Category Archives: bacon

bbt tortilla

bacon broccoli tomato tortilla

What a great year it’s been for tomatoes. The plants in my garden have been raving with fruit, and they’ve been bursting with sweetness. A really bumper crop. Most of them have ended up in pasta sauce and pizza topping but these ones were deserving of a little more.

And so I happened across a recipe for a “BLT tortilla” in the SORTED cookbook but didn’t fancy rocket in mine, so some frozen broccoli jumped in instead. Coupled with refreshing, sweet tomatoes what you get is a portable and tasty lunch that’d be great in a picnic or easily upgraded to main meal status with a decent salad.

BBT tortilla (serves 4 – 6):

6 rashers smoked bacon, diced

About 12 frozen broccoli florets

8 eggs

A couple of handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

A handful of grated parmesan

  1. Get a frying pan over a high heat and preheat the oven to 180°C. Add a dash of oil to the pan and fry the bacon briskly until coloured, and then add the broccoli. Stir fry until the broccoli has started to soften.
  2. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the parmesan, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Pour this and the tomatoes into the pan, and take this opportunity to space the veg around the pan evenly. When that’s done transfer to the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the wobble has just gone. Leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.

garlic and bacon potato gratin


We get through buckets of mayonnaise in this house. I kinda like it – particularly with store-bought pizza for reasons I don’t understand – but the rest of the family demolish it. If my son was asked the legendary question: “you’re handed a sausage sandwich. Will it be red sauce, brown sauce, or no sauce at all?” he’d reply mayonnaise in a heartbeat.

So to receive some samples from Hellman’s of their flavoured mayonnaises was set upon by the family quite quickly. First the packaging – there’s much made on TV of their no-mess resealing cap. And sure enough it works a treat. As long as you don’t mind sacrificing a third of the bottle. By the time you work your way down there the rest refuses to come out. I took a knife to it to free the captive condiment. But what about the taste?

There was a black pepper one which I found nice and prickly, and worked really well in a ham salad wrap. But the garlic one was disappointing – slightly tangy but not flavoured with garlic at all. So that’s why it ended up in this gratin.

This type of recipe works great as a side dish, or can be had with a simple salad on the side.

Garlic and potato gratin (serves 2):

5 – 6 medium sized floury potatoes, cut into thick coins. Peeling optional

1 onion, sliced (I used frozen ready-sliced onions)

2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped

5 tablespoons garlic mayonnaise


A little grated parmesan

  1. Preheat the grill to high. Get a large pan of salted water on to boil and add the potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes or until just tender.
  2. While the potatoes cook, fry the onions and bacon in a pan with a little oil until the bacon has coloured and onions softening.
  3. Drain the potatoes and add to the onion and bacon pan, seasoning as you go. In a shallow dish mix the mayonnaise with a little milk until you get a creamy dressing, and then stir the onion, bacon and potatoes through it until well coated. Grate a little parmesan over the top and put under the grill until golden.

full english breakfast cookies

full english breakfast bacon cookies

I love the Great British Menu. There’s plenty wrong with it – enforced friction between the chefs, pointless “out and about” sections, and we all know it should be 1 x 1 hour show a week but the chance to see the top tier of British chefs cooking their guts out is always fascinating. This year’s show has a Comic Relief theme.

One chef was new to my radar this year, Mary-Ellen McTague. A Fat Duck graduate, her influences were clear to see. I found her bath of beans particularly amusing, and am sad to see it won’t feature at the final banquet.

When Sainsbury’s asked me to come up with a Red Nose Day cookie, this playful starter was at the forefront of my mind. Picking up a recipe for “bacon and banana cookies” from her mentor’s book Heston Blumenthal at Home the idea of a play on a Full English was there.

Topped with sweets this is a silly biscuit – that’s the point – but the bacon element is genuinely interesting. Go for a sweet cure bacon and it’s not so jarring, but it’s really worth a go.

Full English breakfast cookies (makes about 20):

5 rashers smoked bacon

120g butter, diced

260g caster sugar

220g plain flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 large eggs

Fried egg sweets and orange jelly beans, for decoration

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper and lay the bacon on top. Bake for 10 minutes, then pat dry with kitchen paper. When cool cut into tiny pieces.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda with a pinch of salt until mix until a smooth dough is formed. Mix in 1 egg at a time, then stir in the bacon pieces.
  3. On a greased tray spoon out small blobs 10cm apart and bake for 8 – 10mins or until the the cookies are browned. As soon as they are out of the oven press a fried egg and a few jelly beans into the surface to melt in. Leave to firm up on the tray for a couple of minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

15 minute golden chicken with potato gratin and greens

jamie oliver's 15 minute golden chicken with potato gratin and greens

Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals was a literary behemoth, tearing up the records for fastest selling non-fiction book, and causing many snooks to be cocked in its direction. But for people willing to give it a proper chance, approach it with an open mind and “get in the 30 minute frame of mind” it was a way to push what you can achieve in a small amount of time. Aim higher! I was certainly taken it with it, and gave me some great ideas how to make the best use of your time. Take the food processor: previously left for weekend projects, I now employ it 3 or 4 times a week to chop, grate or slice things in a flash.


cheeky chappie

What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monsterrrr? No, it’s another Jamie book, poised to take over the world. And this time it’s Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals. Yes, half the time. And the knives are already out in a pointless linkbait exercise. But I was approaching it with energy and excitement.

