Ultimate Comfort Food – Sweet Smoky Bacon with Creamy Cabbage Mash

Ok so this is comfort food Irish style. Nowhere else in the world can claim fame to this combination of ingredients. This recipe is a family favourite and it is also a very economical meal.

Ingredients to feed 4:

  • 700 gram smoked back bacon joint (just like the one below)
  • 1 kg of potatoes
  • 1 whole sweetheart cabbage
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 onions
  • a few whole peppercorns
  • bunch of spring onions / scallions
  • celery (not critical)
  • a few cloves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup apple or pineapple juice
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar

IMG_0462Put the bacon joint into a large pan of cold water, along with the carrot (chopped into chunks), one of the onions (chopped into chunks), the peppercorns, the cloves (optional), the celery (roughly chopped) and the ends of the scallions. Do not add salt as the bacon will be salty already and boiling it will both cook the meat and extract some of the salt. Bring it to the bold and let it simmer for 50 minutes.

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Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, cut into even halves and cover with cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring them to the boil and simmer for approximately 20 mins, until you can poke a knife cleanly through but before the potato starts to disintegrate.

Peel the outer leaves from the cabbage and slice it through the centre lengthways.

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Cut out the heart of the cabbage by making a triangle – cut wide enough to get the very thick white parts out.

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Flip the cabbage over and slice thinly, wash and leave to dry.

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Sliced sweetheart cabbage. Don’t forget to wash it it – but it’s important to get it dry before cooking otherwise it will be soggy and grey looking. Spinning it in a salad spinner is good, or if you don’t have one of those, simply twist it in a tea towel.

Now turn the oven on the 220 degrees. When the bacon is done, remove from the pot and place on baking tray.  Peel he skin off, exposing the thin layer of fat underneath. Mix the apple or pineapple juice with the sugar until it forms a thick paste.

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Cooked back bacon joint with the skin still on

Now score the fat, first diagonally one way and then diagonally the other so you have a checkerboard effect. Score right through the fat but do not cut into the meat. Rub the sugar paste all over and place the bacon into the hot oven for just 25 minutes. Remove and leave to rest covered in foil.

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Cooked back bacon joint, with the skin removed and the fat scored. In this image the paste was a little too runny, if you leave it on the tray like this the high temperature will scroll the sugar and you’ll have a kitchen full of smoke. Simply add more sugar to the juice and coat the bacon, clean the baking tray or sit in in a little foil bowl on the tray to prevent the sugar burning on the tray.

While the bacon is finishing, finely chop the remaining onion and fry it off in a little butter until it is golden brown. Now add the cabbage and cook until it is just soft to bite.

When the potatoes are done, drain them well, return them to the hot pan and leave the lid on. This helps steam off any remaining water and gives a dry fluffy potato perfect for mashing.

IMG_0472Add a good dollop of butter, a splash of milk, salt and pepper and mash until completely smooth.

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Now add the fried onion and cabbage to the mashed potato and mix through. Check the seasoning. Think slice the bacon and serve aside a big pile of creamy cabbage mash with a sunny blog of butter and a dash of black pepper. Yum!

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