Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Irish-style boiled bacon

We had friends round to supper last night, two of whom were chefs which sounds a bit daunting. What I've learnt over the years though is that they're the easiest people to please. For a start they never get invited out as everyone is terrified of messing up and what they really like to eat is simple home-cooked food.

As it's St Patrick's Day today (a happy one to you all!) I thought I'd make boiled bacon. This in itself was a bit of an epic struggle - you can't find a bacon joint for love or money other than one of those odd cylindrical moulded ham joints which oddly cost about twice the price of a piece of pork. In the end I tracked one down at my local butchers which was bigger than I needed but I reckoned we could probably live off the leftovers for the rest of the week.

Having soaked it overnight I put it in a pan with an onion, carrot and bayleaf, brought it slowly to the boil then cooked it in the bottom oven of the Aga for about 6 hours. (I could easily have done this at a low temperature in a conventional oven or used a slow cooker which is great for boiled meats) I then used some of the stock to cook off some carrots, turnips and leeks which I laid over the other veg to semi-steam them so they didn't go soggy. Then I returned the water in which I'd cooked the veg to the main pan.

Finally I rested the meat and warmed up the veg in the broth then cut the meat up in chunks and laid it and the vegetables on a huge platter, scattered over some chopped flat-leaf parsley and ladled over some of the broth (serving the rest in a jug alongside). To keep the Irish theme going we also had colcannon (mashed potato with spring greens) but some plain boiled potatoes would have been just as good.

We had smoked salmon to start and Irish cheese*, oatcakes and fruit to follow and though I say it myself it was a feast.

* Well, not as Irish as I'd have liked. I managed to find some Cashel Blue but the local cheese shops didn't have any other Irish cheeses which was a bit perverse of them the day before St Patrick's Day. The others were White Nancy (a local goats' cheese) and a sheeps cheese called Berkswell.


Niamheen said...

I love this style of cooking, this is real Irish food and I miss it! There's some fantastic Irish cheeses, my personal favourites are Crozier Blue (a sheep's blue) and Knockanore, a sharp white cheese that is made not far from my family home. Easy to come by in London but not sure about outside it.

Lizzie said...

Yum - that looks delicious. I made a beef and Guinness stew (I know, predictable...) for this evening.

Fiona Beckett said...

Thanks Niamheen - a great compliment coming from you! I love simple dishes too. Where eating at home definitely scores over eating out.

I haven't tried those two cheeses but will look out for them. I do think Irish cheeses are exceptional.

And doesn't matter a bit if beef and Guinness stew is predictable, Lizzie. It's the right and proper thing to eat today!

James said...

But you know the best thing about boiled bacon? The (red) lentil and bacon soup you make from the stock - it's the best soup there is.

Fiona Beckett said...

Oooo, yes James - you're so right. Ham stock and beans is also great!

Amanda said...

Very, very nice!

recipes2share said...

This looks delicious! Fiona, have you tried to cure ham at all - you probably don't need to but in France I can't find gammon so have been mulling over the idea for a while. I brined pork last year but didn't have the saltpetre but have now sourced this. Just wondered for tips etc? Fiona R

Fiona Beckett said...

I never have Fiona but sure you could find out how online. If not Jane Grigson's Charcuterie and French pork cooking I'm sure would have the answer.

recipes2share said...

Thanks, I have found a few sources including Elizabeth David..will let you know how I get on! (eventually!!)