Flicking through, much like 30 Minute Meals there’s a wide variety of cuisines that should satisfy your mood. There’s an obsession with serving everything on wooden boards which I really like but isn’t practical for most dinners. Towards the end of the book there’s also a weird section that doesn’t really belong, talking about muesli and other breakfast odds and ends. Granola aside there’s definitely loads I will be trying over the coming months. I picked out a handful to try straight away and started with this golden chicken recipe.

I hit a snag immediately. Jamie juggles a frying pan, a saucepan and a baking tray on the hob simultaneously. I have a regular 4-burner hob, and this just won’t fit. Maybe all the recipe testing was done on a 5-burner but this was automatically going to put my time back as I couldn’t multi-task as effectively.

And this leads me on to another issue: there are no timings given for anything. It’s just “do this, then this, by this time the first thing will be ready.” But if for whatever reason you can’t stick to the timeline you don’t have a way of knowing how long things should take. If you are a confident cook this isn’t a problem but I can see it being a real boundary for a lot of people.

These issues aside, the dinner was very good, although it took me 28 minutes. Best of all was capturing a really good potato gratin in 15 minutes, that really is impressive. So do try out the 15 minute recipes – but do read it all carefully before starting. And don’t get hung up on the time and focus instead on creating great food quicker than you would expect. That’s the key.

Golden chicken with potato gratin and greens (serves 4):

800g potatoes

3 onions

1 chicken stock cube

½ teaspoon dried sage (Jamie demanded fresh but I couldn’t get any)

100ml single cream

30g Parmesan

4 chicken breasts

Fresh rosemary

2 rashers smoked bacon

1 large leek

200g baby spinach

200g frozen peas

  1. Get a large saucepan filled with boiling, salted water over a high heat. Finely slice the potatoes and tip them in. Get a large roasting tray over a hob with a little oil in, and after passing the peeled onions through the food processor throw them in the pan. Crumble in the stock cube and sage, and stir often.
  2. Spread out a large sheet of greaseproof and lay the chicken on. Scatter over some salt, pepper, sage and rosemary. Fold the paper over and using a rolling pin bash to about 1.5cm thick. Get a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the chicken in a little oil. Flip as they turn golden in colour.
  3. Warm another pan and add a dash of oil. Wash and finely slice the leek, and then add to the pan. Get the grill on high and drain the potatoes. Tip them into the pan with the onions, spread into a single layer and pour over the cream. Grate over the parmesan and bung under the grill until the edges are catching golden brown. Slice the bacon and add to the chicken pan.
  4. Add the spinach and the peas to the leek’s pan, add some seasoning and toss well. Cover and leave until the spinach has wilted, and then serve the chicken with the greens and potato fresh from the grill.

turkey and courgette meatballs

turkey and courgette meatballs

student-survival-guideIn another one of my recipes for students, I’ve taken inspiration from the wonderful Ottolenghi. In his latest book (Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press, £27)) he and long-time collaborator Sami Tamimi return to their home town of Jerusalem to reminisce on the food gems of their youth. It’s full of wonderful recipes and ideas, and generally speaking most of the recipes are thrifty and homely in nature.

This recipe is inspired by “turkey and courgette burgers with spring onion and cumin.”  The meatballs are so substantial they don’t need any carbohydrates; if you need to make it go further serve with pasta or rice. This meal is relatively expensive but you’ll make tons of meatballs that freeze well, and extra tomato sauce which keeps in the fridge for a couple of days

Approximate cost  for main ingredients, excludes storecupboard ingredients (prices from 7th Oct 2012): £4.13

Turkey and courgette meatballs (makes about 20):

For the meatballs:

500g minced turkey

2 rashers bacon, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cream cracker, bashed to dust

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 large courgette, grated

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 egg

For the sauce:

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tin tomatoes

  1. For the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a pinch of salt. With damp hands form into chunks the size of golf balls.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat with a little oil, and a normal saucepan over a high heat with a little oil. Add the meatballs to the large pan and brown them on all sides for about 7 – 10 minutes. You should do this in batches if this is going to crowd the pan.
  3. Meanwhile in the other pan crush in the garlic and then immediately add the tomatoes. This will spatter and bubble so watch out. Add a pinch each of salt, sugar and pepper. You should continue to simmer this sauce until when you draw a wooden spoon through it leaves a channel, so it is thick and rich. At this point tip the meatballs into the sauce and cook for a couple more minutes to cook through.

garlic mushroom and broccoli bake

garlic mushroom, broccoli pasta bake with bacon breadcrumbs

student-survival-guideContinuing my series on decent grub on a budget, here’s a pasta bake dish with lots going on. It’s the breadcrumb topping that makes it! This was intended to have a white sauce made with milk but I ran out, so instead I went for a velouté version made with stock.

