Bacon baskets:

Bacon baskets:

Now; this is a complete steal.  I hold up my hands. 

The good thing, though is that I could have nicked the idea from any of a dozen or more sources, so I hope I’m safe from litigation (it is a lovely idea, but it could have come from anywhere).  

However, I will give this link:  http://www.notmartha.org/archives/2008/02/27/bacon-cups/

…because this particular page has the process beautifully described and pictorially illustrated to a level that I am unwilling to match – so why not just give them the credit….. 

I mean; what is a NEW recipe?  These bacon cups are great. 

Scrambled eggs, salads, anything!

Size….whatever size you wish, just use streaky bacon and drape it over something that you’ve covered with foil and sprayed with Fry-lite or similar…, weaving as y’go. 

Just remember that you must allow for shrinkage as the bacon cooks.

The Good ol’ British Fry-Up: (English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh Breakfast)

The Good ol’ British Fry-Up:  (English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh Breakfast)

One of the most difficult things to do is to get several culinary elements done, ready at the same time.  This is the problem with the fry-up.

What would you like to do for this breakfast? And how long does each of them take?  ….and can they stay warm without spoiling? That’s the secret.

  • Bacon Fried/Grilled                                  10 mins                 yes
  • Eggs Fried                                                    5 mins                   NO!
  • Sausage Grilled                                          15 mins                  yes
  • Fried/grilled toms Fried/Grilled           15 mins                  yes
  • Baked Beans Saucepan                             5 mins                   yes
  • Black pudding Fried                                  5 mins                   yes
  • Fried bread Fried                                      10 mins                   yes
  • Hash Browns Fried                                  10 mins                  yes

From the above, you’ll see that the whole thing depends on how many eggs you need and whether you have enough pans to fry ‘em in!

If it was a perfect world, breakfast would be ready in 15 minutes, according to the table – but to do that you’d need five frying pans, a saucepan and a grill on a cooker with 6 rings.  It ain’t gonna happen.  Let’s tackle it sensibly:

  • Take a baking tray, place the halved tomatoes, cut side up.
  • Place the sausages, pricked with a fork, on the tray as well. Yes, we’re gonna cheat.
  • Drizzle a bit of oil on each of the tomatoes and season with a little salt – not too much.
  • Drizzle a little oil on the sausages and spread it all over them with a clean finger. They are clean….yes? (The fingers, not the sausages!)
  • Pop those in the oven on about….. say….. approximately…. Perhaps 200C.
  • Take your sliced bread. Cut it corner to corner.
  • Put a frying pan on the heat with a good amount of olive oil (alright – whatever oil you have) in it. Before it gets hot, briefly dip each bit of bread in the oil, both sides, and put it on a plate.  Just momentarily dip it, not soak it.
  • As the oil level goes down and the temperature goes up, the bread can be returned to the pan to fry and go golden. Juggle them so that the bread gets fried up to your standard.  Take the pan off the heat.  The bread can then be left on the surface.  It will cool.  That’s ok.  Bread done.
  • Pan on the heat again. Fry the black pud slices both sides and put with the bread.
  • Open a can of baked beans. Slop it into a saucepan and put onto a very low heat.  Bung a blob o’butter in it and some dried thyme.    You’ll need to stir it every 2 mins.
  • Pan back on – fry the hash browns. There’s only the bacon and those ruddy eggs left to do after these hash browns are done.
  • Put the hash browns onto a plate.
  • By this time, the sausages & toms will need turning over. Do that.
  • At the same time (with the other pair of hands) put all the bits that you’ve cooked (and have sitting on plates all over the ruddy kitchen) onto the same baking sheet as the sausages and toms. Go on – it’ll all fit (it’ll have to!). 
  • Now put that in the oven and turn the oven down to 140C.
  • Bacon into the pan. Turn the heat up.  Get it sizzlin’.  Turn the bacon.
  • Before the bacon is done, take it out and put it in the oven with the rest. Of course it’ll fit….
  • Turn the frying pan down and fry your eggs.
  • Before the whites have set properly, separate the whites from one another so that you don’t get a multitude of eggs coming out in one lump. Use the spatula to separate them into single or pairs, as necessary.
  • So, plate up your eggs, however many each person wants, and hand the plates out.
  • The rest of the breakfast can go onto plates or platters so that everyone can help themselves. YOUR WORK IS DONE!

Well done!  You survived.  It ain’t easy, eh?  But you did it.

Here’s to next time, when you do it for more than one person! 

…….. OH SHIT!   You forgot THE TOAST!

