Bacon and brie salad

When things have been super busy recently and the sun has been out, salad is the go to meal. The great thing about salad is you can adapt to your own tastes so I haven’t listed quantities below. A slightly less healthy salad can be found here.

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Pasta carbonara

Reading a post the other day made me hungry. Really hungry. I haven’t had cabonara for ages, I’m not a big pasta fan but bacon in a dish always helps. Having read the excellent foodboozeandreviews spaghetti carbonara recipe, I decided that we were having it for tea the next day. To make a quick dish take longer and to add complication, I decided to make my own pasta as well.

It is actually really fairly simple to make your own pasta, especially if you have a pasta maker to roll the dough with. I definitely prefer the taste but for time and ease, dried pasta is more than sufficient.

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Tomato, mozzarella and bacon baked gnocchi

For once I pretty much stuck to a recipe which you can find here. Whilst I’ve cooked several pasta bakes, I’d not thought about doing a baked gnocchi dish until I stumbled across the idea on Pinterest.

I think shop bought gnocchi probably works best in this dish as the original article also says, one day I’d love to have a go at making my own gnocchi but I’ve not been brave enough yet, either way I always get the feeling that purchased gnocchi is a little more sturdy than the home made stuff.

This recipe was delicious and, other than maybe trying chorizo instead of bacon, there is very little I would change. I’m normally a recipe tinkerer so this is most unusual for me.

Ingredients

320g gnocchi (more won’t hurt, that’s just the size pack we were able to get)
Pack of bacon, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tin chopped tomato
75g (ish) halved cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp crème fraiche
100g mozzarella

Pre heat oven to Gas Mark 6.

Fry the bacon on a high heat until brown, turn down the heat and add the garlic, stir for 30 seconds or so then add the paprika and make sure everything is well coated. Add the tinned and halved tomatoes. Here the recipe calls for sugar (which does help with tinned tomatoes) but I didn’t add it here, sometimes I will throw in a teaspoon of golden syrup but I didn’t think this recipe needs it due to the fresh tomatoes and the cream.

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Simmer the sauce until it starts to thicken, this was more like 10 minutes for me and so this was a good time to bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi. Drain the gnocchi and put to one side.

Once the tomato sauce has thickened, stir in the cream then add the cooked gnocchi. If you are not using a hob to oven casserole, transfer the sauce and gnocchi to an oven proof dish. Place sliced mozzarella on top and put into the oven until the cheese is melted and browned.

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By this point we were fairly hungry, even though this is a relatively quick tea, so we went with melted rather than browned cheese. It was definitely still tasty!

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Posh pork and rice

I’ve posted a posh chicken and rice recipe before. This time it is pork smothered in pate, wrapped in streaky bacon with a red wine and mushroom risotto. Or pork and rice.

I first found a red wine risotto on the agirlcalledjack blog and tried it a few times. I’ve amended, added and played with it a bit plus I’ve found it goes well with the pork used here.

Ingredients

Pork tenderloin
Tub of pate
Streaky bacon or pancetta
Butter
Onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves
Sliced mushrooms, roughly 150g
Thyme, leaves only
Arborio rice
Half a glass (ish) red wine
1l Vegetable stock

Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 5.

Lay out your pancetta or streaky bacon side to side on top of cling film until it is roughly the same length as the tenderloin, in this case the bacon was far too thick so I put it another layer of cling film on top and rolled it out slightly thinner. I would normally use pancetta but the Other Half failed to buy any so streaky bacon it was!

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To get an even covering of the pate (I used a tub of supermarket pate but if you can afford a better quality coarse Ardennes or similar that would work really well) dollop it over the bacon and again cover with cling film and attack it with a rolling pin!

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Remove top layer of cling film and place pork tenderloin along the bacon and pate, use the bottom layer of cling film to help you get this nice and tightly rolled. In an ideal world I would now fry this until browned but time was short so I hurled this straight in the oven for roughly 40 minutes, plenty of time to make a risotto.

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Here I used my mandolin to finely slice the onion and gently fried that off in a knob of butter. After 5 or so minutes add the garlic, stir well and continue to fry for a few more minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and thyme leaves and cook until the mushroom have softened.

Make sure you have stock made up and keeping warm in another saucepan on a gentle heat.

I never measure out the rice any more, well I don’t measure most things to be fair, so work out by eye what looks like enough to serve three of us, I would guess its about 250g. Add the rice to the dish and stir well until the rice is coated in any oil and starting to turn translucent.

Turn up to a medium heat and pour in the wine. Stir until it has all absorbed into the rice, then add stock, one ladle at a time, until the stock is all used. Make sure that the stock is well absorbed before adding the next ladle, usually you are looking for the risotto to take a breathe before it flows into the gap your spatula has left.

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Once you’ve used all the stock, the rice should be cooked. You are looking for it still to have a little bite, I usually make the Other Half try it to make sure he is happy! I normally turn out the heat, add another knob of butter, stir well, cover and leave it to relax for a minute before serving.

Slice the pork tenderloin and serve with rice. Try to cut all the way through the outer layer of bacon before serving so that the pork and bacon doesn’t fall apart when you are trying to photograph it!!

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Pig and poultry salad

Otherwise known as chicken and bacon salad, although the salad to meat ratio was not particularly high so this is not a healthy option! No specific measurements are below as you can use as little or as much of each to suit your taste.

Ingredients:

Mixed green leaves
Cucumber
Baby tomatoes
Radishes
Yellow Pepper
Mushrooms
Bacon
Chicken
Egg
Bread

First of all I pan fried the bacon until fairly crispy. This is my default bacon preference anyway but it also works better in salad when it is crispy and salty. Put this to one side but keep all that bacon fat in the pan ready for croutons later.

Next step is to stir fry the chicken, cut into strips roughly the same width as a finger. Once this is under way cut and slice the salad elements to your liking and either mix in a bowl or layer up on a plate. Make sure your chicken isn’t burning or getting overdone!

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Get a pan of water to boiling point and then add eggs, these will be less likely to crack if you have taken them out of the fridge and got them up to room temperature. We tend to use medium or large eggs and I cook them on just under a rolling boil for three and a half to four minutes depending on size. As soon as they are done, place in cold water immediately and put to one side until you are ready to peel them.

When the chicken is nearly done, add some sliced mushrooms and stir fry these too. Remember that bacon fat? Take some bread and cut it into cubes of about 1cm, then fry in the bacon fat, adding extra butter or oil if needed. Add a good helping of black pepper.

Hopefully at some point you’ve found some time to peel the eggs and they are sufficiently cooked. They will be soft boiled using the timings above which works for me and my hob!

Assemble and enjoy.

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