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Pimped-Up Cheese Straws

Pimped-Up Cheese and Bacon Straws - perfect served warm with a frosty drink

Pimped-Up Cheese Straws

I love a cheese straw. These are dead easy – you could make them with just pastry, cheese and an egg – but with a few simple additions (obviously leave out the ham if you want them vegetarian) they’re extra tasty.

Not the most exact recipe – measurements are all going to depend how big your pastry is rolled out and how finely you grate your cheese. My top tip is to grate the cheese finely as you use less and actually get more flavour.

 

Pimped-up Cheese Straws

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry, chilled
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2-3 tsp of mustard – your favourite type
  • About 8 tbsp grated cheese – I used a mix of parmesan and strong cheddar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 pack (about 6 slices) Parma ham or similar
  • 1 egg

Pre heat the oven to 220C and get a couple of baking sheets ready. Flour a clean, dry surface and spread out the chilled pastry. Roll it out a little thinner – you should have a fairly large rectangle. With the longest side of the rectangle closest to you, smear the mustard in a thin layer over half the sheet of pastry, like a page of a book. Sprinkle about two thirds of the cheese over the mustard, followed by most of the rosemary – keep about a teaspoon back. Lay the Parma ham over the cheese, covering as much of the area as possible, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the ham.

 

Fold the uncovered half of the pastry over the top, like you’re closing a book. Press the outer edges together to seal it a bit, then use the rolling pin to flatten it all out a bit more and squidge it all together. You should still have a rectangle shape, so with the longest side towards you again, use a very sharp knife to cut from top to bottom in strips about an inch wide. Give each strip a couple of twists and place on your baking sheets, leaving some room between each one as they’ll puff up when cooked. Beat up the egg and brush each twist, then sprinkle with the remaining chopped rosemary (and any cheese crumbs left over). Bake for 10-15 minutes – they’re done when golden and delicious smelling (check the underside also looks cooked). These are at their best still warm.

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Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones

Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones

Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones, delicious warm and buttered

Cheese scones are my favourite kind and remind me of my childhood when I’d ask my mum to bake them pretty frequently. I made some to take to my bake club meet up last week, but completely forgot to take photos of them. My fellow bake clubbers enjoyed them so I thought I’d recreate them for the blog as they’re ridiculously easy. And then it struck me. What makes everything better? Bacon! These are delicious, even if I do say so myself. They’re so simple to make, and you can have them ready and on the plate in little over half an hour from start to finish. I think cheese scones are best just a few minutes after they’re out of the oven, slathered in butter, but all scones should be eaten the day they’re made or they’re just a bit disappointing. If you’re a vegetarian or just don’t like bacon (what’s wrong with you?!) then just leave the bacon out and you’ve still got yourself the easiest, tastiest cheese scones ever.

Easy Cheese and Bacon Scones

Ingredients:

  • 4 rashers of bacon (I used smoked, streaky bacon)
  • 230g self raising flour
  • 115g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • scant pinch salt
  • 150g full fat milk (a little over a quarter of a pint), plus a drop extra for glazing
  • 1 tsp English mustard

Heat your oven to 220C and lightly grease a baking tray. Fry or grill your bacon rashers until becoming crisp, then transfer to some kitchen paper to cool and drain the excess fat. When cool enough to handle, chop up into small pieces.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, cheese and salt. My top tip here is to finely grate the cheese as you’ll get more intense flavour. Measure your milk and mix in the teaspoon of mustard so it disperses into the dry ingredients a bit better. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and use a blunt ended (butter or dinner) knife to make cutting motions across the ingredients, turning the bowl as you go – the less the mixture is worked to bring it together, the lighter your scones will be. As the mixture starts to begin to clump together, add in your bacon bits and continue to mix, bringing together with your hands at the end if you need to.

Lightly flour a clean surface and roll or pat out your dough to about 1.5cm thick. If you use any kind of cutter to shape, don’t twist, just push down firmly – twisting can stop your scones from rising as much as they should. Or you can simply cut the dough into squares – scones don’t have to be circular. Either way, keep reforming any excess dough to make more scones until it’s all used up. Place your scones on the prepared baking tray and brush the tops with a little milk. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool (or just split in half, butter and eat!). These are great on their own, with cheese and chutney or to accompany a hearty and smooth winter soup.

