Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home-cured Bacon Carbonara

My favourite pasta dish of all time

So yes Carbonara is my favourite pasta dish of all time. I've been making it for years. Every so often will get a craving for it that won't go away until I've made myself an enormous bowl of creamy spaghetti. I'm pretty sure it has to be spaghetti - tagliatelle at a push.

Now the most important ingredient in this dish is indeed the bacon. Just to say the pig wasn't a saddleback but a rarebreed Tamworth from the Wishing Well Farm. The University of Bristol carried out a taste test of all breeds of pigs in 1999 and the Tamworth came out on top. They are now in the process of getting a sow to start breeding. Most special about this particular pig is that, it was their first pig. 

We saw Ed Hick butcher a side of the animal at Inishfood in Donegal. Then we all got down to curing our own bit of bacon. I chose a cure that had some bay and juniper in it. The meat was pierced to allow the cure to get deep into the meat. Then you rub the cure well into the meat with your hands. Seal the meat in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place for two weeks for the curing to take effect. The meat needs a turn everyday to ensure both sides as evenly cured. I stored mine in the fridge.

The resulting piece of meat was just some of the finest bacon I've ever eaten. It's nice to have a large piece of bacon to cut from as you can choose how to cut it - ie rashers or lardons. I got 3 breakfasts and a carbonara for two from my piece. Sadly I forgot to weigh it at any point of the process - whoops. The cure brought lovely notes of bay to the meat. Also the fat when fried or grilled turned a lovely dark rich brown - whether that's down to the meat or the cure I'm not sure. There was dark brown sugar in the cure so that might well be it.

I will def be looking into curing my own bacon again providing I can find the same quality of meat to do it with. That might be some tall order though, given the tender love and care this pig received I'm sure.

Now onto the recipe which I took from Donal Skehans new book - Kitchen Hero. Like him I've experimented with many versions before often involving ingredients such as wine, cream, cheddar. The pared back version is more true to the genuine Italian version, and just as tasty.

Ingredients - Serves Two
3 egg yolks - broken up
5 rashers sliced / or pancetta / or my amazing bacon!
Spaghetti for 2 cooked al dente
Parmesan cheese

Cook your spaghetti in plenty of well salted water. While the pasta is cooking fry up your bacon till it's nice and crispy.

Drain the spaghetti and reserve about a cup full of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the hot pan - but don't return the pan to the heat. Stir through the bacon and a little of the cooking water. Then quickly stir through the egg yolks. The heat from the pasta cooks the egg yolks and makes a nice sauce that coats well. Stir quickly though to ensure you don't scramble the egg.

Serve with a good healthy amount of freshly grated Parmesan and a good crowd of black pepper.

This dish is full of flavour that belies it's simple ingredients, it will be a while before I go back to my more extensive ingredient list.


Catherine said...

Ooh, that carbonara looks well lush. Alas, I left my bacon a day or two too long before taking it up to cook with and, well, as Ed Hick said, one's nose is an inch above one's mouth for a reason. Sniff. Would totally give it a go again though!

L said...

Yum bloody yum! Any chance of posting how to cure bacon? Id love to give it a go.... Looking forward to Camper Van cook off on Sunday! Bring your camera!

Hester Casey - Alchemy said...

You can't beat a decent carbonara and yours looks pretty decent indeed. I am so impressed that you cured the bacon yourself. I'm a huge fan of Hicks - they've produced wonderful food for decades.

Lu said...

Catherine - noo that's so sad :( Give it a go again though for sure

Lolarosa - not too complicated just pierce your meat and apply the rub (this can be a combination of different things - mostly salt with different added spices/sugar) leave in a sealed container in the fridge/cold place for two weeks turning every day. Then Bacon has arrived!

Hester - a decent carbonara is indeed a joy! I'll be a big hicks fan from now on. Thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

Lu, it's great you enjoyed the bacon and it sounds like you're excellent at curing. Just to say the pig wasn't a saddleback but a rarebreed Tamworth. The University of Bristol carried out a taste test of all breeds of pigs in 1999 and the tamworth came out on top. We are now in the process of getting a sow and start breeding. It's people like your good self that give us the confidence to proceed, thx for the feedback.

Unknown said...

above comment from Rona is actually from wishing well farm. Rona is the better half of the team. By day mother of two and pig breeder. By night producing relishes ready for farmers market.

Lu said...

Hi Rona - thanks for stopping by and correcting that I just changed it in the post there. Knew I'd forget if I didn't write it down! Also thanks so much for rasing such great tasty meat and for letting us amateurs have a go at curing it. I may have to wait till your new ones are ready before I make another carbonara - is it difficult to get Tamworth sows?

Unknown said...

Lu, From our experience it is not difficult to get a sow or weaner but it's the quality of that pig that really matters, ie what is the lineage and it makes a big difference to the quality of the pork produced. We were luck we got a pure breed tamwoth but many pigs are crosses, some work some don't. A lot queries as to the history of the pig is important too. Along with a tamworth we ar looking at getting a hampshire which is a modern breed but suited to outdoors and puts on muscle and not fat. Website up soon so you can follow the story

Lu said...

Kind of like horses then I guess - can't breed a winner from bad quality parents. Let me know when you have the site up will do a post on it. And thanks again

Aoife Mc said...

Yum! So glad your cured bacon turned out well. It sounds so good!

Need bacon now...:)

Lu said...

yeah turned out great shame we didn't have our bacon and Leap Year party - we should still do it

Orla said...

Wow that Carbonara looks lovely!! So impressed that you cured the bacon yourself :)

Lu said...

Hey Orla - you should try it - very easy put in the fridge and forget about it for 3 weeks - it's nice to cut it yourself according to what you'll need it for. Easier to cut lardons than rashers though I'll admit!

Orla said...

Oh I'm definetly going to try it!! Have the perfect meat as well!!! I really like your blog :) Thanks for all the wisdom!!