Showing posts with label bacon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bacon. Show all posts

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Low-Carb Roast Baby Cabbage Wedges with Bacon

My sister, an excellent cook, suggested this method for roasting fresh young cabbages, and I was dubious at first because I'm not enthusiastic about cooked cabbage. How wrong I was - thank you Sophie! These tender, slightly charred wedges are quite simply delicious with their plain dressing of fruity olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

Low-Carb Roast Baby Cabbage Wedges with Bacon
As a Type-2 diabetic, I'm always looking out for good ideas about preparing ultra-simple, nutritious, low-carb veggie dishes, and I'm so sold on this recipe that I've made it three times in the last fortnight.

You can, if you fancy, add all sorts of extra flavours to the wedges - Sophie uses a delicious dusting of powdered fennel seeds. I reckon I might try caraway seeds or garlic next time I make this. But, for now, I think they're perfect with just a tingle of heat from the dried chilli flakes, plus plenty of black pepper.

I've added crisped-up bacon bits for a touch of luxury, but you can of course leave these out. This is best with good quality cubes of bacon (I buy mine at my favourite, most excellent German butchery), but if you can't find these, you can use decent streaky bacon instead.

 Low-Carb Roast Baby Cabbage Wedges with Bacon 

2 baby cabbages
the juice of 1 big lemon
5 Tbsp (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp (5 ml) dried red chilli flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (250 ml) bacon cubes, or 10 rashers of bacon, chopped

Arrange the wedges cut-side up on a tray.
Heat the oven to 200 °C, fan on, or 210 °C if your oven has no fan. Cut each cabbage into four wedges and arrange, cut side up, on a baking sheet.

Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with chilli flakes and season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast for about 35 minutes, or until the edges of the wedges are slightly blackened, and they are tender on the insides.

Ten minutes before the end of the roasting time, fry the bacon until just crisp, then drain and keep hot.

Sprinkle the bacon cubes over the cabbage, add another spritz of lemon juice and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a side dish; 2 as a main course

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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Low-Carb Beef Shin, Tomato & Olive Stew with a Naartjie Gremolata

It's the gremolata that makes this stew special: a heavenly scent of citrus, parsley and garlic billows up as your face meets the plate. The starring ingredient here is freshly zested naartjie [clementine] peel - a glorious South African flavour that brings such warmth and colour to winter kitchens.

Beef Shin, Tomato & Olive Stew with Naartjie, Lemon, Garlic & Parsley Gremolata.
 Bowl by my uncle David Walters, Master Potter of Franschhoek.

Wine recommendation from Michael Oliver: Simonsig Pinotage 2012.  Go to the
end of the  page for more detail about this pairing.

I'm besotted with naartjies and use them with abandon in many dishes, even more so now that I've discovered that they have no impact on my blood sugar. They're one of the only fruits I, as a diabetic, can eat with no fear.  At the end of this post, you'll find links to some of my favourite naartjie recipes.

This nourishing beef & olive stew is easy to make. 

This heartwarming, deep-flavoured stew is easy to make, but it involves several steps, and takes time, as all good stews do.  It will take you about 45 minutes to get the stew on the go - so put on some music and relax into the cooking! After that you can leave the pot on the stove over a very low heat and forget about it for two or three hours.

Please use well-trimmed, dark-red beef shin in this recipe, preferably with the bone in.  Shin is much leaner than other similar stewing cuts, and it dissolves beautifully into melt-in-the-mouth pieces.  You can use boneless shin if you don't fancy finding those fat ivory bangles in your stew, but the bone marrow does add lovely unctuousness to this dish, and the leftovers make good treats for jealous dogs.

A tip: avoid sliced shin that looks as if it has bone dust sprinkled over the meat.  If your butcher can't slice up a shin without splintering the bone, his saw isn't sharp enough, and you must find a better supplier.  The shins I used here come from Woolies - they're on special now.

If anyone in your family doesn't like olives, set aside a portion before you add the olives.

This recipe contains four tablespoons of flour, so it isn't perfect if you're on a punishing low-carb diet. However, this is a piffling amount of carbohydrates split between six to eight people, so I think I can confidently recommend this for anyone on a low-carb or diabetic regime.

Some of the ingredients for this dish: carrots, leeks, beef shin, bacon, garlic,
red wine, chopped tinned tomatoes, olives and naartjie peel. 

