Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback
So this week I finalised my Christmas menu for what I’m going to be cooking for all the family when they arrive from Christmas Eve onwards. It wasn’t that hard to be honest, as I took the menu I made for last Christmas and merely changed the header from Christmas 2013 to Christmas 2014. Gone are the days of festive experimentation, that is now what my blog is for.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Like any family, mine is picky and I have to cater across the board. Some don’t like smoked salmon, some can’t imagine Christmas without it. For those that hate the sight of Christmas Pudding, not to fear, there is trifle on hand. Then of course I have the usual brussel sprout debate, shall I bother with them when only a couple of people eat them? There is no question, unless I want sulks over the lunch table. A couple of years ago I broke from tradition and made a Ham Hock and Chicken Pie on Christmas Eve instead of the usual Honey Glazed Ham and there were definite murmours of discontent despite the pie being one of the best things that has come out of my kitchen. Lo and behold when I visited a certain member of my family over New Year a Baked Christmas Ham was presented for supper. The hint was duly noted.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

I don’t know how it came to pass that Devils on Horseback have to make an appearance by about 11am on Christmas morning just after we have finished opening our presents, especially since we’ve been stuffing ourselves with bacon rolls all morning. But then, there is always room for more bacon. I hate to admit it but I was getting a little tired of them each year so this time round I have jazzed them up a bit and I have to say that it has reinvigorated my love for them. They were missing a bit of oomph for me so I have mixed in some hot and smoky chipotle in adobo with a generous amount of citrusy marmalade and spread it on the bacon rashers before rolling them up with the prunes. Now, they have bite, a Chrismas kick with the marmalade and to finish it off I have given them a glaze of marmalade after they emerge from the grill to avoid the bacon going dry if they are going to be sat on a plate for a bit. Not that they will as they are usually wolfed down within seconds.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Just make sure you use good bacon and freshly opened sticky prunes.

The Devils on Horseback go down well with everyone, except of course for Mum who balks at the idea of sweet and savoury things together and wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole. Oh well, you can’t please everyone.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Makes 24

90g marmalade
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo
200g stoned prunes (about 24)
12 rashers smoked streaky bacon, halved widthways

  1. Turn the grill onto its highest setting.
  2. Mash up 60g of the marmalade with the chipotle until evenly mixed.
  3. Spread about ½ teaspoon of the marmalade and chipotle mixture on one side of the bacon rasher.
  4. Place a prune at one end of the bacon rasher and roll up, securing with a cocktail stick.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Place the devils underneath the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes each side.
  7. Meanwhile melt the remaining 30g of marmalade in a small saucepan until runny.
  8. Once the devils are ready, remove them from the grill and brush with the marmalade to glaze.
  9. Serve immediately.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones
When I think of Wensleydale cheese I think of Wallace and Gromit and it’s not long before I’m thinking of Wensleydale that my unique Yorkshire accent is produced for all and sundry to enjoy.  I love a good accent and take great pride in butchering every one I attempt.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

If you are not terribly familiar with Wensleydale it might be because you live in Stroud Green, it took me an absolute age to track down some of this wonderfully traditional British cheese that wasn’t contaminated with cranberries or apricots.  This is such a delicate summery cheese that it’s a shame it only comes into full force at Christmas as a novelty item on the cheeseboard.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

I was on the Wensleydale hunt particularly for this delicious scone recipe which I made for our last WI meeting.  We had thrown open our doors to the public for all and sundry to come and listen to author Gillian Tindall give a talk on our local historical building, Stapleton Hall, and we took pride in our WI reputation by providing homemade cakes and bakes for everyone to enjoy.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

I will often take a punnet of scones to a potluck or a picnic as they transport excellently and if you stuff enough cheese into them they will always be better received than a sweaty cheese sandwich.  However, I wanted to add a bit of something extra this time round and bake the jam into the scone, which would certainly save room in the picnic basket.  If you have any bacon jam in the fridge, as you absolutely must if you have learnt anything from food bloggers over the last few years, then do use that, or have a go at my new bacon jam recipe which I posted yesterday.  I will confess now that I made the bacon jam especially for these scones.  I wanted a very British scone where the ale in the jam could pair delightfully with the Wensleydale baked into the dough.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

The only way to eat a savoury scone is to crack it open at the middle, pulling the warmed dough apart and liberally spreading with whipped butter.  As I say, to eat at a picnic is an absolute joy but to eat at home is a luxury as then you can warm your scones up lightly in the oven so the steam rushes out when you break it open and the butter melts with abandon.

