duck bacon

Duck Ham or Prosciutto

duck bacon

A few years ago, I discovered how easy it was to make your own bacon and Mister North and our mum followed suit, making their own guanciale and bacon on several occasions. It’s certainly given carbonara and an Ulster Fry a new lease of life in our family.

I’d wondered for a while if you could cure pig’s jowls or belly, what else could get the sugar-salt-saltpetre treatment and decided to try making duck bacon for Christmas. I got massively distracted and the duck breasts I bought for the purpose got left in the freezer until a few weeks ago. I wanted something simple but effective to make while working on other stuff and this seemed just the ticket.

On a semantic note, I found it hard to tell what the difference between duck ham and duck bacon was when researching the idea. Tim Hayward in Food DIY uses a cure close to my bacon recipe but calls it ham and most recipes from American food bloggers seemed to call it bacon when it had been smoked rather than simply cured and air dried. Lots of other people described it as duck prosciutto. I’m still not sure what to call it apart from very easy and incredibly delicious.

Duck Ham/Prosciutto/Bacon

  • 2 duck breasts
  • 200g sea salt
  • 200g sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or treacle
  • 1 tablespoon lapsang souchoung tea leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon saltpetre (optional)

This is ridiculously easy and works just as well without the saltpetre as with, but had a slightly richer more ruby colour to the meat when I used it. The lapsang souchoung tea leaves add a smoky note that works beautifully without having to start rigging up a smoker or adding the heat of any kind of chilli.

Lay the duck breasts skin side up in a non reactive container. I used one of my many many tupperware boxes after having had ziplock bag disasters before.

Mix the salt, sugar, herbs, pepper and tea leaves (and saltpetre) together and add the maple syrup or treacle to it all to make a thick barely spreadable paste. Smear some onto the skin of the duck breasts and then turn over and cover the meat well.

Put the lid on the box and leave it all to cure in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. The cure will create a brine and it’s best to turn the breasts everyday in this to cure it evenly. I forgot about mine after 3 days and left it for another 2, ignoring it somewhat.

When you remember about it again, take the breasts out of the cure and wrap in a clean muslin cloth. Hang this little muslin parcel up somewhere not too warm and away from pets to air dry. I use the clothes airer in my bedroom but it would be fine in a garage or cold hallway as well.

After 5 days, unwrap your duck breasts and slice as thinly as possible to serve. It will have a subtle smoky and herby flavour that goes very well with a kale salad and roasted tomatoes for lunch or topped with sauerkraut, pickles and cheese in a Reuben inspired sandwich along with a quick Thousand Island style dressing with mayonnaise, ketchup, onion, gherkin and a little green chilli all blitzed up together. This was so delicious I forgot to take any kind of photograph of it. I think I barely used a plate I was so keen to eat it.

This is a great way to make a duck breast go a long way and serve several people making it both economical and incredibly impressive looking as a dish. Your use of it is only limited by your imagination!

cabbage rolls Ocado

White Pudding Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

cabbage rolls Ocado Here at North/South Food, we are such black pudding fans, it’s one of our biggest  and best used tags, but we’ve completely neglected its close cousin, the white pudding. Made from oats, onions and pork fat, it has a lot of the flavour of black pudding but without the fear factor some people feel toward blood.

It’s a very traditionally Irish dish, but not really eaten in England and I have to admit I’d forgotten about it a bit until a friend mentioned their love of it recently, so when I saw it in the Ocado Irish shop, I knew I had to get some. Usually served fried in slices as part of a breakfast, I needed to perk it up for dinner.

Most people associate cabbage with Irish food (mainly alongside boiled bacon) and if I’m honest, I’ve never met a cabbage I didn’t love so it was a logical conclusion to use the heavily spiced white pudding to stuff cabbage leaves for a simple meal that promises to impress. I teamed with a beurre blanc and some Vichy carrots for added (and accidental) green, white and gold on the plate.

White Pudding Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (serves 4)

Preparation time about 25 minutes

Cooking time about 30 minutes

  • 1 cabbage (I used sweetheart, but Savoy works a treat)
  • 300g white pudding
  • 2 spring onions
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoons pul biber or red chilli flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace

Vichy Carrots (serves 4)

  • 500g carrots
  • 500ml sparkling water (I doubt you’ll find Vichy handy sadly)
  • 1 dessertspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 50g butter
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional) or parsley to serve

Beurre Blanc (makes 250ml but keeps well)

  • 50g shallots or spring onions, finely chopped
  • 15g fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 50ml white wine or vermouth
  • 25ml white wine vinegar
  • 25ml double cream
  • 125g butter at room temperature
  • salt and pepper

This might sound like a complicated meal but it really isn’t. I made it while half distracted and apart from accidentally buying dill for the beurre blanc instead of tarragon, it worked perfectly.

Boil a kettle of water and pour about two thirds into a large saucepan and the rest into a shallow bowl. Put the porcini mushrooms into the shallow bowl and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Keep the pan of water at a rolling boil and carefully peel the leaves of your cabbage off one at a time. Remove the central rib and split the leaves in two if using the pointed sweetheart cabbage.  Blanch each leaf individually for about a minute and use a slotted spoon to fish them out again. I lay mine on a clean tea towel.

Call that slotted spoon back into action and scoop your porcini out and finely chop them. Add to a mixing bowl, along with the spring onions which you have also chopped as finely as possible. Crumble the white pudding in, adding the extra seasoning and mash it all together with your hands.