Here's an Instagram quick video of my making this dish:

Beef Shin, Tomato & Olive Stew with Naartjie Gremolata

8 (2 kg) bone-in beef shin slices
4 Tbps (60 ml) white flour
salt and milled black pepper
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
3 Tbps (45 ml) olive oil, for frying
2 large onions
500 g medium carrots
500 g small leeks
2 bay leaves
a large sprig of fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled
5 Tbsp (75 ml) tomato paste
1 cup (250 ml) dry red wine
2 x 410 g tins tomato-and-onion mix, or chopped tomatoes
1 thumb-sized strip naartjie [clementine] or orange peel
24 Calamata olives, pitted

For the gremolata:
the finely zested rind of 2 small naartjies
the finely zested rind of a lemon or lime
5 Tbsp (75  ml) finely chopped fresh curly parsley
2 small cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated

Trim any small pads of fat off the shin slices. Snip the membrane surrounding the slices here and there so the meat can collapse easily in the pan.  Put the flour on a plate, season generously with salt and pepper and mix well.

Heat a large heavy-based lidded pot over a high flame and fry the bacon bits dry until golden and just crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Press the shin slices - three at a time - into the seasoned flour, and shake to remove the excess. Add the olive oil to the pan and when it is very hot and shimmering - but not yet smoking - add the first three shin slices. Fry for 3 minutes, until nicely golden and caramelised, then turn them over to brown the undersides.  Don't allow the pan to get too fiercely hot, or your stew will have black spots.  Remove the slices from the pan and set aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining slices.

In the meantime, get the vegetables ready.  Peel the onions and cut them into thick slices, crossways. Do the same with the carrots, cutting them into 2-cm thick slices. Trim the bases of the leeks, remove the green upper parts and slice the white and pale green sections crossways into 4-cm lengths.

When you've finished browning the shin, add the onions, carrots, leeks, bay leaves and thyme sprig to the pan, turn down the heat and sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are beginning to turn golden.

Gently sauté the veggies in the bacon fat & olive oil.
Finely grate or chop the garlic, and add it into the vegetables along with the tomato paste.  Cook, stirring often, for a minute, without allowing the garlic to burn. Pour in the red wine and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping to dislodge any golden stickiness.

Turn up the heat and add the tinned tomatoes and the reserved bacon and beef shin. Press the shin pieces deep into the liquid and bring to a fast boil. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Now turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Cover and bubble very gently for 2½ to 3 hours, or until the meat is so soft you can pull it apart with a fork.  Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the olives.

Check the stew now and then to make sure it isn't sticking on the bottom.  You shouldn't need to add extra liquid, but if the sauce seems too thick, thin it down with a little water.

Just before you serve the stew,  mix together, in a small bowl, the grated naartjie and lemon zest, the chopped parsley and the freshly grated garlic.  Turn off the heat under the stew, and sprinkle with the gremolata.  Alternatively, you can pass the gremolata around the table and let your guests help themselves. [Postscript 15 June 2014: My daughter says not to put too much gremolata on each portion as it can overpower the taste of the stew.]

Serve with hunks of warm crusty bread, or rice, or boiled baby potatoes, or - best of all - creamy mash.

Serves 8 as a main course. 

Wine pairing by Michael Olivier: 

It looks like: ‘Deep Persian carpet red’, say the estate notes. At the edge of the glass the wine shows ruby purple, an indication of its youth.

It smells like: Sweet red berries and cinnamon spice.

It tastes like: Again the red berries. Soft tannins. Sappy with fruit cake spices on the long aftertaste.

More naartjie recipes: 

Slow-Cooked Moroccan-Spiced Beef and Apricot Stew with Naartjie Couscous

Dried Naartjie Peel, and a South African Milk Tart to go under it

Naartjie Mousse in Dark-Chocolate Cups, with Rosemary Flowers

Caramel-Dipped Naartjies on Kebab Sticks

Couscous, Feta & Pea Salad with a Naartjie Dressing

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Friday, 23 May 2014

Creamy Low-Carb Cauliflower-Cheese Soup with Lemon Butter & Bacon

A quick yet deep-flavoured soup with a whisper of nutmeg, a luxurious topping of crisped bacon and swirls of lemony butter. This is a new low-carb version of my 2009 recipe for Cauliflower-Cheese Soup: because I've given up on carbs it contains not a speck of flour, not a cube of potato, nor any similar starchy thickening agent.  This is gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, and well suited to anyone on a Low-Carb High Fat (#LCHF) regime.

Creamy Low-Carb Cauliflower-Cheese Soup with Lemon Butter & Bacon

The zesty lemon butter adds extra gorgeousness, and I've thrown in a few tablespoons of baby capers because I love their mysterious sage-green flavour. You can omit both of these if you like, and serve the soup on its own, or with my no-carb halloumi 'croutons', or a dobble of extra cream plus a shower of snipped chives.