Wensleydale and Bacon Ale Jam Scones  |  Stroud Green Larder

Wensleydale, and Bacon Ale Jam Scones
Makes about 18 scones

550g strong bread flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g Wensleydale Cheese
Black Pepper
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125g Bacon Ale Jam
200ml milk
1 free-range egg, beaten, for the egg wash

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and line two large baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Tip 500g of the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the butter then rub them together with your fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs.
  3. Crumble up the Wensleydale into the bowl with the black pepper. Rub the larger lumps of cheese in a little bit into the flour.
  4. Then add the baking powder, mixing in well.
  5. Pour in the beaten eggs and turn it into the mixture with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.
  6. Then add in the bacon jam and the other 50g of the flour. Use the flour as a carrier for the fat in the bacon jam and rub into the other ingredients.
  7. Once the bacon jam is evenly dispersed, pour the milk in carefully, stirring in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will become quite wet.
  8. Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and pat the mixture together, if the dough is still too wet add in a little more flour, folding and turning the dough until the flour is incorporated. You want to work this dough as little as possible.
  9. Once the dough is dry enough to work with then roll out to 1 inch thickness and cut out circles using a 68mm round pastry cutter.
  10. Place the scones on the baking trays, then brush with the egg wash.
  11. Bake the scones in the oven for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden.
  12. Serve with plenty of whipped butter.

Bacon and Ale Jam

Bacon and Ale Jam
Bacon jam has been done and done.  I’ve even done it and I’m always the last one to catch onto anything.  But that doesn’t mean that just because the fad is dusty that it has become any less relevant.  Bacon jam is excellent and I’ve been missing it in my fridge these past few months ever since my obsession waned.  Oh, I’ve had my bacon salt to keep me going but there is nothing like a tablespoon of bacon jam in a bolognaise or gravy to add the patented smoky sweetness.  This time round I also ate it slathered on toast with peanut butter, it was particularly decadent and incredibly delicious.

Bacon and Ale Jam  |  Stroud Green LarderSince I’m perfectly happy with my tried and tested bacon jam recipe from last year I thought I would do something different to keep it interesting so I’ve Britished it up a bit.  The bacon jam I’m used to has the delightful notes of intense black coffee, smoky chipotle in adobo and American Bourbon.  This time round though I wanted to celebrate the kind of lovely local ingredients which we have on our doorstep; the London ale which we are drinking an abundance of at the moment whilst relaxing in the garden and the local honey I just picked up from the farmer’s market.  Imbued with these comforting and familiar ingredients, spiced lightly with mace and ginger and the subtle heat of English mustard, the jam works wonderfully.  It is a natural accompaniment to cheese and crackers and the picnic perfect wensleydale scones which I am posting about tomorrow.

Bacon jam is supposed to keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge but I have found that it lasts much longer, that is if you can resist.  This pot lasted about 2 days.

Bacon and Ale Jam  |  Stroud Green Larder

Bacon and Ale Jam
Makes about 500ml

300g smoked streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
60ml cider vinegar
60g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
125ml Ale
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
⅛ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground mace

Put the bacon in a large saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the bacon really crisps up, stirring all the while to keep it from sticking. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan and cook on a very low heat. After 5 mins add the garlic then continue cooking until the onion begins to caramelise, it should take around 20 mins.
Pour in the vinegar to deglaze the pan.
Add the bacon back in, as well as the sugar, honey, ale, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, ginger, mace and some black pepper.
The heat should be on the very lowest setting and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until reduced to a thick and sticky jam.
When it’s ready, turn off the heat and pour into a sterlised jar. Keep the jam in the fridge ready for whenever you need it.

