In Ireland, agri-food remains our largest indigenous trade sector and our bacon and pork rank highly in this. We export half of what is produced, mostly to the UK and Continental Europe as well as China, Japan, Russia and South Africa. It’s hardly surprising considering the high standards within the industry and the excellent quality of the produce. Recently, I was treated to some delicious bacon and pork from Divillys of Galway who were in Clonmel for the annual greyhound coursing festival (thank you Shane!). They are a family business, around since 1927 so it’s fair to say they know what they’re doing. I wanted to do something a little different with a piece of their delicious back bacon. I usually boil bacon in the traditional way in water with a pint of cider (I am from Clonmel after all, the home of Bulmer’s!) I then finish it off in the oven with a coating of honey and mustard. This time round, I wanted a crust and for some reason oats came into my head (oats again you say, yes I was definitely an equine in a former life). To secure the oats to the bacon I used mustard and HighBank Orchard Syrup. This is a delicious and superbly versatile apple syrup product from Highbank Organic Orchard, just down the road from us in County Kilkenny. If you can’t get your hands on this delectable nectar then honey is a suitable substitute. This recipe would be great for St Patricks day as it includes lots of traditional Irish ingredients such as oats, apples, potatoes, goat’s cheese and of course, bacon. It yields about four servings.
For the Meat:
One piece of back bacon approximately 800g to 1 kilo in weight
A couple of handfuls of porridge oats (you can’t beat Flahavan’s oats!)
3 tablespoons mustard
8 tablespoons HighBank Orchard syrup (or honey)
For the Sauce:
100mls apple juice (not from concentrate- I used Karmine juice from the Apple Farm in Cahir, County Tipperary)
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 small sprig of thyme
Salt and black pepper to season
For the Salad:
1 large eating apple, cut into wedges
80g goats cheese crumbled. I love Gortnamona, St. Tola and Ardsallagh but use whatever takes your fancy!
A few handfuls of washed rocket leaves
A knob of butter to sauté the apple wedges
To make the salad dressing:
90mls olive oil
40mls good quality cider vinegar
1-2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
1-2 tablespoons honey
Combine all of the above in a sealable container. Secure the lid and shake vigorously. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
For the potatoes:
Allow 3 to 4 small to medium potatoes per person.
A few knobs of roasting fat. I use beef dripping or goose fat but vegetable oil or sunflower oil are fine.
1. Put the bacon in a large pot with a pint of cider. Add cold water until the bacon is well covered. Bring to the boil on the hob and turn heat down to a simmer (the bacon will need about an hour once simmering)
2. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
3. Peel potatoes and parboil in water for about 8 minutes. Place roasting fat in an ovenproof dish or roasting tray and place on the top shelf of the oven. Drain water off the potatoes and return to a low heat on the hob for about a minute to dry them out a bit. Toss them in the pot to make their edges fluffy. Remove from the heat and season with salt and black pepper. Add the to the dish with the roasting fat and return the dish to the oven. The potatoes will need to roast for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Toss them 2 or 3 times during this time.
4. To sauté the apples for the salad, place the knob of butter in a pan and melt. Pat the apple wedges with kitchen paper to remove excess moisture and sauté in the melted butter for 7 or 8 minutes or until they begin to take on a golden hue. Remove from heat and pat with kitchen paper to remove excess butter. If the apples are a bit soggy, they can be placed in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes to dry them out.
5. Once the bacon has boiled for an hour, check to see that it’s ready by inserting a sharp knife into the meat. It should come out easily. When the meat is cooked, drain off the liquid and place the bacon on a roasting tray. Coat the top of the bacon in the mustard and then half of the apple syrup or honey. Pat on the porridge oats. On top of the porridge oats, drizzle the other half of the syrup/ honey. Place on the top shelf of the oven for 15 minutes or until the syrup caramelises and the oats become light golden in colour and crust-like. When ready, carve into thick slices.
6. To make the sauce, combined all of the required ingredients in a shallow pan on a medium heat. Bring to a boil and then simmer on a low heat until reduced by half. Remove the sprig of thyme and pass the sauce through a sieve to remove the mustard grains.
7. Combine all of the salad ingredients on plates and dress with the dressing. Add the roast potatoes and the bacon. Drizzle the bacon with the sauce and bhain taitneamh as do bheile! (Enjoy your meal!)