This is lovely topped with crumbled blue cheese - try it with creamy Gorgonzola - and also good with slices of pan-crisped chorizo, plus fresh sage leaves frizzled in olive oil.

This soup takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.  To find out why I think many soups should be cooked quickly and not boiled for hours, read my 10 Top Tips for Making Memorable Soup.

The only important watchpoint in this easy soup is adding the right amount of water. Too much and your soup won't be thick enough. Follow my recipe to the letter, and you can't go wrong.

Creamy Low-Carb Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Bacon Bits, Lemon Butter & Capers

2 small heads (500 g each) cauliflower
2 large onions
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
a sprig of fresh thyme [optional]
1 litre hot chicken or veggie stock (if you don't have home-made stock to hand, make one by combining a few teaspoons of a Nomu fond or a Knorr Stock Pot with a litre of hot water.)
1 cup (250 ml) grated Cheddar, loosely packed in the cup
a pinch or two of nutmeg, to taste (See Cook's Notes, below)
½ cup (125 ml) cream
salt & milled black or white pepper, to taste

For the topping:
8 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
4 Tbsp (60 ml) butter
the zest and juice of half a small lemon
3 Tbsp (45 ml) baby capers

Trim the cauliflowers by slicing away the thick stalks and removing any green leaves.  Break the florets into small even-sized pieces and set aside.

Peel the onions, cut in half lengthways and slice into thin crescents.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry the onions over a very gentle heat for 6-8 minutes, or until they are soft and just beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic and thyme sprig and cook for another minute, stirring, without allowing the garlic to brown. Add the cauliflower florets, all in one go.

Now pour in the hot stock. It should just cover the cauliflower florets - it's okay if a few of them are poking their heads above the water line. Cover the pot with a tilted lid, turn up the heat to a brisk bubble and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the thickest cauliflower stalk feels very tender when poked with the tip of a sharp knife.  Remove the thyme sprig.

Blitz the soup to a fine, thick purée using a stick blender, liquidiser or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Gently reheat the soup, and when it is just beginning to boil remove it from the heat and stir in the grated Cheddar.  When the cheese has melted into the soup, add the nutmeg and cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

If the soup seems too thick, thin it down with a splash of milk.

To prepare the toppings:  Fry the bacon bits over a medium heat until they're crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Gently melt the butter (you can do this in your microwave oven, or over a very low heat in a small saucepan). When the butter has just melted, stir in the lemon zest and juice.

To serve the soup, ladle it into bowls and top with crisp bacon bits, a dobble of hot lemon butter and a sprinkling of capers.

Serves 6. 

Cook's Notes:
  • Nutmeg and cauliflower have a great affinity, but use the spice sparingly as it can easily overpower the delicate flavour of this soup.  A few gratings from a whole nutmeg will do fine, or use a pinch from a bottle of powdered spice.  Let the soup stand for a few minutes, so the spice can 'blossom', then taste it. If you can just detect the nutmeg, that's perfect!  If not, add another pinch.
  • The same applies to white pepper - it's delicious with cauliflower, but if you add too much, its pungent somewhat dusty flavour will take over.  Again, start with a pinch.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Creamy Low-Carb Chicken Breasts, Fennel & Bacon with a Cauliflower and Nutmeg Mash

A luscious dish packed with all the delectables permitted on a low-carb diet: bacon, cream, dry white wine and golden chicken skin. I've developed this recipe for Woolworths's new Flavour Society, on May's theme of winter food. Along with my friend Nina Timm, I'm one of the bloggers contributing my original recipes to Woolies' Flavour Society Winter Pinterest board - hop over and have a look!

Creamy Low-Carb Chicken, Fennel &  Bacon, with a Cauliflower and Nutmeg Mash

Chicken breasts toughen fast in the pan, so it's important to cook them gently over a very low heat once you've added them to the sauce. I always cut the breasts in half crossways - making the thickest end into a slightly smaller piece than the thinner end - because I think whole ones look ungainly and intimidating on a plate.

Another crucial step in this recipe is to a achieve a handsome golden crust on the chicken pieces.  The golden stickiness left on the bottom of the pan (that holy grail among flavours) will add gorgous depth to the sauce.

Cauliflower - the new darling of the low-carb world - is a good enough substitute for mashed potatoes (I'm stifling a sob as I type because I sorely miss mash, particularly buttery champ), and is much improved by cream, butter and particularly nutmeg, with which it has a wonderful affinity.