Bacon Salt

Bacon Salt
Bacon is brilliant and salt is also brilliant.  Therefore this recipe is…brilliant.  I first had bacon salt a couple of months ago smothered onto my fries at Foxlow.  It just made complete sense, adding a delightfully savoury saltiness.  I have been meaning to have a go at it ever since and quite frankly since it was so easy I don’t know what took me so long.

maldon sea salt bacon

I just can’t see how I can go back to ordinary salt.  At the moment every meal I have is being improved by adding a smidge of bacon salt.  My buttered popcorn has a couple of heaped tablespoons of this special umami dust poured on as I’m settling down to watch True Detective on a Saturday night.  My sweet potato wedges are dredged with bacon salt making them the main feature of the meal instead of a lowly accompaniment and my lunchtime chicken and avocado salads are taken to another dimension, adding a curiously divine depth to the proceedings.  A few nights ago I just substituted normal salt with bacon salt when making a tomato sauce which completely transformed a plain jane dinner into blissful reflection.

oven crisp bacon dried crisp bacon bacon bits bacon bits and salt

You can keep your bacon salt in the fridge for as long as you see fit.  I suppose technically it should only be a week or so but the salt is a preserver so use your own judgment.

bacon salt and trouble

This recipe requires roasting your bacon in the oven which means that after you have taken your bacon off the baking tray you can then collect the bacon fat in a jar to keep in your fridge.  If you do this every time you bake or fry bacon then you will build up a little store.  Then you can use bacon fat instead of butter when frying steaks or pancakes or as a base to your roux.  It’s how I do it in my weird little bacon obsessed world.

Bacon Salt  |  Stroud Green Larder2

Bacon Salt
Adapted from

6 rashers smoked streaky bacon
135g maldon sea salt
¾ tsp ground white pepper

  1. Place the bacon rashers on a baking tray and then into an oven, pre-heated to 180°C.
  2. Bake for 20-25 mins until just starting to turn crisp.
  3. Remove from the oven and place the bacon rashers on some kitchen paper to dry.
  4. Once cooled, place the bacon in a food processor. Whizz up until it has broken into small pieces.
  5. Pour in the salt and the pepper and continue processing together until the bacon pieces are tasty meaty dots running through the salt.

bacon salt in quilted jar

Caramelised Bacon and Marmalade Muffins

Caramelised Bacon and Marmalade Muffins

I’m a big fan of bacon sandwiches.  Yeah yeah sure, everyone loves bacon, gimme something new.  When I was travelling around Ghana for a few months back in my early twenties it was bacon sandwiches that I would talk about long into the night with my fellow travellers.  Whilst they were missing family, beloved cats, hot showers, I was boring them all senseless with the lyricism of big slabs of white farmhouse slathered with butter, a mound of crisp bacon and a squeeze of the sweet red stuff.  When I got back to the UK I headed straight for the airport lounge and had the crappiest bacon sandwich of my life.  Well, it probably was crappy, with floppy bread, microwaved watery bacon and non branded saccharine ketchup but at the time it tasted like home.

caramelised bacon and marmalade muffins4

My taste in bacon sandwiches has changed a bit these days.  I don’t consider it a crime if I don’t include Heinz ketchup, instead I like to mix up my bacon accompaniments.  I like to live on the knife edge of condiments.

All of this preamble is a roundabout way of saying I had a pot of last year’s marmalade lounging on my kitchen counter when I made my bacon sandwich this weekend.  I barely thought about it before I was digging deep into the sticky amber and heaping teaspoons of it on top of my bacon.

caramelised Bacon and marmalade muffins3

It worked pretty damn well.  Bacon as a baking ingredient is no new concept anymore.  I jumped on the bandwagon long ago, see here for my Bacon Jam recipe.  So it was not much of a stretch from eating my bacon and marmalade sandwich to diving into these muffins.  They are just perfect for breakfast, sweet and fluffy with a salty kick from the bacon.  The great thing about muffin batter as well is that it can sit happily in the fridge overnight so feel free to get it all ready the night before then bake first thing.  There really is nothing better than a muffin fresh from the oven.

caramelised Bacon and marmalade muffins2

Caramelised Bacon and Marmalade Muffins

makes about 12

200g smoked streaky bacon
1½ tbsp light soft brown sugar
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g light soft brown sugar
525g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
160g marmalade
300ml whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp marmalade for glazing

  1. Place the bacon on a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake at 180°C for 20-30mins until the bacon is glistening, golden and slightly crisp. Remove from the baking sheet and set aside to cool. Once cool roughly chop the bacon.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugar for a couple of minutes until pale and smooth. Add the plain flour and baking powder and mix together until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the marmalade, milk, eggs and vanilla until incorporated.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, along with the bacon and mix quickly until they are all just combined. Don’t worry if the batter is lumpy or even if there is a bit of flour showing. It’s important not to over mix.
  5. Divide into muffin cases, filling the batter right to the top and bake for 20-25 mins.
  6. Warm the marmalade for the glaze in a saucepan for a couple of minutes then brush over the muffins as soon as they are removed from the oven.

