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Thursday, 18 August 2011

bacon jam, the eight wonder of the world...

This intriguing concoction first came to my attention earlier this year. I couldn't wait to find out what it was... a paté, a chutney, potted meat or jelly? But try as I might I could not get my little paws on a jar. I stalked @edhick  (the maker) on Twitter, I badgered stockists, all to no avail. There was nothing left to do but make some. I donned my recipe sleuth hat and trawled the web and historical recipes for information. After extensive research I am pleased to announce that I am now the world's leading authority on 'bacon jam' and I shall be choosing it as my specialist subject on Mastermind. Here's what I did...

500g good quality smoked bacon, diced
A large onion (200g approx.) cut into a rough dice

2 garlic cloves minced

220g brewed coffee (the good stuff, strong)

30g apple cider vinegar 
1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce

30g brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp. cocoa powder 

Cook the bacon over a high heat in a large heavy bottomed pan, stirring occasionally until the fat is rendered and the bacon is lightly browned (approximately 20 minutes). With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon onto a paper towel lined plate and let it drain.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the onions, and cook until they are translucent. Add the minced garlic, fry until fragrant. Add the vinegar, sugar, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder and coffee, bring to the boil, stirring and scraping up the bacon bits from the bottom of the pan. After 2 minutes, add the bacon, and stir to combine. Simmer until dark and syrupy (about two hours), adding a couple of tablespoons of water at a time if your mixture starts to look dry.
Let the 'jam' cool, then pulse it in a food processor for 2-3 seconds. It's better to leave some texture to it, preferably a bit rustic with chunks. Then refrigerate in an airtight container. 

It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks, but believe me there is no way it will last that long! In fact I wish I had doubled the recipe...

Like chutney, with equal notes of sweet and salty, it's perfect with cheese... 

... and with eggs and all manner of cooked breakfast dishes. You can use it as a condiment on a burger or baked potato, stirred into stews and other slow cooked dishes to give a deeper flavour. It is truly multi-talented and no one can ever have too much 'bacon jam'.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

a summer salad...

It was 'Cookalong' time again last week and this time the August theme was Summer Salads. 'Try and get inventive, give us something different with them' they said. 'Parma and Melon Salad' I thought.

That's a bit old hat really, isnt it? The terrible cliché that haunted the Irish wedding reception menu for nigh on two decades, along with the inevitable cream of vegetable soup. Well I think it deserves another chance, it just needs a bit of a make-over. So this is what I did…

Parma, Feta & Melon Salad
Serves 2
4 slices of Parma ham
1 galia or honeydew melon
Feta cheese
Handful of rocket
Squeeze of lemon to taste

Peel, halve and de-seed the melon, cut the flesh into cubes. Cube the feta to roughly the same size. Give the rocket a quick rinse. Put two slices of ham in a deep bowl, place alternative squares of melon and feta on top… in a sort of chequerboard pattern . Mix the oil & lemon juice and season with black pepper. Scatter a few leaves of the rocket on top and drizzle with the dressing.  
There's no need to add any salt to the dressing as the feta and parma are quite salty enough.

Serve very well chilled with some good bread for a more substantial lunch, or without the bread for a pretty starter that's easy to make ahead.

The sweet and juicy melon, the deeply savory Parma ham and the dry, salty feta are three flavours that work really well together. 

Now what shall we choose for the main, the beef or the salmon?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

apricot coffee cake...

Apricots cannot be trusted. They lie! The sooner I accept this fact of life the sooner I can move on and not spend my summers in a haze of disappointment and regrets. They look so ripe and inviting, but how often do they deliver on their promise?

I still buy them in expectation of this punnet having the perfect apricot. But because I have been fooled so many times I now buy an extra bag of sugar as well, so I can at least make some jam from the punnet of falsehood.

Here is a nice way of using some of the under-sweet apricots that cheat their way into your home. This is a 'Coffee Cake', a rather old fashioned notion of a cake served with a mid-morning cup of coffee, but usually with no actual coffee in it. How quaint! The bottom of the cake is nicely dense, its sweetness works nicely against the tart apricots, and the top of the cake is deliciously moist, from the fruit and the jammy topping. It can also be made with other kinds of tart, not overly juicy fruit, such as halved plums, pink rhubarb chunks or apple slices... It is wonderfully versatile.


190 g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
150 g white sugar
1 egg
30 g butter
160 ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
310 g pitted and diced fresh apricots
1/2 tsp mixed spice, or to taste
2 tbsp white sugar

Apricot glaze and a drizzle of icing to serve.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together the sugar, egg, and butter until smooth. Stir the buttermilk and vanilla into the batter. Pour the batter into the flour and beat until smooth.

Spread the batter into a greased 8 inch square pan, and sprinkle the diced apricots evenly over the top. Dust with spice and sugar. I made mine in a ring tin because it amuses the children and put the fruit at the bottom of the sponge mixture, it is a very forgiving mixture and will work either way.

Bake in the preheated oven approximately 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

I make a jam from any apricots left over (and the aforementioned extra bag of sugar). Stone the fruit and weigh, then boil with the same quantity of sugar. Sieve the resulting jam and glaze the top of your cake with it. You will most likely have extra apricot jam so pot it up in a sterilised jar and store in the fridge. You can use it to glaze fruit tarts and cupcakes, etc. or just spread on buttery toast or a scone. Drizzle your cake with a little icing sugar mixed with a drop of water or lemon juice and serve.