I've tried many different ways of preparing cauliflower mash, purée and 'couscous', and concluded that microwaving is the best method, because it keeps the florets nice and dry, and minimises that farty whiff so characteristic of boiled brassicas.  If you don't believe in microwaving, you can steam the florets instead.

Fennel isn't everyone's cup of tea (though I've managed to convert my family) and if you don't fancy its delicate aniseed flavour, you can leave it out and use two more big leeks in the recipe.

This luscious dish depends for its depth of flavour on the gorgeous golden
residue that forms on the bottom of the pan when you fry the chicken skin.

Creamy Low-Carb Chicken, Fennel &  Bacon, with a Cauliflower and Nutmeg Mash

8 large bone-in chicken breasts, skin on
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower oil, for frying
500 g baby fennel bulbs
3 large leeks
1½ cups (375 ml) dry white wine
1½ cups (375 ml) organic Woolies chicken stock (or water to which you've added two teaspoonsful of a good condensed chicken stock, such as a Nomu fond, or a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot)
1½ cups (375 ml) cream
1 Tbsp (15 ml) Dijon mustard
250 g bacon, chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice
milled black pepper
3 Tbsp (45 ml) finely chopped curly parsley

For the cauliflower mash:
2 heads cauliflower, trimmed of leaves
1 Tbsp (15 ml) water
½ cup (125 ml) cream, or milk, or a mixture (plus a little extra, see recipe below)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter
a pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
salt and white pepper

Trim all globules of fat from the chicken breasts. If the breasts have skinny little ribs attached to them, snip these off using kitchen scissors and discard. Slice each breast in half, crossways, using a heavy knife and a chopping action to cut through the small bone. 

The breasts should still be raw on the insides after frying.
Heat the oil over a medium-high flame in a large shallow pan. When it is very hot and just beginning to shimmer, fry the breast pieces, skin-side down, in batches of 8 at a time, for 3-5 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and a beautiful golden-brown. (See Cook's Notes at the end of this post).

Set the chicken pieces aside, skin-side up, on a plate. The insides of the breasts must still be quite raw.

In the meantime, prepare the veggies. Trim the fennel pieces and remove any tough stalks or out leaves, leaving about half a centimetre of stalk on each bulb. Slice off the dark-green upper parts of the leeks and make a long horizontal slit three-quarters of the way through their lengths. Fan out the ‘pages’ of the leeks under a cold running tap and rinse away any grit hiding in the outer leaves. Now cut them into slices 4 mm thick. 

Drain away all but a teaspoon or two of the fat from the pan in which you fried the chicken, return it to a medium heat and gently fry the fennel and leeks for 3-4 minutes, or until lightly coloured. Now turn up the heat, add the wine and briskly deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape away the sticky residue so it dissolves into the liquid. 

The stock and wine will reduce to a rich syrup.
Cover and gently braise the vegetables for 10-12 minutes, or until the fennel pieces are just tender, the leeks are soft, and the wine reduced by half.  

Add the chicken stock and bubble over a low heat, uncovered, for a further 6-8 minutes, or until the liquid in the pan has halved, and looks slightly thickened.

Add the cream and mustard and stir well. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, skin-side up, along with any juices that have accumulated underneath them. The sauce should come about a third of the way up the sides of the breasts. 

Turn the heat down to its lowest setting, cover the pan with a tilted lid and let it burble for 12-17 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked right through to the bone, but is still very tender and succulent.  How long this will take depends on the size of your chicken breasts (see Cook's Note's, below). 

While the chicken is braising, fry the bacon bits in a hot pan until crisp. Blot on kitchen paper and keep warm. 

Sprinkle the crisped bacon bits over the chicken at the end.
To make the cauliflower mash, cut off the florets - discarding any thick stalks -  and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with one tablespoon of water.

Cover and microwave on high for 12-15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very soft and yielding. Alternatively, you can steam the cauliflower over boiling water. 

Drain the cauliflower in a colander and let it dry out for at least 10 minutes. Process it together with the cream (or cream/milk mixture) to a fine, smooth mash using a stick blender or food processor, adding more cream if necessary to keep the blades turning.

Stir in the butter and nutmeg, season with salt and a pinch of white pepper, and keep hot.  

When you're ready to serve the chicken, sprinkle with a little fresh lemon juice to give the sauce a whisper of acidity, and stir gently.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Scatter over the bacon bits and parsley, and serve hot with the cauliflower mash.

Serves 8.

