Posts Tagged ‘bacon’

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Cruciferous crusader

June 13, 2011

Does anyone else find themselves eating significantly more meat in winter?

Sydney weather has turned utterly miserable in the last little while –  freezing temperatures, wild winds and absolutely bucketing rain. It’s fantastic cooking weather so long as you have a well-stocked pantry and fridge, because going out into the rain to forage is vile. I’ve been on a pastry roll (boom tish) during the past week, as I’m determined to improve my competence in that department and have done some experimenting with blind-baking pie bases versus not doing so, with gratifying results, which I’ll post about soon.

But while this weather is perfect for pastry and all that comes with it – rich meat pies, chicken and mushroom pies and so on – the downside to all this is of course the stodge factor, the high meat factor, and the accompanying risk of increasing boombalahdism.

So my challenge in the next while is to find some hearty and delicious winter dishes that depend more on vegetables than meat. I’m happy to notch up the carbs for a bit, because it just feels right to load up a little for winter, but having worked hard to lose some weight in the first half of the year, I would rather not blow all that by going too crazy with the carbs and fat and meat for the next few months.

Enter the humble Brassica family.

My favourite thing of last week was a cabbage accompaniment to some very good pork chops – an old Jamie Oliver number I posted about way back in the early days of this blog. It’s a delicious fatfest – pork, pears, potatoes and parsnip – and needs a sharp accompaniment to balance all that sweetness and stodge.

Cabbage is one of my favourite overlooked ingredients. I think we can all hark back to childhood for some reasonably ghastly memories of flabby, colourless boiled cabbage and that sad, defeated smell. But when it’s done well, cabbage can provide a wonderfully sparky lift to a meal I reckon.  And there is also the virtuous cancer-fighting glow that comes from consuming any member of the Brassica family (love that it sounds so like a contemporary primary schoolgirl’s name, except of course the spelling would need some adjustment.  “Brassikah! Come here! We have to go pick up Crucifera from ballet!”)

In the summer just gone I was introduced to an incredibly good shredded cabbage and Parmesan salad by Caro (she of the roasted cherry chutney and many other goodies on this blog), which I will tell you more about some other time. But this not being salady weather, this week I adapted a couple of different recipes to come up with the following side dish. I recommend it.  Oh and please forgive the low photo quality – all this getting dark at 5pm makes good evening photography an impossibility…

Cabbage with caraway and currants

  • olive oil
  • ¼ cup (or less) finely chopped bacon, pancetta or speck
  • 2 French shallots, finely chopped
  • few cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ head of shredded white cabbage
  • ½ cup of cup verjuice
  • large handful currants
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. Saute the bacon, shallot and garlic in a good splash of oil until soft.
  2. Add the cabbage and stir thoroughly to coat with oil, fry over high heat for a few minutes.
  3. Add the verjuice and stir to mix well.
  4. Add currants and caraway seeds, cover and cook for a few minutes more until cabbage is tender but retains a touch of crunch. Season & serve.

And now I’d love some ideas from you about hearty, warming, non-meat dishes for winter. What are your favourites?

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Mission Impossible

September 11, 2010

When I made a version of Stephanie Alexander’s Crustless Silverbeet, Pine Nut & Olive ‘Tart’ for a friend recently, she recognised it instantly as a picnic favourite that her friend calls Impossible Pie. I have no idea what makes it so impossible, except the fact it’s basically a robust, chunky quiche without the pastry, which I guess leads to the cutseypie moniker. Whatever the reason, Impossible Pie has stuck  in our house, and it’s become a weekend lunch staple that easily feeds a gang of eight.

The original recipe is from this book here, which I still love to death. Stephanie’s version is entirely vegetarian, and very good too, but for omnivores  I have usually added a handful of chopped bacon or pancetta (for as the Empress is fond of saying, “there’s nothing in life that can’t be improved by bacon”). And I think next time I might sling in a few chopped anchovies too.

Speaking of vegetarians, I’ve been having a little Twitter discussion on the topic lately so look out soon for a post on how to make a vegetarian happy. And I’ve decided that as much as possible, from now on I’m including veg options for any recipes here, using this little green V symbol at the end.

