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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Plate to Page Cookoff

Germany Bound
Thursday night saw four of Ireland's top food bloggers descend onto Cooks Academy on South William Street, Dublin to cook up their very best Irish beef dish. They were hoping to win a trip to the Plate to Page Workshop in Weimer Germany, which is a bootcamp for food bloggers. The weekend offers workshops in all aspects of blogging including, styling, writing, photography, marketing and of course lots of lovely Irish and German produce.

The lovely Maeve Desmond from Bord Bia interview all of the contestants and Vanessa Greenwood from Cooks Academy. You can hear the interviews over here
The four finished dishes were incredibly diverse and did show a great range of what can be achieved with great quality Irish beef. I was very impressed with Kitchen 72's use of a pressure cooker to replicate the slow cooking of his beef cheek in the allowed 90 minutes.

Here are links to all the finalists and their recipes.
SmörgåsblogSurf agus Turf

The Runcible Spoon: Beef, and the beer that loves it

Wise Words: Ribeye to die for
Left to Right - Maeve Desmond Bord Bia, David Kitchen 72,
Mona  Wise Words & Vanessa Greenwood Cooks Academy

Sadly there could only be two winners - two is better than one now! David from Kitchen 72 and Mona from Wise Words - Congrats guys we'll be watching your blogs closely to pick up some tips from your trip

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Exciting news - Masterchef is coming to Ireland!

As Lola can testify, this is my all time favourite programme of all time. I was disproportionately excited when the UKs runner up, Alex Rushmer commented on one of my recipes! The excitement. It was a great recipe for Mexican Chili Soup, though if I do say so myself!

So the call out for contestants in the first ever Irish Masterchef are out. Now I'm currently undecided on whether or not I should enter, watching an episode on TV can have me sick with nerves and send me scurrying behind the couch. Especially in episodes where they work in professional kitchens. Doing the exam for the Cooks Academy certificate course was nerve wracking enough for me I think!

The first judge is the amazingly talented Dylan McGrath - he's a man I'd love to meet - had his first Michelin star at age 30. The second is Nick Munier a Dublin restaurateur and Maitre D’, who has been in the industry for 22 years working for some of the world’s best chefs, including Marco Pierre White and The Roux Brothers.

Entries are open now and close on the 27th of April. The application form is pretty long so you might want to give yourself sometime to complete it. draw the attention to some interesting T&Cs that you might want to have an old read over first too.

All the full details and teaser trailer are over here - and for the prize of 25,000euro you might want to seriously consider it. Now I'm off to cook some dinner!