National Toast Day and the Best Ever Hangover Cure

Wholegrain Toast with Bacon Jam and Fried Egg

It is National Toast Day so I want to share with you one of my favourite recipes. When you read the title, you might think I’ve lost the plot ( again ) but there is definitely something very, very moreish* about the combination of sweet onion, salty bacon with just a tickle of chilli heat. You will also probably think that this is quite an expensive dish to make with a lot of bacon** but rather like marmite this is something to use sparingly on your toast, and unlike marmite there will be no polarisation, I’m sure everyone who tries it will LOVE it.

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This recipe for bacon jam is my adaptation of any number of American recipes, each perfectly wonderful, reflecting the availability of ingredients and my own personal preferences. You can try substituting Maple syrup for the honey and adding more chilli if you want more kick in your finished jam. Other recipes I looked at substitute a cup of ground coffee or beer for the water. Next time I am going to use Guinness and I’ll let you know about the result.

*Everyone I know who’s tried it, and I’m a bit of a bacon jam evangelist, always asks for more. It is the ultimate hangover cure on thick toast topped with a fried egg.

**Ask your local butcher if he has any bacon and gammon offcuts this will help with the price.

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Bacon Jam

500 gr quality dry cure Smoky Bacon ( this is better if it is quite fatty )

2 large Spanish Onions, peeled and finely sliced

2 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

200 ml White Wine Vinegar

100 ml Water

250 gr soft Brown Sugar

100 ml runny Honey

1 medium Red Chilli Pepper, finely diced

2 dried Bay leaves

10 – 12 Coriander Seeds

3 – 4 Cloves

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

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Slice the bacon into half inch thick strips ( any smaller and they tend to burn ). Put the bacon strips into a large, heavy-bottomed, pan and place over a medium to high heat. Fry the bacon stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning until the bacon is nicely brown, caramelised and crispy. The bacon will cook in its own fat which will melt down, this process is called rendering. When the bacon is cooked remove it from the pan and strain to drain off the excess fat. This can be stored and used for cooking*. Once the bacon is cool, chop very finely into very small pieces.

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Add the onions to the pan in sufficient bacon fat to allow them to fry. Cook over a medium heat, for ten to fifteen minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another two minutes. While the onions are cooking blitz the spices in a coffee grinder ( you can, of course, use a pestle and mortar ). Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the bacon and reduce the heat until the jam is simmering. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Be careful due to recipes high sugar and honey content you must keep stirring to prevent the mix sticking and burning.

Remove pan from the heat and allow the mix to cool for fifteen minutes. Process the jam using the pulse setting in a food processor to help break up the onion, If the result is still quite liquid return to a pan and bring back to the boil. Simmer to reduce the liquid further stirring all the time. Using a funnel transfer into sterilised glass jars and seal tightly. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for a month. Served warm or hot on toasted bread or breakfast muffins and top with a fried egg.

*I’m unashamedly old school just as you cannot have too much butter, cream, alcohol or garlic in your cooking, pretty much anything tastes better fried in bacon fat. Pour the melted bacon fat through a piece of muslin cloth and keep in the fridge in an airtight container.

My Thanksgiving Ham Recipies

During the holiday season particularly for Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving in America, many families include a large cooked ham in the culinary celebrations. I first enjoyed this tradition when I was invited along with my then boss Steven ( the short wearing Springbok ) and his family to dine with Russ and Teresa. They lived with their lovely family near Cambridge and Teresa worked in the Red Lion with us. As a serving member of the American air force man, Russ bought a ham of epic proportions, ingeniously spirally sliced and then glazed, from the massive air force hypermarket on the local base. It was a stunning meal with great company and a great day.

The Thanksgiving meal has evolved like a traditional English Christmas dinner into a celebration of good food and a table laden with sides, sauces, and vegetables. Sweet potato casserole topped with fluffy toasted mallow pieces, cornbread dressing ( a type of stuffing ), cranberry sauce, creamed potatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese, wild rice pilaf, green beans with creamed mushrooms, glazed carrots and lots of pan gravy. Then to finish a veritable array of pies from pecan to pumpkin. Yummy.