Silverbeet Impossible Pie

  • 1 sizable bunch silverbeet
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped bacon / pancetta
  • 3 tablespoons currants
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted & roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rinsed capers
  • 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • a little butter

Method

1. Wash silverbeet & separate stems & leaves.

2. Chop leaves into strips and stems into 1cm chunks.

3. Throw stems into simmering water for 2 mins, followed by the leaves for another 2 mins. Drain and cool under cold running water for a few minutes. Dry in a tea towel or salad spinner.

4. While silverbeet is blanching, toast pine nuts in a little oil until golden brown, then remove and toss into a large mixing bowl.

5. Saute onion and garlic with bacon or pancetta for a few minutes until bacon is crisp and vegetables are soft.

6. Pulse silverbeet a couple of times in a food processor to roughly chop a little more, then add to bacon mix and fry for a few more minutes.

7. Add the vegetables & bacon to the pine nuts in the large bowl, then add currants, olives and 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Season and leave to cool.

8. In another bowl, lightly whisk eggs and yoghurt together till well mixed, then add to silverbeet mix.

9. Lightly grease a glass or ceramic pie dish and coat the sides and base with the remaining tablespoon of breadcrumbs (add any leftovers to the mix), then plonk the vegetable mix in, top with the grated Parmesan and a few dots of butter.

10. Bake the tart in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes or until it feels firm and the top is crisp.  Serve warm or cold with a green salad.

V: Just leave out the bacon

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You borlotti beauty

August 8, 2010

At the risk of having to rename this blog Purely Pulses, I have to tell you about my first encounter with fresh borlotti beans. I am a big fan of the dried variety – and the canned – but until now I’ve never tried cooking fresh ones. But the other day I spied some in the grocery and couldn’t resist their splotchy raspberry-swirl stockings.

Today I did a test run at lunch with buddies – and am happy to say they made the grade and I officially declare them my New Favourite Thing in the World for this week.

After podding (or shucking! can we say that about beans?) the borlottis from their slinky pink sleeves, I chucked them into boiling water for about 20 minutes and drained them. Then, while they were still hot, I bashed them about a bit with a wooden spoon and then tossed them into a pan in which I had just crisped some exceptionally good bacon, plus a good handful of finely chopped parsley and a clove of minced garlic.

Into a bowl they went, with a generous slurp of Moon Over Martinborough‘s  luscious extra virgin olive oil (which I bought online from NZ after reading this lovely post here and am absolutely loving sloshing around in every veg dish I can at the moment), loads of sea salt and juice of about half a lemon.

Seriously good result. The fresh beans have a much nicer texture than the canned ones, which can be a bit sludgy, and I reckon the freshies have a beautifully delicate colour too (the canned ones do tend toward a depressingly old-ladies’-underwear hue, don’t you think?).

And if you think the finished dish rather resembles a great many other legume side dishes you’ve seen on this blog, well – you’re right. But it can’t be helped – too much legume love is never enough round these parts.

Now, while I’m here, I wish to draw your attention  to the lovely folk at Feather & Bone, providers of the above-mentioned free range bacon and lots of other meaty goodies we chomp our way through in this house.

Ever since I bought our divine Christmas ham from them last year on the recommendation of Empress Clifford-Smith, Feather & Bone have basically become the guardians of my conscience when it comes to eating animals.

Until I turn vegetarian (will that day ever come, I wonder) I try to do the next best thing, and support farmers who treat their animals as humanely as possible, as well as doing all they can to care for the land in a sustainable way. And what with the whole free-range/organic labelling confusion and misinformation that goes on, the only way I know that I am really doing the best I can by the creatures is to buy from Laura and Grant at Feather & Bone. They do all the research, all the inspecting of the farms and the buying of produce from very carefully selected farmers, based not only on the ethical treatment of animals but just as importantly, the quality and flavour of the meat – and believe me,  they know their stuff. To boot, the glorious goodies are delivered to your door if you wish. What’s not to love?

But you don’t just have to take my word for it – the great news is that just this month, Feather & Bone have been named Delicious magazine’s Outstanding Supplier of the Year. So congratulations to Grant & Laura from me and all who have dined on your efforts in this house. For readers living in Sydney, I can’t recommend F&B highly enough. And we shall be celebrating tomorrow night by roasting a couple of delectable Feather & Bone chooks for Senor’s birthday dinner. Cheers!