Cook's Notes

  • Take your time frying the chicken breasts so they brown nicely without catching or burning. Don't prod them or turn them over. The skin may stick to the bottom of the pan at first, but as the fat renders and turns golden, you will find that the pieces can easily be lifted out.  The trick here is to keep adjusting the heat under the pan. 
  • Be careful not to over-cook the breasts, or they will become stiff and dry.  To check whether they are done, poke the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the biggest piece. If the juices run clear and the bone feels very hot to a finger-touch, they're ready, and you must remove the pan from the heat. 
  • This dish can be prepared well in advance. When the chicken pieces are almost cooked through, with just a touch of pinkness in the middle, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside to cool.  If you're going to reheat the dish within two hours, you can leave it on the counter. If it's a very hot day, or you'd like to serve it the next day, refrigerate the whole pan, covered.  To serve, remove the pan from the fridge, let it come up to room temperature for an hour or more, and then reheat it over a very gentle flame until the sauce is bubbling and the chicken is hot to the bone.

Note: I was paid a fee by Woolworths for this recipe. 

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Chicken with Bacon, Leeks and Cider, & how I met Gordon Ramsay, and found him polite

Chicken with Cider Bacon and Mushrooms
A luxurious dish with a silken sauce.
This is the one of the recipes I demonstrated at the Good Food and Wine Show last week.  I was pleased to receive an invitation to cook at the show, but gnawed my nails to the quick when I learned, rather late in the day, that 24 people from the audience would be cooking along with me in the Woolworths Real Food Theatre.  The dishes I'd chosen to demonstrate were too fiddly for a cook-along, so I abandoned them and instead selected three favourite recipes I knew could easily be done and dusted in 45 minutes.

As the main attraction, I settled on this easy crowd-pleaser, a recipe I developed for my cookbook Scrumptious: Food For Family and Friends

Before give you the recipe, I must tell you how star-struck I felt to meet Gordon Ramsay at the show, after watching his hugely entertaining demo, to which I was invited (by his sponsor, Checkers) as part of a media contingent.

I mention this because I complained bitterly on this blog three years ago when the 'VIP' ticket my husband bought me as a birthday present turned out to be a proper turkey.  It wasn't a good experience, and left such a sour taste that for several years I couldn't face going back.

So when I finally met the man, after a short wait in an over-excited book-signing queue, I was determined to get in my ten cents' worth. While he signed my copy of his new book Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course, I told him I was a food blogger, and his famous furrowed brow creased like an accordion. But I followed that up smartly by telling him I'd recently had my first cookbook published, and was thunderstruck when he leaned forward across the counter to grasp my hand in both of his, warmly congratulating me, as if I had recently won a Nobel Prize. Seizing the opportunity, I slapped a dog-eared copy of his autobiography Humble Pie on the counter and asked him if he'd be so kind as to write a message to my sons across the cover.  "Neither of my teenage sons was interested in cooking until they read this," I told him. "But now they are very interested. Can you please write something rude on the cover for them?"

He looked pleased, and asked, "What do you want me to write?"

"You f..king donkeys!" I replied, knowing my sons would be genuinely thrilled to be called such a thing (a famous line from certain Ramsay reality shows).

Paprika Pork Fillet with Greek Yoghurt, in praise of yoghurt & how to cook with it without curdling it
"I can't write that!" he said, clearly appalled by my suggestion. "Not for teenagers, I can't!"

"Oh, go on," I urged him.  "They will love it!"

With a bashful look - I can't think of any other word to describe his expression -  he scrawled a message across the book cover, but he censored his beloved F-word with an ellipsis.

This impressed me.

Anyway, moving on to my recipe. I love this luxurious coq-au-vin-style dish and make it quite often for friends when I'm looking for a comforting recipe with a complex flavour, but don't have time to fiddle around with a lot of chopping or stock-boiling or slow cooking. You can made this dish in half the time by chucking everything together in a pan and hoping for the best, but I've designed the recipe so that it creates its own deep-flavoured stock and sauce as it cooks, drawing wonderful earthy flavours from the bacon, mushrooms, leeks and chicken.

Any dry cider will do for this recipe, but you will get a superior result from a carefully brewed craft cider. I've used, on various occasions, two excellent South African ciders -  Everson's and Terre Madre - and was interested to note the subtle differences in the final result.

There is not a speck of flour in this recipe, yet the sauce reduces quite quickly to just the right state of silken thickness. You can't achieve this in a small, crowded pot, however, because there isn't enough surface area for the sauce to reduce in a hurry.  Make it in a large, shallow pan, such as an electric frying pan, or a paella pan if you have one.

If you can find fresh tarragon, use it by all means, but I find that good quality dried tarragon is just as pungent.  You can find good-quality freeze-dried tarragon at Woolies and in better supermarkets.