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Traditional Bake Ham

Ask your butcher to source a traditionally prepared dry cure ham and to tie it for you. A dry cure ham will shrink less during cooking and produce a better quality easier to cut joint of meat. Now for the crafty part, poaching the ham before finishing the joint in the oven also improves the carving quality and produces a flavoursome stock from which you can make traditional pea and ham soup. I added a selection of my favourite glazes for you to try out.

1 whole or piece of boned and rolled dry cured ham around 3 to 4 lb is a nice joint

( ask your butcher to weigh it this is important for cooking times )

1 to 2 White Onions, peeled and quartered

2 large Carrots, peeled and halved

2 sticks of Celery, washed

2 Bay Leaves

4 Cloves

Around 10 whole Coriander Seeds

5 or 6 Black Peppercorns

 

Place the ham in the pan and cover with cold water. Place on the cooker and bring to the boil. Carefully take to the sink and pour out the water and wash off any scum from the ham. This initial boiling will help reduce excess salt in the finished ham. Cover again with cold water and add the carrots, celery, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Pierce the bay leaves with the cloves, pin to the onions and add to the pan. Bring back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with lid. Cook for twenty minutes per pound of raw weight. Once the cooking time is finished turn off the heat and leave to go cold in the cooking liquor. This can be done the night before.

 

For the Delicious Glazes and Baking

 

Wholegrain Mustard and Honey

4 tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar

4 tablespoons Runny Honey

2 tablespoons Wholegrain Mustard

Mix the sugar and mustard together in a small bowl. Rub in half of the mustard and sugar mix. Pour over one tablespoon of honey and put in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining sugar, mustard and honey. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Spicy Mustard with Apricot and Peach Preserve

4 tablespoons of Apricot Jam or Preserve

1 fl oz Peach Schnapps

3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Heat the preserve in a small thick bottomed pan until it melts whisk in remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spread half the mixture over the ham and place in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Wicked Bourbon and Coca-Cola Glaze

1 can of Coca Cola

2 fl oz Bourbon Whiskey

2 oz Soft Brown Sugar

½ teaspoon ground Allspice

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Pour the coca cola into a small heavy bottomed pan. Reduce by two-thirds, simmering over a medium heat until you achieve a thin syrup. Add the sugar, whiskey, and spices and reduce again by half. Spread half the mixture over the ham and place in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Cinnamon and Mustard

2 oz Soft Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon French Mustard

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. Spread half the mixture over the ham and place in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Traditional Spiced Christmas Ham

2 tablespoons soft Brown Sugar

2 tablespoons English mustard

½ teaspoon ground Allspice

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

A large handful of cloves

Mix all the ingredients, except the cloves, together in a small bowl. Spread half the mixture over the ham and then stud the fat with cloves pushing the pointed ends down in towards the meat. Place in the oven, after fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Weekend Top Tip

I’m pretty sure Frankie wasn’t talking about sirloins and saddles of lamb but the important word here is RELAX. Every chef I know worth their salt* and every TV chef you watch will all tell you to let cooked meat relax. It is just not important it is imperative ! An impeccably sourced, correctly seasoned piece of meat will be dry and tough if not allowed to rest. Simply after cooking keep a steak warm and covered with foil for 5 minutes before serving. For an average chicken or joint of meat cover with a foil tent and keep in a warm oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The core temperature will actually rise and the meat will reabsorb its natural juices making it tender and tasty. From a duck breast to a glazed ham to a whole side of beef , when allowed to relax the difference is truly amazing.

 * In ancient Rome soldiers were paid part of their wages in salt – from which the term salary derives

My Cantonese Pork

When you go out to eat or have a take away from your local Chinese Restaurant you will most likely be eating Cantonese style cuisine. The recipes are often crude copies of authentic Cantonese adapted for Western tastes, which is a huge shame as Cantonese is revered in China as one of the most celebrated national styles of cooking. In the eighteenth century, the Qing Dynasty allowed the Guangdong region, home to Cantonese, to be opened to the first foreign traders and natives from the area were amongst the first immigrants to settle in the United Kingdom and America exporting their traditions and food.

Cantonese PorkCantonese cuisine is all about simple dishes, letting the flavour of the key ingredients stand out, using fish and seafood from the region’s coast and the abundant agricultural produce.  The key additional flavours in Cantonese cooking are the ‘trinity’ of scallions or spring onions, ginger and garlic, with the addition of rice wine and soy sauce. Spices and herbs are only used in moderation although fresh coriander is used as a garnish, perhaps the most popular is Chinese Five Spice. The key method of cooking is stir-frying in a wok.