Lay a cabbage leaf out at a time and put a heaped dessertspoon of white pudding on it close to the base. Roll the base of the leaf over the filling once and then fold the sides in as well to make a parcel. Keep rolling the leaf until the filling is completely covered. Repeat until all the filling and cabbage leaves are used. I got about twelve from mine. Steam the leaves for about 30 minutes.

raw cabbage leaves

While they are steaming, cook the carrots. Peel them and cut into batons (or if you have baby ones, peel and leave whole) and put in a saucepan. Just cover with the sparkling water and add the salt. You want to season them quite heavily to mimic the salinity of Vichy water (but without the sulphurousness.) Don’t forget the sugar. Boil them rapidly on a high heat without moving the carrots around as you want the water to evaporate leaving a glaze on them. Mine took about 15 minutes to become tender. I then added the butter and cooked them for another 6-7 minutes on a medium heat. Add the caraway seeds at this point to soften them or they are unpleasantly crunchy.

Carrots under control, turn your attention to the beurre blanc. In a dry pan, soften the shallots (I only had spring onions so used the whites) for a minute or two. Add half the tarragon, wine and about half the vinegar and reduce down for about 5 minutes to infuse the flavours.

Add the cream and bring to the boil. As soon as it hits boiling point, start adding the butter, whisking vigorously until it comes together. Take it off the heat and blitz it all with a hand blender until foamy and add the remaining vinegar and chopped tarragon.

Serve the cabbage leaves with the beurre blanc and the carrots on the side and enjoy the praise for a meal that’s full of flavour but with very little hassle to make. I kept the main course a little lighter so you could enjoy the cream of potato soup and the coffee Baileys marshmallow pie in style too. Perfect to give cabbage a new lease of life for the doubters!

 

 

Marshmallow coffee pie

Baileys Coffee Marshmallow Pie

Marshmallow coffee pie

I’ve been out of the blogging loop for a few weeks due to being generally busy on some other projects (a fancy way to say I cleared out all my cupboards and tidied the flat) and because Mister North was doing some tech stuff to the blog to give it a new lease of life. He may not have time to write here anymore because his design skills still work wonders. So thanks heavens National Pie Week came along to give me my mojo back.

As well as realising I’d been neglecting the blog, I also finally noticed this week that I’d never ever drunk Baileys and decided I should immediately rectify that before I was banned from ever entering Ireland again for lack of patriotism. Thanks to the kindness of Bord Bia and Ocado, I visited the Irish shop on the Ocado site and bought a bottle forthwith.

I had an idea about a Baileys pie of some kind but thought it might just have to be eating a pie while drinking Baileys until I saw someone make an Irish Coffee in a cafe this week. I wanted that combination of alcohol, creaminess and sugar and decided to see if I could play around with a pie that had a coffee filling and a whipped marshmallow centre. I could always hit the bottle if it didn’t work…but I doubted there was such a thing as bad pie. Read more

garlic oil

Slow Cooker Fodmap Friendly Garlic Oil

garlic oil

Today is a great day for me. It’s the day I get to combine my two food obsessions and talk about slow cookers and FODMAPs. Basically this is a birthday present to myself. North/South Food is five years old this week and I haven’t had time to make a cake to celebrate, so writing a piece about my two favourite subjects will do instead!

I’ve given a little bit of background on Fodmaps before on this post, but if you don’t have time to read back, I’ll give you a crash course here too (bearing in mind my level of scientific knowledge wouldn’t even make it onto a L’Oreal advert voiceover.) They are a relatively recent discovery and research and knowledge into them is ever evolving so don’t take my word as gospel rather than an overview.

FODMAPs as an acronym stands for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides Di-saccharides Mono-saccharides And Polyols which are basically a selection of short chain carbohydrates encompassing certain sugars and types of fibre found in foods. They include:

  • lactose in dairy products
  • fructose in fruits, juices, honey and agave syrup
  • polyols such sorbitol which is found in dried fruit and wine and used as an articial sweetener
  • fructans found in onions, garlic, prebiotics and Jerusalem artichokes
  • galacto-oligosaccharides found in legumes and beans
  • galactans found in wheat, rye and barley

Read more

tripe soup

Slow Cooker Mondongo

tripe soup

I am a person who gets hangovers. Even as a teenager when everyone else around me seemed to be able to drink cheap vodka mixed with battery acid on an empty stomach and bounce right back, I was suffering. Not for me the two aspirin and a can of full fat Coke trick. I need to lie on a bed of gossamer, sipping angels’ tears from a cut glass goblet while eating crisps and waiting for the day to pass to put it all behind me. No amount of practise has ever really helped, although occasionally a ball of mozzarella eaten like an apple before bed can stave the situation off completely.

Therefore I am constantly on the hunt for hangover cure stories. I think that I’m one old wives’ tale or anecdote away from the hangover Holy Grail. I’ve tried the whole vitamin B before going out rumour, the milk thistle phase of the late 90s, the Gatorade by the bed trick, even the suggestion of mixing the liquid from a jar of gherkins with some soda water and downing it (spoiler alert: this is not the answer to any question, unless this question is ‘how I could feel immediately worse right now?’)

I think I know now nothing will ever be my ultimate answer, but that I can simply use this quest as a way to try new things along the way, which is how I came to know about sopa de mondongo or tripe soup. A Mexican-American friend online mentioned it once for its hangover curing qualities but still feeling scarred from the pickle juice, I screwed my face up and refused to even think about eating tripe even when I wasn’t feeling delicate. Read more