Bean’n’bacon bung-in:

Bean’n’bacon bung-in:

Prep:           5 mins.

Cooking:      10 mins.

Course:        Snack/Lunch/Main

Serves:        4

Rating:         2: Easy

Find:

  • 2 cans of different beans
  • Can of chopped tomatoes
  • Pack of cheap bacon bits from the supermarket or town market
  • Onion
  • Oil
  • Seasonings
  • Frying pan

Method:

  • Cut up the bacon bits, discarding the fatty bits and rind. Throw into a frying pan over a medium heat.
  • Slice the onions rustically (great big bits) and throw that in as well.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, to get the bacon crispy.
  • Rinse both cans of beans under the cold tap (especially if one of the bean types is red kidney…. rinse really well).
  • Pour off the fat into a cup (see Tricks’n’Tips for what to do with it afterwards) and put the beans in the frying pan. Add the can of chopped tomatoes.  Get to be all bubbling and nice.
  • Season to taste – you might want to put some sweet chilli sauce in it…… serve and eat.
  • Lovely with a few good pints and a few good mates.

Bacon-wrapped Pork & Apple Pattie Rounds:

Bacon-wrapped Pork & Apple Pattie Rounds:

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      20 mins.

Course:        Snack/Lunch/Main

Serves:        4

Rating:         3:  Moderate

  • You guessed it – as steak pattie rounds but use pork & apple instead of the steak.
  • Of course, you could use turkey, chicken, lamb, pheasant, taxman, parking attendant, politician (no, that would surely taste too bitter…..)

Bacon-wrapped Steak Pattie Rounds:

Bacon-wrapped Steak Pattie Rounds:

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      20 mins.

Course:        Snack/Lunch/Main

Serves:        4

Rating:         3:  Moderate

This is a good way to use up left-over meats.

Find:

  • 500g some sort of steak, raw or cooked (or sausages, or something left over…)
  • 200g streaky bacon in four pieces – they need to be as long as you can possibly get; to be wrapped around the four formed patties. Keep this in mind when sourcing the streaky bacon.
  • 2 slices bread for fresh breadcrumbs (See Tricks’n’Tips)
  • Mick’s Terbs (See Tricks’n’Tips)
  • 1 egg
  • Dollop whole grain mustard or horseradish sauce
  • Onion
  • Oil
  • Seasoning
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Food processor
  • Frying pan or grill

Method:

  • Make the breadcrumbs (See Tricks’n’Tips). Cut the steak up to allow it to process easier, trimming off any fat or other unwanted bits at the same time.
  • Roughly slice the onion.
  • Put both into the processor and blitz for a time. Add the breadcrumbs, herbs, mustard, egg and seasoning, then blitz again for a while.  You are trying to aim for a mixture that will form fairly stable balls of meat mixture.  If it’s too loose, add breadcrumbs.  If too dry, add a little oil.
  • Form into four round patties of equal diameter and thickness. Wrap the streaky bacon around the circumference of each of the patties, pinning into place with a cocktail stick.
  • They can be fried in a little oil for about 15 minutes, turning several times to avoid burning, or grilled/griddled for the same time, occasionally being turned over and drizzled with a little vegetable oil to keep them moist.
  • Serve with new spuds & veg or a simple salad, rice or whatever you wish.

Tartiflette:

Tartiflette:

PICTURE 26

Tartiflette is like Carcassonne – it’s not quite what it seems. 

Carcassonne in southern France has become regarded as one of the best maintained medieval walled fortress towns of France, whereas the truth of the matter is that it was substantially rebuilt during our Victorian age to encourage what we, these days, call tourism, and thus improve the economy of the town and the region. 

Picture of carcassonne

Have you seen it?  It’s really worth a look.  But what has that got to do with….    Well, Tartiflette has become regarded as an ancient peasant dish from the Savoie region.  True, it comes from the Savoie region, but it was actually invented as recently as the 1980’s by the Syndicat de Reblochon to sell more Reblochon cheese and keep the workers in employment.  Clever ploy, eh?!

Whatever its origin or history, I don’t care – cos it’s gorgeous.

There is no really definitive recipe for Tartiflette, despite its short existence.  However, this is the one that I prefer, the one that we have developed/experienced in the south of France near to Narbonne, though I’m sure if you visit the Savoie region it will be a little different.     And they’ll probably deny everything I’ve said about its origin! (But they’ll have their fingers crossed behind their backs!)

Prep:           20-ish minutes.

Cooking:      35-ish mins.