Warm Jerusalem Artichoke, Bacon and Toasted Cobnut Salad

Warm Jerusalem Artichoke, Bacon and Toasted Cobnut Salad

When the ferocious winds are battering down your front door and horizontal rain is attacking your windows so vehemently that you feel you are in the middle of the Atlantic entering the eye of the storm then the last thing you probably think of having for lunch is a salad.  However, due to January diets and the urgent need for vitamin enriched food then a robust warming salad is just the ticket.  Salads are one of my favourite meals to make and eat as they are so versatile and allow for such experimentation in flavours and textures.  This hearty combination of creamy Jerusalem artichokes, crisp salty bacon and sweet crunchy cobnuts works wonderfully.

Jerusalem ArtichokesJerusalem artichokes are not normally my go to veg but I haven’t really ever given them a chance so in the spirit of New Year resolutions I read Nigel Slater’s chapter on them in his Tender cookbook which is packed full of different ideas and is where I drew the inspiration for the salad below.
CobnutsCobnuts hail from Kent and after becoming mildly obsessed with getting my hands on some after seeing them on Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds a few weeks ago my husband luckily received some in his stocking from Father Christmas.  They are very similar to hazelnuts both in look and taste but there is something a little fresher to a cobnut and since we now have a big bag of them rolling around the kitchen, then do expect them to crop up here every now and then.  However, if you can’t get hold of any then hazelnuts and hazelnut oil can happily be substituted.
Jerusalem Artichoke Bacon and Cobnut saladWarm Jerusalem Artichoke, bacon and toasted cobnut salad

Serves 2

300g Jerusalem artichokes
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp cobnut oil
1 tbsp olive oil
85g cobnuts, de-shelled
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
A couple of handfuls of rocket

  1. Scrub clean the Jerusalem artichokes then steam for around 20 mins until you can softly pierce the skin with a sharp knife.
  2. Meanwhile make the dressing with the lemon juice, mustard, cobnut oil, olive oil and season and set aside.
  3. Scatter the cobnuts on a baking tray and toast in an oven pre-heated to 180°C for between 5-10 mins until slightly browned. Remove and once cool enough to handle rub the nuts out of their papery skins. Lightly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar and set aside.
  4. In a frying pan dry fry the bacon rashers until crisp and set aside.
  5. Once the artichokes are ready then slice them with a sharp knife and toss them in the frying pan with the bacon fat and a splash of cobnut oil and sauté them on a medium heat until lightly browned.
  6. Toss together the artichokes with the cobnuts, rocket and a few crumbled up bacon rashers.
  7. Serve immediately with a couple of bacon rashers perched on top.

Bacon Jam and Bread

Sometimes all that will do is a bit of jam and bread. Usually when I’ve had a bit of a Sound of Music singalong and can’t get that damn lyric out of my head. It’s a sign. But I’m doing a gluten-free month and jam and bread isn’t totally on board with that.

Unless… it’s gluten-free bread. Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried supermarket sold gluten-free bread but the word cardboard springs to mind. It’s really only good for emergency toastings with lashings of butter to moisten up the arid texture. So when I spied this little number at a farm shop in North London I bought it on a whim, unconvinced it could bring me round to gluten-free bread.