(PS. I’ve listed ingredients for 1 but the version above serves 2 – 3, in case you’re wondering why yours is smaller!).

Approximate cost  for main ingredients, excludes storecupboard ingredients (prices from 7th Oct 2012): £1.91

Garlic mushroom and broccoli bake (serves 1):

100g penne or other shape pasta

100g mushrooms, sliced

1 head of broccoli, separated into florets

1 rasher of smoked bacon

1 slice of bread, preferably yesterday’s

20g butter

20g flour

1 clove garlic

500ml hot chicken stock

  1. Get a large pan of salted water on to boil over a high heat and preheat the oven to 200°C. Get a smaller pan on a medium heat and get a baking dish ready.
  2. Add the pasta to the water. Add the butter to the smaller pan and once melted whisk in the flour to combine to a gloopy paste. Crush in the garlic and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes. Add all the stock, whisking all the time.
  3. Add the mushrooms and veg to the pasta water and then return to whisking your sauce. Keep whisking until it resembles thick, smooth custard. At this point you should check to see whether the sauce needs salt or pepper.
  4. After the vegetables have cooked for five minutes drain these along with the pasta and combine with the sauce in your baking dish. If you have a food processor blitz the torn-up bread and bacon together to breadcrumbs, if not lay both on a  chopping board and rock your knife over the lot of it to dice as small as possible. Scatter these breadcrumbs in a single layer over the pasta bake, and pop in the oven for about 15 mins until the breadcrumbs are golden and the bacon pieces are cooked.

rustica pizza

chicken, bacon, spinach and tomato pizza on a naan bread base

I seem to be writing about nothing but pizzas at the moment. I don’t know what it is but I can’t stop craving that perfect mix of bread, cheese and tomato.

What luck then, that Domino’s invited me to try their Gourmet range of take away pizza. I’m so-so on Domino’s pizzas usually, I find their bases a bit blandy and bready, instead of puffy and yeasty as I like them. The base can be so easily overlooked but it for me it should definitely be the star of a pizza. But if they’re paying I’ll give it a go.

Armed with a group of friends, we tried out their Firenze and Rustica pizzas, and a bunch of sides. The ordering system is inventive, with an online order tracker with automatic post-back (one for the jQuery fans) that updates onscreen as to what your pizza is up to at any time. This probably works really well when you’re having a delivery, but if you’re collecting there is nowhere to be told when you should turn up for it. We just pot-lucked it in the end; had we not we’d probably still be staring at the screen.

dominos rustica and firenze pizzasThe Firenze is topped with salami, pepperoni and peppers, upon which my chum demanded extra chillies. I ordered the Rustica for me which boasts chicken, bacon, spinach and SunBlush tomatoes. The spicy pizza went down with my friends really well, just what they were after. The Rustica was perfectly OK, just a very ordinary takeaway pizza. The base was certainly a lot better than I remember, with a bit of stretch to it, and the spinach was a nice touch. As for the sides, the garlic mozzarella sticks were great (they’re fried cheese; how can you go wrong?) but the chicken wings were abysmal: little sweaty things that tasted only of that chemical heat you get that flashes hot then disappears immediately.

Furthermore it cost a small fortune. One of these Gourmet pizzas costs £16.99 which is no small figure for something which has a relatively tiny base cost. I haven’t a clue where your money is going.

I was inspired to beat them at their own game. I had one of Warburton’s square naans to hand and they are sensational on their own; mildly spiced, excellent texture and just enough crunch (Atul Kocchar loves them!). However they also work fantastically well as a pizza base, so topped with roast chicken, smoked bacon and a splash of spinach to convince you it’s a balanced meal you have a superb pizza. A fraction of the cost and I can have it ready before the guy on the moped arrives.

Rustica pizza (serves 2):

6 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ tin of tomatoes

Balsamic vinegar

1 Warburton’s naan

1 ball of mozzarella, dried well and grated

1 roasted chicken breast, diced

2 slices of smoked bacon, cut into lardons

Small handful of fresh spinach leaves

  1. Get the oven on as hot as you can. Pop the halved tomatoes in a baking tray and shove them in while you get on with everything else.
  2. Get a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the bacon for a couple of minutes, tossing occasionally until starting to colour (you will finish them off in the oven). Tip the bacon on to some kitchen roll to drain and add the tinned tomatoes, turning the heat up high. Add a dash of vinegar along with a pinch of salt and sugar and allow it to bubble furiously for 4 – 5 minutes until the mixture is thick and gloopy. Tip this into a sieve over a bowl and mash well to squeeze all the juice out (you can discard the pulp).
  3. Lay the naan on the baking tray and smooth over the tomato sauce. Top with the meats, cheese and spinach and pop in the hot oven for 7 – 8 minutes until the spinach has wilted and the cheese melted. Take the pizza and the tomatoes out of the oven and dot the surface of the pizzas with the now-concentrated tomatoes.