If you don't use alcohol in your cooking, use a not-too-sweet apple juice (such as Appletiser) instead of cider.

Recipe from Scrumptious: Food for Family and Friends (Random House Struik)

Chicken with Bacon, Leeks and Cider

two free-range chickens, or chicken pieces of your choice
3 large leeks
3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
250 g back bacon
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
500 g tiny button mushrooms
3 cups (750 ml) dry cider
2½ tsp dried tarragon
a 10-cm  sprig of fresh thyme
1½ (375 ml) cups cream
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp (60 ml) finely chopped curly parsley

Remove any visible fat from the chickens and cut them into 16 portions (or ask your butcher to do this for you). Cut a lengthways slice halfway through the leeks and rinse, fanning out the leaves, under cold water. Finely slice the leeks (you’ll use the white and pale green parts only). Heat the butter and olive oil in a very large, shallow pan, add the leeks and bacon and fry over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, without allowing the leeks to brown. Add the garlic and fry gently for another minute. Remove the leeks, bacon and garlic using a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Be sure to remove every trace of leek and garlic, as these will blacken during the next step and make the sauce bitter.

Brown the chicken pieces on both sides, over a high heat, and in batches, for 3-4 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden (add a little more butter or oil to the pan if necessary). Set aside on a plate. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, add the mushrooms and fry over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden. Pour in the cider and bubble briskly for 3 minutes, stirring and scraping to dislodge the sediment on the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken (skin side up), leeks and bacon to the pan and add the tarragon, thyme sprig and a big pinch of salt. Reduce heat and bubble, uncovered for 25-35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked right through. Turn the chicken pieces over three or four times while they cook. Remove the thyme sprig, stir in the cream, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook gently for a few more minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced and thickened.

Scatter with parsley and serve hot with mashed or crushed potatoes and a green salad or vegetables.

Serves 6-7. 
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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Low-Carb Pea and Pea Shoot Salad with Bacon & Eggs

Pea shoots, with their delicate tendrils and beautiful leaves, are often used by chefs to dolly up plates of food (often to no avail, I'm afraid) but they have a wonderful fresh-pea taste and deserve to be eaten on their own as a salad leaf.

Low-Carb Pea and Pea Shoot Salad with Bacon & Eggs. Plate by David Walters

They're now available in South Africa, in season, at better supermarkets,  and you can also occasionally find them at farmers' markets.

This double-pea salad uses frozen peas thawed in boiling water; use fresh peas by all means, but they never taste as sweet and delicious as top-quality frozen ones.

Some very crisp thick-cut bacon cubes, a wobbly poached egg and a plain dressing of lemon juice and olive oil all add up to a most satisfying dish.  If you can't find thick-cut bacon, use smoked pork rashers. This is also good with frizzled Parma ham.

Please don't be put off the idea of poaching eggs: it's really very easy. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you use very fresh eggs.  Elderly eggs have thin whites that don't hold their shape. To test whether your egg is fresh enough to poach well, break one onto a plate. The white should be viscous, and the yolk must perch proudly on top, at a slight height. If the yolk is flat and the white spreads out on the plate, buy fresher eggs.

Keep the water at a gentle simmer (that means a slow burble, with some busy little bubbles) and make a gentle whirlpool in the water with a spoon before you slip in the egg. Break it into a teacup first so you can pour it easily into the centre of the vortex. If you're not confident this will work, poach your eggs in clingfilm purses.  If you can't find pea shoots, use any dark green leaf.

This needs to be made at the very last minute, as pea shoots bruise quickly and wilt fast under a dressing.

Pea and Pea Shoot Salad with Bacon & Eggs

2 cups (500 ml) frozen peas
boiling water
2 tsp (10 ml) white vinegar
1 Tbsp sunflower oil
6 thick-cut bacon rashers, cubed
4 fresh extra-large free range eggs
2 punnets fresh pea shoots (or enough for 4 people)

For the dressing:
3 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
a pinch of white sugar
flaky sea salt and milled black pepper
80 ml extra-virgin olive oil

First make the dressing. Put the lemon juice, mustard, sugar and a pinch of salt into a small bowl. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved, then whisk in the olive oil to form a smooth emulsion. Season with more salt if necessary, and some milled black pepper. Reserve.

Cover the peas with boiling water from the kettle, let them stand for a minute or two, or until thawed, then drain and reserve.

