Homemade Dry Cured & Air Dried Streaky Bacon

10 days ago I received Curing & Smoking by Steven Lamb. Within minutes of receiving the book I was turning pages as fast as I could. It was immediately apparent that this is serious book on the subject but at the same time utterly readable and very encouraging for those who’ve never cured or smoked before. I couldn’t wait to get started on making my own streaky bacon and my enthusiasm to start within minutes has taught me my first lesson – ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. Or, in this case decent streaky bacon out of supermarket belly pork which I’d rushed off and bought about an hour after receiving the book!

Next time, which wont be long, I’ll get some quality belly from the thick end with lots of fat in it. Having said that, this morning I cut some rashers from this first piece of streaky and made a bacon sarnie with home-made bread. The bacon had the best flavour of any bacon I’ve ever eaten! With a decent piece of belly to start with it must be out of this world. Here’s how it was done.

Until now one of my favourite books on cookery has been Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery by Jane Grigson but this has now been usurped by Steven Lamb’s book.

Chargrilled Vegetable Pizza

Chargrilled Vegetable Pizza

Chargrilled Vegetable Pizza

Pizza Base Ingredients (makes 2 x 12″ Pizzas)
50g Fine cornmeal (Polenta)
200g Plain flour
1tsp Dried yeast
20ml olive oil
130ml Water
1 x Good pinch of salt

I’m lazy and make the pizza dough in a bread machine which only takes 45 minutes from start to finish. You could of course make it the traditional way with lots of hand kneading.

Get the oven on now because you need it to be really hot – 250C for a fan oven or even higher if you can for a convection oven. It’s also really best if you’ve got a pizza stone which you put in the oven before turning the heat on.

While the dough was being made I used a ridged griddle pan to chargrill finely sliced courgette, red pepper and onion which I’d first mixed with a little olive oil. When the dough was ready each half was stretched out into a rough 12″ diameter disc. Each was spread with two tablespoons of ready made passatta. A few flakes of dried chilli were then sprinkled over and grated mozzarella added. The chargrilled vegetables were then divided between the pizzas, plus a few halved baby tomatoes.

Into the oven once it’s up to temperature and each pizza shouldn’t take more than 5-6 minutes baking on the stone.

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole is one of my favourite dishes. The one in the picture may look slightly different to most Toads in the Hole because I’ve used chipolata sausages rather than the usual ‘six to a pound’ size sausages. The reason for this is that I prefer beef sausages in my Toad in the Hole to the more usual pork. In the past I was able to buy superb full size beef sausages from a stall holder on my local Farmers’ Market but he’s now retired and is no more. Now the only decent tasting ones I can find are Waitrose Beef Chipolatas and sadly they don’t do a full size version.

For the batter I beat together 140g plain flour, 4 eggs, 200ml milk and salt and pepper. The first rule of good Yorkshire Pudding and therefore Toad in the Hole making is to keep everything very hot all the time. The second is that it will never work in a china or glass Pyrex dish it must be a metal dish, the heavier the better (see rule one, as the ingredients are added to a heavy dish it wont cool down so much).

Put a generous amount of beef dripping if you have it, otherwise sunflower oil, into the pan and place in the oven at 220C until it is truly hot. I then add the sausages for a few minutes so that things comply with rule one and the sausages warm a bit and wont cool the batter when it’s added. Next remove the dish from the oven and place it on the stove over a medium heat before pouring in the batter. Return to the oven for about 25 minutes.

I eat Toad in the Hole with a rich onion gravy and some freshly boiled greens such as curly kale. Make sure these are ready by the the time the Toad in the Hole is cooked because it does not improve by being kept hanging around.