The Perfect Bacon Sandwich

The bacon sandwich. Is there a better hangover cure out there? I don’t think so. Of course you don’t have to be hungover, it is also one of the best weekend breakfast/brunch treats out there. And of course, everyone has their own, often very specific, requirements as to how they like to make and eat theirs! But I’m going to put it out there, in my humble opinion, this is the perfect bacon sandwich.

This bacon sandwich, made a few weekends ago (bit of a blogging backlog going on!) fell into the hangover category. Which usually makes it all the more satisfying. Infact, we had been the previous night to Chorlton Beer Festival. An annual highlight of the Chorlton calendar which involves sitting in a church garden (the slight bizarreness of the location definitely adds to the experience!) in rain or shine sampling an almost bewildering array of ales, Belgian beers and ciders. The ales, of which there are by far the most (over 80 this year!), are lined up in barrels down each side of the inside of the church. A bar in a church, brilliant! These include pale ales, stouts, cloudy wheat-style beers, bitters and everything in between. Weird and wonderful ales including chocolate flavoured, banoffe pie, mocha, honey, ginger, peach, elderflower. Delicious. This year, despite the weeks of rain, the sun actually came out, which was a very very nice change in comparison to the continuous deluge of the previous year!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the bacon sarnie. So, as you can imagine after describing the events of the previous evening, the other half and I woke up in rather desperate need of a bacon hit.

I have been experimenting over the years with many variations on making a bacon sandwich, but have never quite hit the perfect mark until now. Now I actually think the most important bit to get right is the bread. The carrier for the bacon if you will. The main problem for me is that a roll is too bready. And, call me strange, I actually far prefer brown bread to white. Yes, even with bacon. I find a flavoursome seeded wholegrain which can stand up to the bacon a bit more rather than mulch into a white tasteless cottonwool-like mush much preferable. So, seeded wholegrain sliced bread it is. A roll involves just too much bread, there’s too much thickness of bread on either side of the bacon. But just using sliced bread is still too bready. So in recent years I have progressed to brown bread toasted. However this is often too dry and I therefore end up slathering the thing in extra butter and sauce (we will come to the sauce later!) to keep it moist, therefore making the whole thing a bit overwhelming and too greasy. If only there was a way to have something in between toast and bread…. maybe one slice of toast and one slice of bread? This was an interesting combination, but just didn’t work. Bready cloying mouthful on one side of the bacon, dry crunch on the other. Hhhmmm. And that is when it dawned on me readers, the answer to my eternal bacon question!

I decided to put my two slices of bread into the same slot of the toaster as so;

This meant each slice would be toasted on just one side, and still soft and bready on the other.

I decided the bacon (always unsmoked, always grilled, never fried, always crispy round the edges, always plenty; a mean bacon sandwich just isn’t worth the eating) should be sandwiched between the warmed soft bread side, while the toasted sides should be on the outside, providing that first satisfying crunch to the bite. I spread butter and brown sauce, yes brown sauce, never tomato! on just one side so as not to be too much. I had previously always had tomato ketchup with bacon sandwiches, and anything else that calls for a sauce debate really, thinking brown sauce an unpleasant over-strong nasty thing. Then I met my other half, and after trying a bite of his bacon sandwich once immediately realised what I had been missing and was prepared to admit where I had been wrong! Pile up your bacon on top of the side spread with butter and a little moistening brown sauce, then drizzle some more brown sauce on top of the bacon. This will then of course transfer to your currently dry piece of bread.

Cut in two, serve with strong mug of tea (coffee is too strong for bacon and will overpower it, this definitely calls for a strong restorative tea!) And enjoy. Mmmmmmmm……………..

Would love to know what anyone else’s perfect bacon sandwich would be?

Iced peppermint tea

So Summer has finally arrived in the UK! We had the first week back in May and this will no doubt be the second and last week of it now… Still, while the sun shines we shall remain optimistic!

Everything just seems so much better in the sunshine. Standing on the sunny platform waiting for the tram to work this morning was almost pleasant!

Anyway, a little bored with the usual soft drinks, I was seeking inspiration for a new cold and refreshing drink for this hot weather and came up with iced peppermint tea.