Now get the pot ready for poaching the eggs. Half-fill a deep saucepan with boiling water and set it on the stove at a slow simmer. Add the vinegar.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon cubes until crisp. While the bacon is frying, poach the eggs. It's easiest to do this one at a time. Break each egg into a teacup, make a whirlpool (see above) and slip it gently into the middle of the pan. Poach for 3 minutes, depending on the size of your egg, or until the white is cooked and the yolk is still quite runny. Don't poke the eggs or stir the water, and don't worry if the water looks cloudy. If your egg is fresh, it will form a good shape. Remove with a slotted spoon, place on a warm plate and cover while you poach the remaining eggs.

Drain the bacon on kitchen paper. Arrange the pea shoots on four plates, sprinkle over the peas and bacon, and top each one with a warm poached egg. Pass the dressing round in a separate jug.

If you like, you can add the lemon juice to the hot fat left in the bacon pan, let it bubble for 30 seconds, then continue making the dressing.

Serves 4.

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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Luxurious Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Leeks

It always surprises me how many kids love cauliflower cheese because, face it, this is not the most attractive of vegetables. I make a big dish of this perennial family favourite once a fortnight or so, and although there are sometimes moans from the teens, there is never a morsel left in the dish.

If your kids turn up their noses at this humble dish, try my souped-up version, which is packed with flavour and many calories, containing as it does butter, bacon, wine, Parmesan and cream.

Do you notice how unapologetic I sound about this? I am, because life would be very miserable indeed, in my opinion, if it weren't for butter, bacon and cream. Do cut the strips of fat off the bacon rashers, though, as the fat will make the sauce oily.

The decadent topping of butter-fried breadcrumbs was suggested to me by someone on Twitter, who told me that this is a traditional Polish topping. If this is just too rich for you, sprinkle the top of the dish with equal quantities of dried breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan.

Luxurious Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Leeks

2 small cauliflowers, broken into florets
4 Tbsp (60 ml) butter
8 rashers back bacon, fat removed, diced
4 medium leeks, white parts only, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
a bay leaf
a large sprig of fresh thyme
½ cup (125 ml) white wine
100 ml flour
700 ml milk
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
1½ cups (about 150 g) grated Cheddar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) grated Parmesan
½ cup (125 ml) cream
salt and white pepper

To top:
1 cup (250 ml) fresh breadcrumbs
100 g butter
a little paprika or cayenne pepper

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.

Cook the cauliflower in rapidly boiling salted water for about 7-8 minutes, or until just tender. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the bacon bits. Fry for 2 minutes, then tip in the sliced leeks, garlic, bay leaf and thyme sprig. Turn down the heat and cook gently for about 7 minutes, or until the leeks are soft. Add the wine, turn up the heat, and bubble briskly until almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Now sprinkle the flour over the leeks and stir well. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring continuously as the sauce thickens. Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes to cook away any floury taste.

Stir in the mustard and lemon juice, and remove from the heat. Fish out the thyme and the bayleaf and discard. Now add the grated cheddar and Parmesan, and continue stirring until the cheese has completely melted. Finally, stir in the cream.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Pile the cooked cauliflower into a greased ovenproof dish and pour the sauce evenly over the top, nudging the florets so that the sauce seeps between them.

To make the topping, heat some butter in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs. Fry until golden. Pour the butter/breadcrumb mix all over the top of the cauliflower cheese.

Dust very lightly with paprika or cayenne pepper and bake at 180º C for 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbling

Serve with a crisp green salad.

Serves 6 - 8

If you like this, try my Cauliflower with Butter, Lemon, Parsley and Crispy Breadcrumbs

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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Double-Egged Crustless Spinach & Bacon Tart

I have a real hankering for old-fashioned food, the sort that my grannies cooked in the Sixties when I was growing up. In particular, I have a craving for a raised ham pie, with boiled eggs tucked inside. A Scotch egg would do nicely, too. My English mother-in-law made fabulous Scotch eggs that were deliciously springy, the pork-sausage meat encasing a perfectly cooked boiled egg.

Double-Egged Crustless Spinach & Bacon Tart
Double-Egged Crustless Spinach & Bacon Tart

The tricky part of putting whole eggs in pies - a very old English tradition -  is boiling them just hard enough to peel, but not so hard that their yolks cook to sawdust while the pie's baking. In this crustless tart, I've dropped the whole raw eggs into nests made in the mixture, and reduced the oven temperature during cooking so that the yolks are just done by the time the quiche mixture has puffed and browned.

Double-Egged Crustless Spinach & Bacon Tart
Drop the eggs into 'nests' you've made in the spinach mixture
I do appreciate crustless tarts - they're brilliant when you don't have time to faff around with pastry - but one of the challenges is creating a mixture that is firm enough to slice and pull away from the bottom and sides of the pan, but not so firm that it bounces when dropped on a plate.  I think that the way to achieve a lovely trembling texture is to add some grated butter to the mix.

