Bacon & Cannellini Bean Stew

This is an adaptation of a recipe that my friend Laura first made for me when I was visiting her when she lived in Venice a few years ago. Yes, I know, lucky thing! We had so much delicious food in that long weekend, I practically salivate just thinking about it… I may have to post a retrospective blog on the tasty delights of the trip at somepoint!

Anyway, this wasn’t as tasty as when she first made it for me. Partly because I wasn’t eating it in her small but charming Italian kitchen, partly because I didn’t have any pancetta and so had to substitute for bacon, and partly I imagine because it wasn’t made using lovely fresh Italian produce!

Still, it makes for a satisfying and yummy mid week meal with the added bonus of only using one pot! Which is always a good thing in my book!

This is what you’ll need to make enough for two;

  • A couple of rashers of streaky bacon (or pancetta if you have some!)
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 small to medium carrots or 1 bigger one
  • 1 stalk celery
  • half a red pepper
  • half an orange pepper
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • squeeze of tomato puree
  • black pepper
  • pinch of oregano
  • Little splash Lea & Perrins

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Toss in the roughly chopped bacon. Cook for a few minutes then add the chopped carrots, celery and peppers. Add the tinned tomatoes. You could also add a glug of red wine at this stage if you had any on the go. Simmer for around 5 minutes then add the rinsed beans, a good squeeze of tomato puree, a pinch of oregano and a small splash of Lea & Perrins and season. Turn the hob right down and cover the pan, simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.

This would ideally be served with a good hunk of crusty bead to mop up the juices, however we are trying to be good at the moment so just had it as is!

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?