I usually make mint tea by just adding a handful of mint leaves from my garden to hot water, however I found it a bit difficult to get the intensity of flavour required in the small amount of hot water used to make this so I used a peppermint tea bag. Make around a third of a cup of peppermint tea and let it brew for a few minutes, I like to give the bag a bit of a mash to release extra flavour. Pour the tea into a glass filled with loads of ice cubes, these will immediately cool the tea and some of the ice cubes will melt straight away lengthening the drink. Delicious, cooling and refreshing! I can’t get enough of it! In fact, I’ve always found cold minty things to be exceptionally refreshing, mint choc chip is clearly one of the best ice cream flavours and childhood trips to France were never complete without the obligatory Kimmy menthe ice lolly! Yum! Hhmm quite fancy making some more now…

Cooking with Dad: The Ultimate Roast

So while I was visiting my mum and dad in Scotland last weekend, my dad also did a bit of cooking. As is often the case with the male members of a household, he doesn’t tend to cook the regular day to day meals but rather likes to specialise in the Occasion Meals; Sunday Roasts, Summer Barbecues and Christmas Dinner. And boy oh boy, he does them well!

My dad’s main speciality is a roast dinner centred around a majestic leg of lamb. In our family, this has come to be known as Dad’s Luscious Lamb  As well as a special treat Sunday dinner we also often have this for a New Year’s Day meal. Pretty much everytime I visit home I put in a request for Dad’s Luscious Lamb and, luckily for me, he is usually only too happy to oblige! This is definitely one of my favourite ever meals despite not being a traditional roast kinda gal! (Clearly this is a roast on another level!)

The vegetables we have with this vary depending on who’s eating and the time of year etc. Last weekend we decided on roast baby beetroots (a new discovery of my parentals and one I will be copying myself very soon!) roast parsnips (not seasonal, I know, and I am trying to eat with the seasons more, but we had a hankering…) and some creamed spinach. No  matter what the accompaniments to the Luscious Lamb are, the whole heavenly plateful is then covered in a thick, rich red wine gravy. (Which is so good that I’m practically salivating just thinking about it!)

I must say I didn’t really get any pictures of the cooking process as I was mainly too busy drinking copious amounts of tea in the garden with my mum to be too involved in the actual cooking, but the basics are…;

Slather your leg of lamb with butter, garlic and thyme, plus a dry mixture of ground ginger and ground coriander. Sear the lamb for a few minutes in a very hot pan. Place the lamb in a roasting tray on a bed of onions and carrots. Pop  in the oven for the relevant length of time depending on size and desired pinkness.

My Dad’s Amazing Gravy is then made by pushing the carrots and onion through a sieve to get the delicious juicy flavours and combining with the meat juices from the bottom of the roasting tray. Add copious amounts of red wine. (Three quarters of a bottle to be precise!!) Reduce.

The betroots and parsnips were roasted simply in the oven. If you use baby beetroots, you don’t even need to bother peeling them, you won’t even notice when you eat it.

We also had some creamed spinach which my mum had made previously. The spinach is from my dad’s vegetable patch and so I find is always much more flavoursome then the stuff you buy in the shops (as of course is the case with most things). I adore the nutty flavour of really tasty spinach. My mum makes this by softening onion and garlic in a pan, she adds the spinach and a tablespoon or two of reduced fat cream then whizzes the whole lot up in the blender. Lip smackingly good.

This picture doesn’t really do justice to the ultimate deliciousness of this plate of food. (I definitely need to up my food photography skills now I’ve started this blog) Every single morsel and mouthful of this meal were absolutely bursting with flavour. The lamb, as always, was so succulent and juicy and the red wine gravy, as always, so good that I invariably ended up drinking the remains…. One word, Luscious

For dessert, a bowl of juicy sweet Scottish strawberries liberally drizzled with sambucca. (Are you beginning to understand the secret’s to my parent’s kitchen?!!)

Cooking with mum: Seafood lasagne

I’m up in the lovely hills of Perthshire visiting my mum and dad for a long weekend. Despite the fairly persistent drizzle we’ve found a few gaps in the weather for walks through ‘the moss’ (local woods on the fields opposite the village) and around the loch on the banks of which our village nestles. We are also partaking in lots of eating and drinking! It is a quiet and peaceful break away from Manchester and work, much needed!

On Friday night, we decided to make seafood lasagne. My mum’s classic lasagne has gained quite the fan following among our family and friends, it really is excellent! I had never tried my mum’s seafood lasagne however, a relatively new recipe which she concoted one daywhen having some fish to use up.

Here’s what you’ll need for a lasagne serving 4;

  • 2 fillets salmon
  • 1 fillet smoked haddock
  • 1 fillet un-smoked haddock
  • large handful of king prawns (raw)
  • milk (for poaching)
  • onion
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic or one very fat one
  • good quality chopped tomatoes
  • spinach
  • fresh lasagne sheets
  • olive oil
  • ouzo or another aniseed-based drink such as pernod or ricard
  • salt and pepper to season

(I’ve had to use my dad’s camera as I forgot to bring mine, and I have no idea how to get rid of the pesky date stamps on the photos!)