Cheese and Bacon Scones

Just a few ingredients and simple to make; give them a try

Gluten-Free Bacon and Peanut Butter Brownies

Gluten-Free Bacon and Peanut Butter Brownies

Totally over-the-top gluten-free bacon and peanut butter brownies

My friend Nicole LOVES bacon. She’s the Pork Princess. So when it came to baking some kind of birthday treat for her I really wanted to include bacon in the recipe; and if you’re going to be bold with your flavours you may as well go all out! That’s how I settled on these bacon and peanut butter brownies. The salty, savoury bacon and peanut butter make for a pretty intense brownie, but birthdays should be about indulgence. The bacon doesn’t really make the brownies taste meaty, you just get little chewy, salty-sweet nuggets in every few bites. I made these brownies gluten-free for Nicole, but if you’re not concerned about avoiding gluten you could make them with normal plain flour.

Gluten-Free Bacon and Peanut Butter Brownies

For the brownies:

  • About 100g streaky bacon (I used 5 rashers Oscar Meyer American bacon)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 175g butter
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g plain gluten-free flour (I used rice flour)
  • 25g cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line an 8″ square baking tin. Cut the bacon rashers into small pieces (easiest with scissors) and fry off until starting to crisp up. Add the golden syrup and cook for another minute or so until the bacon fat and syrup bubble up into a sticky, delicious looking liquid. Take off the heat and tip the bacon pieces onto a plate to cool, trying to keep them apart so they don’t stick together.

In a large saucepan gently melt the butter on a low heat, then break the chocolate into pieces and add to the pan, stirring until melted. Add the vanilla extract and remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir vigorously until well combined and there are no small lumps of sugar. Break the eggs into a mug or bowl and give a little mix with a fork to break up the yolk. Pour into the chocolate mix and stir quickly to combine. Sift the flour and cocoa (just because cocoa can be a bit clumpy) into the pan and mix well. Finally, add the bacon and stir through. Place to one side while you prepare the peanut butter.

For the peanut butter swirl:

  • 30g butter, softened
  • 100g smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g icing sugar, sifted

In a bowl, mix together the butter, peanut butter and vanilla, then add the icing sugar and mix again until well combined.

Put about half the brownie mix into the prepared baking tin, spreading it out so it reaches the corners. Dollop on about 5 teaspoons of the peanut butter mix and try to spread it a little (you’re not trying to make a layer over the whole base so don’t worry too much if it doesn’t spread well). Spoon the rest of the brownie mix on top and spread it out, then add spoonfuls of the peanut butter mix all over the top and use the tip of a dinner or butter knife to swirl it through the brownie mix until you have a marbled effect.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is firm and a skewer comes out mostly clean. Brownies should always be a little gooey in the middle so you’re better off under-baking rather than over-baking. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cooled, cut into squares and serve.

American Pancakes with Apple

American Style Pancakes with Apple

American Style Pancakes with Apple, served with Bacon and Maple Syrup

Some time last year I had a vivid dream about eating American style pancakes that had apple in, served with bacon. I had to make the dream a reality and fortunately it turned out they were lovely. These would make a great breakfast or brunch dish; serve with apple compote, berries and Greek yoghurt or (if you have any sense) bacon and maple syrup.

American Style Apple Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • half tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 130ml milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 1 eating apple, skin on, grated
  • a little oil for frying

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together. In another bowl or a jug mix the milk and egg together until well combined, then add the melted butter and mix again. Pour this liquid over the flour, beating in with a fork until you get a smooth batter. Add the grated apple and give a stir to combine. Let this mixture stand for a couple of minutes before you begin frying.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan – a medium heat is best so that the pancakes cook through without getting too browned. Drop the heaped tablespoons of the batter and cook for about a minute until set then carefully flip over to cook the other side of the pancake. Serve these golden beauties while still warm, with your choice of topping.