This had never occurred to me until I tried Zaheera's Easy Sweetcorn, Coriander and Chilli Crustless Egg Tart, which has a beautiful texture that I can only attribute to the butter.

This is just as nice without the spinach (see photograph at the end of this post), but omit the nutmeg, and increase the amount of chopped fresh parsley to ¾ cup (180 ml).

Double-Egged Crustless Spinach & Bacon Tart

200 g fresh spinach or Swiss chard
200 g streaky bacon
1 Tbsp (15 ml) sunflower  or vegetable oil
13 large, free-range eggs
¾ cup (180 ml) milk or cream
1 tsp (5 ml) hot English mustard powder
½ tsp (2.5 ml) grated nutmeg
3 Tbsp (45 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
the juice of half a lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
60 g cold butter, grated
1 cup (250 ml) grated Cheddar
salt and milled black pepper

To top:
2 tsp (10 ml) poppy seeds
a little paprika or cayenne pepper

Rinse the spinach well (remove the thick stalks, if you're using Swiss chard). Give it a light shake and place in a large pot, with some water still clinging to the leaves. Add a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for a few minutes over a medium heat, turning the spinach over now and then, until it has wilted down, but is still a vibrant green. Place in a colander over a sink and cover with a saucer weighed down with something heavy.

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC. Dice the bacon. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook until brown and beginning to crisp. Drain off the fat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat eight of the eggs (set the remaining eggs aside). Add the milk, mustard powder, nutmeg, parsley, lemon juice and zest, grated butter and Cheddar and stir well. Season well with salt and pepper.

Squeeze all the moisture out of the cooked spinach (it's easiest to do this with your hands) and chop it up. Add this to the mixing bowl along with the bacon. Pour the mixture into a large greased pie dish. Using a large spoon, make a little well in the tart, near the edge, and break a whole egg into it (don't worry if the egg white runs over the top a little). Repeat with the remaining four eggs (see photograph above). 

Scatter the poppy seeds over the top of the tart and dust with paprika.  Bake at 180ºC for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 160ºC and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is puffed and golden, with a slight wobble in the middle.

Serve hot or warm with a green salad.

Serves 6-8

Double-Egged Crustless Cheese & Bacon Tart
The same tart, without spinach

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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Warm New-Potato Salad with Bacon and Mustard Greens

Warm potatoes release the punchy flavours of
mustard greens.
Are you familiar with mustard greens? My vegetable patch is bursting with the ones my daughter planted six weeks ago, and I am so enjoying their peppery, mustardy bite, and the mild nasal tingle they deliver.

They are too strong to use raw on their own once they grow past the tender little seedling stage, but are delicious chopped and scattered over salads, and in stir-fries.

Combined with warm boiled baby potaoes, salty bacon, chives and a light dressing, they are are such a treat.

Scatter a handful of mustard-green seeds in your
garden at the end of winter, and you'll be
rewarded with a bountiful crop. 
The mustard greens should be added to the salad after you've dressed it, and immediately before serving, so they are just ever so slightly wilted. If you want to make the salad in advance and serve it cold or at room temperature, add the greens at the very last minute.

You can make this salad with rocket, sorrel or even baby spinach leaves, but do try to to grow mustard seeds in your own garden, even if you have only a few pots on a balcony. You'll be amazed at how fast they grown, and how interestingly zippy they taste.

Warm New-Potato Salad with Bacon and Mustard Greens

24 new potatoes, boiled with salt until just tender
10 rashers streaky bacon, diced
a small onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
the juice of a lemon
100 ml olive oil
2 Tbsp (30 ml) white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh chives
a small bunch of fresh young mustard greens, rocket, sorrel or spinach
salt and milled black pepper

Drain the hot baby potatoes and keep warm. Heat a frying pan, add a little olive oil and fry the bacon over a brisk heat until crisp and browned. In the meantime, put the chopped onion, crushed garlic, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a big mixing bowl and stir well (this will help remove the sting from the onions). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour the vinegar into the hot pan, swirl and scrape to loosen the bacon residue, and immediately remove from the heat. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut the baby potatoes in half, skins and all, and add them, together with the cooked bacon and chopped chives, to the bowl containing the onions. Pour over the warm dressing and toss together gently. Finely slice the mustard greens into ribbons (if you're using rocket, leave it whole) and add them to the salad. Toss again. Tip into a clean salad bowl and take it straight to the table.

Serve 6-8 as a side salad

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