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.