The most abused Cantonese recipe is the probably Sweet and Sour with cannon ball sized lumps of stodgy, deep-fried dough floating in over-sweet, violent orange coloured, gloopy sauces and don’t even get me started on pineapple.  The following recipe is I hope a little more authentic and delicate, although I am not so sure about the fried egg, but it is a delicious addition! The joy of many, but not quite all, Chinese recipes is they are very quick and easy and once you have a few key staples in your cupboard you have any number of dishes available to you. Enjoy.

Cantonese ( Sweet and Sour ) Pork                                   serves 4
AS ALWAYS A NOTE OF CAUTION BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.

1 Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips

1 Red Pepper, diced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and very finely sliced

1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced ( you can omit this but I like a little kick of Chilli )

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped

A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice

2 Cloves

1 tablespoon Corn Flour ( approximately )

100 ml quality chicken stock

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoon Rice Wine

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce

A small bunch of Coriander to Garnish

for the fried Pork
500 gr Pork Loin, skin removed, washed and diced
2 Egg Whites
Juice of 1 Lemon
60 gr  Cornflour
Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

1.5 litres Vegetable Oil

For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes then add the pepper. In a small pan, heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.

For the pork, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the pork cubes into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In your wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand. Place in a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Fry the pork in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon. When the pork is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep hot in a warm oven. When all the pork is cooked place into the hot sauce with the finely sliced spring onions. Stir and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with fresh coriander ( add an egg if you are feeling adventurous ).

Super – Patatas Riojanas Soup

The weather forecast for this week is not good, not good at all, we look to have some real stormy, autumnal weather heading for the islands so perhaps it is time to start thinking of some hearty, warming recipes, comfort food like a nice chunky soup. Now personally I am not a big fan of soup, if I get out to eat, I go for the fish or seafood starter and save soup for when my mum makes her thick tomato and bacon version for a big Sunday lunch. But increasing when I am working and not at home with my family, soup is a one-pot wonder. Soup is tasty, nutritious, extremely good value for money, easy to make and you can use lots of store cupboard staple ingredients and most of the odd bits in the fridge.

Now I had some potatoes, onions and Chorizo in my fridge, so in my mind I was thinking something simple with perhaps a Spanish taste, the potatoes soaking up the flavour of the Chorizo. I looked up a recipe and came across Patatas Riojanas, a very simple rustic soup or stew from La Rioja. La Rioja is a small region in the north of Spain, most famous for its high-quality wines, and it has some lovely indigenous dishes. No one is sure about the origins of Patatas Riojanas, but it would not have existed until at least the 19th century and the introduction of potatoes into Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.

Chorizo and Potato Soup

There is a story that Chef Paul Bocuse tasted this casserole in a well-known winery, and after three more plates told everybody Riojan style potatoes were the best food he had ever eaten. The world famous chef also recommended this meal to be the national dish of Spain. I have added a few carrots and some celery to my recipe to make more of a stew than a soup and have to say the result was absolutely delicious and very satisfying.

Patatas Riojanas Soup

750 gr Waxy Potatoes

2 large Onions, peeled and finely sliced

2 large Carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

3 large sticks of Celery, thoroughly washed and sliced

2 Red Peppers, grilled, skin and seeds removed

250 gr fresh Chorizo Sausage, cut into one-centimetre dice

50 ml good quality extra virgin Olive Oil

600 ml good quality Chicken Stock

A large glass ( 250 ml ) good Spanish White Wine preferably white Rioja

3 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 heaped tablespoon of Plain Flour

1 heaped tablespoon sweet Spanish Paprika

½ teaspoon fresh Thyme Leaves

1 Bay Leaf

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley to garnish

Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy bottom pan and gently sauté the Chorizo, sliced onion, carrots and celery for about ten to fifteen minutes until the onions are soft and translucent, then add garlic slices and potato and cook for five more minutes stirring constantly. Add the flour and cook out for two more minutes keeping stirring. Pour in the stock and white wine into the onion and chorizo mixture and add all the remaining ingredients and stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low until potatoes are cooked. Be sure to check the level of the cooking liquid adding a little water if needed. When the potatoes are well cooked and start just to break up correct the seasoning, add the parsley, stir and serve.