Course:        Main

Serves:        4-6

Rating:         2:  Easy

Find:

  • 1 kg nice waxy new potatoes; boiled, peeled and thickly sliced
  • Whole Reblochon cheese
  • 200 g cheap rindless smoked bacon or prepared lardons (for a veggie version, omit the bacon and substitute smoked tofu or one of these veggie bacon rasher type things. You’ll need more than this recipe says for the same amount of spuds.)
  • 1 large red onion (I sometimes put a shredded leek in there as well)
  • 2 cloves garlic (more if you wish to give it more ‘wellie’!)
  • Glass of white wine
  • Small tub Crème Fraiche
  • 50 g butter
  • Frying pan – large
  • Ceramic oven dish – also large
  • Pepper, salt to taste (but be careful with the salt as you have bacon and cheese)

Method:

 

  • Wash the potatoes (don’t peel them) and steam them or cook them à l’anglais – in boiling water. Let them cool a little before starting to handle them.
  • Slice the bacon into small strips (lardons will be ready for use) and fry in a little grapeseed, rapeseed, groundnut or sunflower oil and butter until the edges just start to brown. Remove, drain and put aside.
  • Peel and finely chop the onion. Fry them in the same pan, in the bacon fat until soft.
  • Add the wine, moving it about the pan to get all the sticky, gooey bits off the surface of the pan, and then reduce it down a bit to intensify the flavours.
  • Peel and thickly slice the now cooled potatoes, frying them with the onions and wine. Finely chop the garlic and put that in as well – don’t allow the garlic to start to brown or it might impart a bitter taste.
  • Chuck in the bacon mixture. Ensure that the bacon fat and wine mixture becomes evenly distributed over the entire pan contents. Preheat the oven to 200°C (mk6).
  • Pour the crème fraiche over the mixture, mix gently and then pour the whole lot into an oven dish.   Do not remove the natural crust from the Reblochon cheese (though if it has a label or a plastic coating of any sort, remove all of that, of course) and cut into slices ensuring that the harder ‘crust’ or edges are cut quite small and buried deeply so that it softens easily.
  • Stir the cheese into the mixture a little, then put some of the thinner slices on top of the potatoes and pop it in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Check that the top does not over-brown (another way of saying ‘don’t let the bugger burn’.)
  • Remove the dish from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes before delving into its steaming contents. Don’t burn your mouth!
  • Savour with a glass or four of nice, crisp, white wine – or whatever wine you like.

You’ve just made a dish full of history – recent history, perhaps, but history all the same.

Pasta Carbonara:

Pasta Carbonara:

Prep:           20 mins

Cooking:      20 mins.

Course:        Main

Serves:        2

Rating:         2:  Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy!

So, where does the Carbonara name come from? 

Well, it’s like in Cornwall, when the Cornish pasty was the miner’s meal break.  In Italy, they had Carbonara.   The ‘carbonara’ bit simply refers to the coal they hacked from the earth, so it’s the coalminer’s meal, taken down the mine and eaten cold.  Dunno what they carried it in though – Tupperware wasn’t around then!    See – not only do you learn how to cook, you also get a lesson in Italian social history and culture – that’s what I call good value in a book wot tells yer ‘ow to cook.

Now, after being super-impressed by this wonderful on-line publication…….

For 4 people, find:

  • 400 g spaghetti, linguini… (or whatever pasta…..)
  • Drizzle ofolive oil
  • 1 or 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 100 g pancetta, diced (or use smoked streaky bacon)
  • 3 egg yolks (see Tricks’n’Tips for how to separate eggs).
  • 50 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Generous pinch of grated nutmeg (if you have it – if not, don’t be so generous with it…..)
  • A good amount of coarsely ground pepper
  • Loads of chopped parsley (flat or curly-wirly)
  • Large saucepan of boiling water
  • Deep frying pan

 

Method:

  • Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil (use the kettle….). Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes until al dente – just tender.
  • Meanwhile (yes, you CAN multitask), heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan and cook the peeled shallots and pancetta over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until golden.
  • Separate the eggs, either using your fingers or by using a plastic egg separator fingy (see Tricks’n’Tips….), then whisk up the yolks with the grated parmesan cheese, pepper, chopped parsley and nutmeg if you have it.
  • Put it aside, ready for the big moment when it all comes together.
  • Drain the pasta but keep half a cup of the cooking water. Pop the pasta to the pancetta mixture in the frying pan and mix.
  • Add enough of the pasta water to just make it a bit sloppy.
  • Then chuck the whole lot into the cheese and beaten egg mixture and toss everything together using a couple of forks. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg mixture perfectly.
  • Serve it immediately with a salad of some sort. Remember to sprinkle extra parmesan and black pepper on top.

