetable component of the recipe can include sautéed cabbage as in original recipe, finely chopped fresh mushrooms, cauliflower or eggplant “rice”, grated fresh carrots, zucchini or finely diced sweet red pepper. For a juicy meatloaf, vegetables have to represent at least 1/3 in the total mixture.

I also want to mention some ideas how this mixture of ground chicken/chicken mince can be used to make other dishes. I often make the mix and freeze some of it in the shape of meatballs. I freeze them on baking trays lined with baking paper first.

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After they become frozen, I store them in zip-locked bags or containers and use them to make vegetable and chicken soup,

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or bake them on a bed of variety of vegetables.

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Frozen meatballs can be used in any tomato and other vegetable sauces. I also use this mix as a grain free stuffing for the three bird roast I make for Christmas. The only difference in preparation of the mix for stuffing is the use of additional chopped fresh parsley and organic prunes.

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I have found many years ago, before being diagnosed with coeliac disease, that using vegetables to make meatloaf, meatballs, rissoles or any other mince meat dishes, gives better taste and texture to the final product. The texture is not only soft, but also juicy. Vegetables, especially lightly sautéed, enhance the taste greatly. There is no need to use commercial sauces, full of sugar and highly processed ingredients. Many chicken dishes lose their original taste after being stored refrigerated, and their over taste can become quite unpleasant. Not with this meatloaf recipe. It keeps its fresh and intense taste after 5-6 days in the fridge, the fact that never ceases to surprise me.

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