Bacon and Cabbage - Kevin Thornton's Reimagining of an Irish Favourite
Bacon and Cabbage Terrine with Celery and Onion Puree (serves 12)
Bacon and cabbage is a quintessential Irish dish. To me it is the perfect comfort food. There’s no food more memory inducing for me than boiled bacon, savoy cabbage and floury potatoes. I remember the cry of the pigs on the local farms and hearing them squeal like banshees as I lay in bed at night. Like most farm animals they are bred for commercial purposes and it is of the utmost importance that, as they are part of the food chain, they be treated well.
One of my earliest memories of bacon and cabbage being served was at my grandmother's house. She would use the collar of the bacon which she cured herself in a brine. The meat would have been bought from the local butcher, soaked overnight in cold water to remove the excess salt. She would wash the bacon in cold running water, then bring it to the boil in a covered pot, remove and wash again under cold running water, add a whole peeled onion and a carrot and boil under a low heat for a couple of hours. She would then add the cabbage about a half hour before the bacon was finished cooking. I remember the way the potatoes skin would split - ready to explode as most of the water evaporated from the pot and I remember vividly the steam rising, fogging up the tiny kitchen window as she strained the potatoes over the sink. The bacon, cabbage and floury potatoes were served with knobs of fresh butter and washed down with fresh unpasteurized milk.
My bacon and cabbage terrine is a salute to these childhood memories.
Bacon and cabbage Terrine (Serves 12)
Ingredients Bacon: 1 Collar of bacon about 2 kg 2 Onions peeled and left whole 1 Whole Carrot Peeled 1 Small head of Celery 1 Small bunch of Thyme 1 Bay Leaf 1 Clove peeled garlic (left whole)
Steep the bacon overnight in cold water. Rinse under cold tap, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil in a covered pot. Strain the water off and refresh bacon by running again under cold water. Cover with fresh water, add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil again. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours making sure to top up the water every 15 minutes. You can tell when the bacon is cooked for terrine use when it is pierced easily with a fork so that the meat just about holds together. Remove the contents and place in a stainless steel bowl and allow to rest in the fridge overnight. The carrot is for flavour only; the onion and celery will be pureed and used later for plate garnish.
Ingredients - Cabbage: 2 heads Savoy Cabbage 3 shallots Small bunch chives (finely chopped) Freshly milled white pepper Fine sea salt (to taste) 30g unsalted butter Bacon stock Cooking oil (for lining terrine mould)
Method: Cabbage Remove 8 to 10 good quality outer leaves from cabbages. Remove centre vein and wash. Blanche these leaves for 2 to 3 minutes only. Remove and refresh by running under cold water. Set aside for lining terrine mould in clean kitchen linen cloth.Cut remaining cabbage head in half, remove stalk and shred cabbage finely. Wash shredded cabbage under cold running tap. Dice shallot. Add butter to heated pot and cook shallot for about one minute without colouring. Add cabbage, season with pepper and reduce heat. Cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Add bacon stock to just barely cover cabbage. Cook under a medium heat for a further 10 minutes. When the liquid has evaporated the cabbage should be cooked. The bacon stock is the liquid the bacon was cooked in and refrigerated overnight. Taste cabbage, correct seasoning. Allow to cool. Add chives and mix. Taste again.
Assemble Terrine: Ideally use a terrine mould but if you don’t have one use a bread tin. Brush mould with oil. Line tightly with clingfilm ensuring the clingfilm overhangs the mould. Season cabbage leaves. Line moulds with cabbage leaves making sure the leaves overhang the mould. Layer shredded cabbage (about 2cms). Use the back of a spoon to press it down. Cut bacon into slices of about 2cms thick. Layer bacon over cabbage. Repeat layering of cabbage and bacon to top of mould. Shredded cabbage should be the last layer and should reach just over the top of the mould. Fold over the cabbage leaves and add remainder of cabbage leaves if necessary to completely cover the top of the mould. Fold over the clingfilm tightly.
The terrine mould needs to be weighted on top to press the terrine into shape. For this you can use a piece of cardboard cut to the shape of the mould top and covered with tinfoil. This will act as a cover for the mould. Then put a plate on top of the stencil and place a heavy pot on top. You can also use a few kilos of sugar as weights. Allow to rest in the fridge overnight.
To Serve: Remove celery and onion from stock, roughly chop and cook over a low heat to dry out slightly. Puree in a blender. Remove and pass through a fine sieve. Correct seasoning. Remove terrine from mould leaving clingfilm on. Slice thinly with a carving knife and remove clingfilm from individual slices. Serve with a spoonful of celery and onion puree.
© Kevin Thornton