(Then imagine that you’re down a deep coalmine in Italy…..)

Bacon-Spiked Scrambled Eggs:

Bacon-Spiked Scrambled Eggs:

Prep:           5 mins.

Cooking:      10 mins.

Course:        Breakfast/Snack

Serves:        2 (and that’s the very best sort of breakfast….)    

Rating:         1:  Very easy

Lovely scrambled eggs enhanced by beautifully crispy bacon morsels giving spikes of intense flavour.

Find:

  • 4 or 5 Eggs
  • 2, 3 or 4 rashers of bacon or an amount of bacon bits
  • Butter & a little oil
  • Black pepper (you may not need salt as it has bacon)
  • Scissors
  • Frying pan

Method:

  • Snip the bacon into little bits using kitchen scissors. Get the pan hot and put in a small amount of oil.
  • Throw the cut bacon in. Keep all the bacon bits moving using a spatula until they are nicely crispy – about five minutes, I suppose.
  • Pour the excess oil off, into a cup, retaining it for doing the roast spuds tomorrow… (don’t be tempted to pour it down the sink – see Tricks’n’Tips for how to deal with fats & oils).
  • Put a knob of butter into the pan.
  • Pour your beaten (or at least, fairly defeated) eggs into the pan on top of the bacon and keep them moving.
  • Remember to serve the scrambled eggs onto plates before they look cooked – have courage!
  • The resulting light, soft, silky scrambled eggs are wonderfully enhanced by the intensely flavoured crispy bacon spikes.
  • Scoff with pleasure.

For the slimmers in our number, replace all references to ‘oil’ or ‘butter’ with this Fry-Light stuff.  It’s nowhere near as good, but when attempting to shed a pound or two….. (or stones, in my case) it is a dammed good idea.  And, more to the point, it works.

A really very nice indeed Non-Veggie breakfast pan…..

A really very nice indeed Non-Veggie breakfast pan…..

Inspired by watching Jamie – so he should take the credit. (Not ALL of it, mind…..)

Prep:           15 mins.

Cooking:      15 mins.

Course:        Breakfast/Snack

Serves:        As many as……

Rating:         1:  Very easy

Find:

  • As much bacon, as many sausages and as many slices of black pudd’n as you wish (you won’t need much, actually)
  • As many eggs as you want to use
  • Red & yellow peppers
  • Mushrooms of whatever description
  • Onions (make yer own mind up how many)
  • Garlic – you make the decision how many cloves!
  • Tins of plum tomatoes – half the number of people; that’s how many.
  • Oil, seasoning, chillies if you would like, Tabasco or Worcester sauce if you don’t.
  • You see, you must be ACCURATE with your quantities….. (Ha!)

Method:

  • Chop the meaty bits, de-seed & snip up the peppers, mushrooms – perhaps even a few pre-cooked chestnuts as well if you have ‘em – and pop ‘em into a large, well-oiled frying pan over a high-ish heat. Get ‘em all going and cook them well.
  • Chuck in a bit of water to take the bits of flavour from the surface of the pan (Jamie used a paella pan – you can use whatever you like).

Now do the calculation:

How many people (say 4); so that’s half of 4….. duh….

Ah yes, two cans of plum tomatoes.

  • Open the cans, pour in the juice and then take a table knife to the tomatoes to just cut them in the cans with a couple of strokes of the knife, randomly – you don’t want chopped tomatoes (otherwise I would have specified a can of chopped tomatoes, wouldn’t I ?…..) and pour them in. Keep the heat up.
  • Chuck in a few dried herbs, or fresh if you have them (torn-up basil leaves would be especially good, but that would be best just at the end), and get it up to boiling.
  • You can put the garlic in now as well. Peeled & sliced, or through a garlic crusher.
  • Season, mix in your flavourings, taste, etc. Turn down the heat.
  • When you are happy with the gorgeous taste, make as many holes in the surface of the mixture as you have eggs, cracking one into each hollow.
  • Don’t hang about though or they’ll be cooked at different times – get a wiggle on!
  • Turn out the heat, pop a lid on top (if you have one) or some foil if you haven’t and in about 3 minutes you should have a lovely breakfast suitable for your non-veggie friends.
  • Especially with the black pudd’n.
  • Serve it up onto toast or pop some into flatbreads of some sort, sprinkling the torn basil leaves on top as it’s served.
  • Great for sharing – Just scoff it!

