Thursday, 5 July 2012

Who's bringing home the bacon?

It's midweek and the great question, just as at the weekend, is what to eat. But at this wearying time of the year, it's always more difficult.

There are things in the cupboard – peas and broad beans and a few new potatoes – but as I don't like to buy meat or fish for an entire week on a Saturday, it meant a trip to the shop after work.

How about some bacon? Good bacon – not the stuff the shrivels to half its size in the pan, spewing white gunk and maintaining a bloody-minded refusal to let the fat get crisp.

No, not that. The real deal, though, is a thing of great pleasure.

And instead of relegating it to the breakfast table, this time of the year offers the perfect chance to place it at the centre of a really easy supper.

Frankly, the only other things you need are new potatoes and fresh peas.

Soak the former briefly in hot water and then crape the skins away to leave them like ivory orbs.

Shell the latter – a load of them.

And that's your prep done.

Peas are one of those rare veg that really are worth eating from the freezer. They have a good taste, they cook quickly, and they offer a welcome bit of variety during the winter.

But good though they undoubtedly are, they're as nothing when compared to fresh ones.

Get some. Pick up a pod. Press the seam so that it cracks apart; spread open and flick the peas out and into a pan or a dish.

Sniff. Go on: have a really good smell of that pod and those peas. It's a wonderfully grassy aroma.

If they're really, really young, the peas are wonderful eaten raw. Pop a few in a salad.

Frozen peas might be pleasingly sweet, but take the time and relish – really relish – the infinitely more complex taste of the fresh version.

There is absolutely nothing that you need to do with them except cook them in boiling, salted water – add a pinch of sugar too – for three to four minutes, depending on how soft you want them.

Drain and serve with good butter.

I found some late-season English asparagus too, so some of that went alongside the peas. And the bacon was cooked for about two and a half minutes a side under a grill that had been set to around 201˚C on my fan oven-grill combination.

The bacon was far from the cheapest available. I could, indeed, get a pack of six Danish rashers from any little shop for around £1.99. But they'll behave just as the ones mentioned earlier – and they'll shrink massively. So in effect, I'd be paying £1.99 for three rashers.

Frankly, it seems far better to pay double that and actually get six rashers that then don't shrink. The so-called cheap version is a false economy. And that's without mentioning the taste.

And then yesterday, I was working from home.

Lunch was just as quick as the previous night's dinner – no: quicker.

A few broad beans were podded and cooked with the remaining asparagus from the previous evening.

The cooking takes all of about four minutes in boiling water – unsalted, because you don't want to harden the beans.

I'd picked up a thin piece of calf's liver (80g in weight) the night before too. That simply went into a pan with some olive oil and was cooked for two minutes on each side.

Removed to the plate, a knob of butter and a good squeeze of lemon juice were added to the pan, swirled into the meat juices, and then poured over meat and vegetables.

The smell was divine – and the taste wasn't bad either.

If you wanted to make it more substantial, then good bread on the side would be perfect – and excellent for mopping up any juices.

Given that it was a lunch of liver and some fava beans, the only thing that was missing was a nice chianti. But since I had some economics to concentrate on in the afternoon, it really was too early in the day!

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