gluten free bread flourActually I’ve been pleasantly surprised, I was convinced it was going to be an inedible disaster but this bread it really works. I started out with a quick soda bread recipe which has been tried and tested in my kitchen many times. Gluten-free breads have a tighter texture so benefit from eating on the day of the bake but since it only takes a few minutes of stirring around with a bit of buttermilk and then 45 mins in the oven, it really is a cinch to pull together.
Gluten Free Bread | Stroud Green Larder
gluten free bread
gluten free soda breadI may have spoilt myself slightly with the jam but I know you’ll understand. About a year ago I attended a bacon masterclass held by Niamh Shields of Eatlikeagirl where we learnt how to make bacon jam, bacon brownies and bacon fudge. It was pretty intense and I absolutely fell in love with the bacon jam. In fact anybody who tries it falls it love, it’s the Ryan Gosling of jams. There is a reason why it swept the internet by storm last year so my inclusion of it here is a bit of a last ditch attempt to join the party.  The umami hit of maple syrup candied with salty smoky bacon and a hint of bourbon is just out of this world and then sweet chilli kicks in at the end to make you go cor blimey. If you try any recipe this weekend and you haven’t eaten bacon jam, then go for it and I promise you will not be disappointed. You must buy the best bacon you can get hold of and I recommend you make as much as you can as it lasts for ages in the fridge and used in dozens of ways. You can eat it cold straight from the jar or warmed up which is how I prefer it. Add a couple of teaspoons to spaghetti bolognaise, winter casseroles or run some through fine beans or mashed potato for outstanding side dishes.
For my jam on bread, I also added a layer of mashed avocado which added a cool creamy texture underneath the jam, it was absolutely heavenly. I’ve had it two meals in a row and am planning it for a third.
Bacon Jam on Gluten Free Bread | Stroud Green Larder
Gluten-Free Sunflower Soda Bread

Adapted from Rachel’s Allen’s Bake

450g Gluten-free bread flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
350-425ml buttermilk
1 tbsp sunflower seeds

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 230°C.
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients together.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add 350ml of buttermilk. Bring the mixture together with one hand. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Add more buttermilk if you need to.
  4. Without kneading, as this will create a heavy loaf, pat into a large circle then place on a baking tray. With a sharp knife draw a cross in the centre then scatter the sunflower seeds over the top.
  5. Bake at 220°C for 15 mins then turn the oven down to 200°C for 45 mins.
  6. Eat warm straight from the oven.
gluten free white soda breadBacon Jam

Makes about 500ml

450g streaky bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
60ml cider vinegar
185ml freshly brewed coffee
50g soft brown sugar
60ml maple syrup
60ml bourbon
2 tsp chipotle in adobo
½ tsp cumin

  1. Put the bacon in a large saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the bacon really crisps up, stirring all the while to keep it from sticking. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and cook on a very low heat. After 5 mins add the garlic then continue cooking until the onion begins to caramelise, it should take around 20 mins.
  3. Pour in the vinegar to deglaze the pan.
  4. Add the bacon back in, as well as the coffee, brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, chipotle, cumin and some black pepper.
  5. The heat should be on the very lowest setting and cook for about 2 hours for the jam to reduce.
  6. When it’s ready, turn off the heat and pour into a sterlised jar. Keep the jam in the fridge ready for whenever you need it.

Monday Night Soup

Weekday meals have to be as easy as possible.  I don’t want to be bouncing around the kitchen at 9pm, sautéing this, roasting that, flipping this, juggling that. I want one saucepan.  I want one wooden spoon.  I want one chopping board.  I want dinner to take 30 mins from fridge to dining table and I really want to sit down and let dinner make itself at least once.  Surely Fantasia can’t just be a pipe dream?

This soup is pretty much that.  The ideal way to make this soup is using the rest of the chicken from Sunday lunch the day before.  The chicken bones made into a rich stock the night before and the leftover meat added now.  But hey, being a Sunday night saint isn’t for everybody so good fresh chicken stock from the supermarket and chicken breasts fished out from the freezer work just as well.

Chicken Bacon and Kale Soup4
I completely forgot to say as well that this soup is amazing.  Delicious.  Warming.  Hearty.  Moreish.  Tasty.  Sublime.  But you get the picture.
Chicken Bacon and Kale Soup3Monday Night soup

1 tbsp olive oil
6 rashers streaky smoked bacon, diced
1 leek, chopped into small rings
1 small onion, cut in half then strips
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Zest of ½ small lemon
1 litre chicken stock
2 chicken breasts, diced small or leftover roast chicken – even better
100g black kale, cut widthways into strips
A knob of butter
A handful of chopped parsley

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the diced bacon.  Cook on a medium heat until the bacon is good and crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the onion, leek, carrot and celery and let the veggies do their thing for 10 mins until they just start to soften.
  3. Add the bay leaves, thyme, garlic and lemon and give a bit of a stir around for a minute or two.
  4. Pour in the chicken stock and black kale, bring to a rolling boil then add the chicken.  Simmer for 10-15 mins until the kale has wilted slightly and the chicken is cooked.
  5. Drop in a small knob of butter, stir through.
  6. Serve with the parsley and crispy bacon sprinkled on top.