Bacon wrapped asparagus bunches:

Photo:  Chris Wiles Photgraphy

Bacon wrapped asparagus bunches:

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      10 mins.

Course:        Starter or side dish

Serves:        6

Rating:         3:  Moderate

 

Well, on the surface, quite basically, it’s just asparagus wrapped in bacon – or so it may seem……….  but let me just tell you a little story before telling you how to cook it….

As a young but fully qualified (and probably fairly arrogant and know-it-all) Motor Vehicle Technician, back in the early 70’s, I was called to a rather posh broken-down car in a rich Leicestershire village early one morning.  The starter motor ‘bendix drive’ had stuck, as they did quite often in those days.  All I needed to do to get the car going and let the customer get to work was to smartly clout the starter motor with a copper mallet – a standard trade trick of the time.  It usually worked a treat.  Instant success.  However, on this occasion the owner didn’t want to pay the bill as he said that he had done that before calling me out, and so he’d probably loosened it.  My reply was quite considered, (actually very well-rehearsed) and quite succinct.

“It’s not just ‘hitting the starter with a hammer’ that does the trick, Sir.  It’s knowing where to strike it, with which implement, in which direction and how hard “. 

He begrudgingly paid up.  It was a stock answer to a stock situation, even then, he still reported me for being gobby.   Well, I suppose I was.   Ne’mind!

Yes, you guessed it – I got a rocketing from my Service Manager – and then a knowing wink.

So, likewise, it’s not just wrapping the asparagus in bacon that will ensure your success as a flash git, it’s how you wrap it, what you wrap it around and what you use to wrap it, etc.

And so to the chase……

What you’ll need (as a posh starter) for 6 people:

  • A bunch of asparagus – fairly obvious really, but for this, you’ll need quite robust asparagus. Thin local-grown English asparagus is great for quick butter sautéing (cor, does the really fresh local English produce taste so nice) or for asparagus spear tarts, but for this flash git version you’ll ideally need the thicker stuff.  Late season English; or even better, the South American – probably Peruvian – asparagus works best.  Allocate three or four fat spears per person for a starter.
  • 250g Streaky bacon – smoked or ‘green’ (unsmoked); no matter, whichever you prefer. This should be in long strips, so that it can be wound around the asparagus.
  • Butter – perhaps a little garlic butter left over from doing garlic bread? – see Tricks’n’Tips.

Method:

  • Asparagus is easy to prepare. Don’t cut it; break it.
  • Feel your way along the stem between the finger and thumb of both hands, bending each spear carefully to discover where it naturally snaps. You will, of course, want to retain as much of the expensive vegetable as possible, so start at the cut end and find out where it snaps.  This way you’ll get the best of the spear and avoid the stringy bit – but don’t bin the end that you cut off; keep it by for now.  You can make soup from it using the blanching water and the peelings as well.  You may be a flash git in the making, but you can also be an economical and, if necessary, quite frugal (in other words, tight as a duck’s arse) flash git.
  • If the spears are thick enough, carefully peel (with a potato peeler, not a knife) the very outer skin from the lower stems, below the knobbly bits, retaining the peelings for soup/stock, as above.
  • Wipe the spears dry with kitchen roll and smear them with the butter or garlic butter.
  • Bunch two or three spears together and start winding on the bacon from just below the knobbly bits, down to the broken ends, avoiding any further overlap if possible on the way down, covering the stem without gaps. It may take two strips, depending on length of asparagus and/or bacon strips.
  • Lay them onto a plate or into a container for cooking just before needed. Keep the prepared spears cool – and don’t let anyone see them as they’ll be SUCH a surprise when you bring them out looking gorgeous.  Yo, man.
  • When almost time to consume your prized items, gently sauté (yes, that does mean gently fry) these beauties, keeping them moving, as you now well know) in very little oil, as the bacon has a fat content and you also have the butter to consider. Be really careful to keep the cooking long and low if you used garlic butter, as you don’t want the garlic to burn and go bitter.
  • Turn them carefully so that they don’t unwrap, they’ll take about 5 to 10 minutes – or maybe longer, depending on the bottom heat used – or until the bacon has properly crisped up – cos they’re nicer that way.
  • Present them on a slice or a chunk of brown/wholemeal bread, criss-crossed in a pretty pattern. This will absorb the excess fats and leave the spears (and the bread) just scrummy.

Cor, you sure is lucky to have this little booky. (Well…… blog thingy anyway).