Heat a good slug of oilve oil and fry the finely chopped onion and crushed garlic until turning soft and golden and letting off that lovely garlicy appetite-whetting scent.

(I am so jealous of my mum’s Le Creuset cookware, actually bought in France!)

At this point, add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Once simmering, reduce to a low heat for ideally up to two hours – the longer you leave it, the more the flavours will intensify and the tomatoes take on that delcicious sweetness. Around half way through add about a tablespoon of the ouzo to add a lovely hint of aniseed which brings another layer of flavour.

Poach the salmon and haddock (smoked and un-smoked) in some milk then flake into chunks.

Once the tomato sauce has been allowed to develop and delicious-ise sufficiently, stir in the poached fish and the prawns. You are now ready to start layering up the lasagne. My mum likes to include a layer of spinach for some added colour and texture. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough spinach in my dad’s veg patch today! If you do include the spinach, put it in a layer with a drizzle of white sauce. Don’t wilt it first as it will cook plenty in the oven.

Not enough spinach!

 For the white sauce, my mum has always sworn by Delia;

  • 1 and 1/4 pints milk (you can include the milk used for poaching the fish earlier)
  • 3 oz butter
  • 2 oz plain flour
  • 3 fl oz cream (if you don’t have/want to be healthier, you can up the milk instead)
  • freshy grated nutmeg (my mum: ‘if it’s not fresh, don’t even bother!’)
  • salt & pepper

Serve with salad and a large glass of vino bianco!

Wimbledon treats!

Melted Milka Dime bar chocolate and deliciously sweet and juicy Scottish strawberries 🙂

Fat free chocolate cake… well, sort of!

The other half and I were craving something sweet earlier this week but I didn’t want to be too naughty. I had a rummage around the kitchen, we had no proper butter and no eggs. We did however have an incredibly ripe avocado that needed using. (Having been away for the weekend and left my male counterpart to do the weekly shop, I have a lot of extra items that need using. Why buy just one avocado when you can buy a family pack right?!). I suddenly remembered watching saw random ‘raw food movement’ type programme on television a while ago. A very enthusiastic woman told us incredulous viewers that she was going to make a raw chocolate cake. Using avocado as a substitute for butter. So I took to Google and had a look at some recipes. It was quickly established that neither did we have the required array of ingredients nor was the other half likely to eat a flour-less raw chocolate cake. He was, however, willing to try a slightly less radical version.

So I decided to make the following recipe which I found online

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda
  • 2 cups sugar (the recipe didn’t specify but presumed this was caster)
  • 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 1 large very ripe avocado, well mashed
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease cake tins.

Sift all the dry ingredients, except the sugar, together.

Mix all the wet ingredients together, including the avocado. I used a food processor to make sure it was really well mixed. Add the sugar into the wet ingredients and beat well with a whisk.

Looking pretty good, huh? Just like a normal chocolate cake mix? I, of course, had to sample a little at this stage, all in the name of research and all that… And can report that it was delicious! Nice and chocolately but not too sweet or rich, yummy! Very more-ish, infact….

Bowl licked clean…

Now, I must admit readers, I don’t often make a foray into the world of baking. This is for two reasons really. Firstly, I dread to think what size I would be if I baked regularly, I definitely don’t have enough restraint to have one little taste then give all the rest to the neighbours/friends/work colleagues (what’s the point in all that work, and more importantly, all those dishes?!) Secondly, while it may be a cliche, the kind of people who like experimenting with cooking and throwing together random ingredients tend to be a bit more ‘creative’ when it comes to specifics and measurements. I like to improvise. I am not very good at being precise and actually measuring things… Anyway, once the mixture is ready, pour into cake tins… here I showed my lack of baking experience. We could only find one of our cake tins. So I decided to whack the whole mixture into one. Big Mistake.

This of course meant the cake hadn’t cooked in the proscribed time (30 t0 40 minutes). We left it in a bit longer but the outside was beginning to burn so had to take it out.

As you can see, as a result of the one tin error, the cake had risen rather dramatically and did not look very pretty… it also meant that while we had to take it out as the outside was beginning to burn, the very middle was still chocolately gloop. Tasty warm gooey chocolately gloop. We had accidentally created a melt-in-the-middle chocolate avocado pudding! And it was actually rather tasty! So baking disasters can still turn out relatively ok!

We did not have the time or ingredients to make the avocado frosting to go with it, but here’s what the recipe called for;

  • 2 small to medium very ripe avocados
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 pound icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
I think I will have to try this again, in a less slap dash manor, and give the icing a go. I think it would also be nice with a chocolate icing or maybe even a mint one…
Just need to find the next excuse for baking!