Tag Archives: bacon

Product Review: Smart Bacon Express

I love bacon. The salty fatty pork is utterly delicious and addictive and I think plays a huge role in the British psyche. The Americans may chuck bacon onto literally everything but we have the upper hand with the bacon butty and the English breakfast. The tasty yet humble bacon butty may be simple but also divisive; white, brown or a bap, ketchup, brown sauce or an egg, toasted or untoasted, butter or no butter, everyone has it their own way.

For me, the perfect bacon butty is toasted sliced white or wholemeal bloomer (I’m not fussed) spread with butter with crisp unsmoked bacon.

The bacon I would have is not the crispy bacon that the Americans have on their pancakes; it simply wouldn’t work. But at times, getting crispy bacon which is crispy but not burnt can be difficult – the so-called perfect bacon. I’ve seen various tips and tricks to get crispy bacon such as:

  • Take the bacon out 10 minutes before frying so it returns to its natural state and start with a cold cast iron pan and do not overcrowd the pan with bacon
  • Place the bacon a wire rack over a roasting tray to catch the fat and bake in the oven
  • Put cold bacon into a cast iron skillet lined with foil and add water to the skillet
  • Microwave the bacon on a plate, layering the bacon between multiple sheets of paper towels for about 5-6 minutes

While these methods all yield crispy bacon, the UK now has a new and innovative way of cooking bacon without having to turn on the hob or the oven. The Smart Bacon Express is a new healthier way to cook bacon to crispy perfection quickly and easily.

The Bacon Express instantly reminds me of a toaster, especially with the dial on the side that allows you to adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of your bacon and how crispy you want it. The Bacon Express allows you to cook up to 6 rashers of bacon at a time – probably more than you can fit in your average sized frying pan or baking tray.

The Bacon Express has cool touch handles on the side panels which easily open to reveal the inside. The bacon is laid over the cooking plate inside which can be easily removed using the two tabs. This unique vertical cooking position allows the fat to drain away into the removable drip tray underneath the cooking plate giving crisper and healthier bacon. The two door plates again can be removed for easy cleaning. The chrome finish gives the Bacon Express a modern style, making it suitable for all kitchens.

You can watch my unboxing of the Smart Bacon Express on my Youtube channel below!

My initial impression of the Bacon Express was that it was very easy to use and set up. With just a simple touch of a button, the Bacon Express is preheated and ready to cook the bacon in no time! The intense sizzling sound when you lay your rashers of bacon on is amazing and unrivalled! Then simply shut the two doors, turn the dial to your required setting, press the button and then leave to cook. It’s that simple!

The thin crispy bacon setting took around 6 and a half minutes to cook the bacon that I tested in the video. This is certainly quicker than achieving crispy bacon through the cast iron skillet methods I mentioned above but of course there are limitations to this; cooking large amounts of bacon for a big group of people or a family means that the Bacon Express takes much longer than the other methods and while the bacon yielded from the Bacon Express is amazingly crispy (something I have never managed before), it wouldn’t be worth your time for a large amount when the grill/hob would do the same job much quicker! The size of bacon sold in the UK is larger in width than the ones on the packaging so you probably won’t be able to fit 6 strips on the cooking plate; 3 is probably the average number you can fit on.

Hence the Bacon Express is well suited for a university student like myself who is probably only cooking for themselves as well as other people living on their own, new couples or new homeowners. I know that I would certainly use the Bacon Express instead of microwaving my bacon (which is a nightmare at times!) or trying to grill it – the number of stories I have heard about smoke alarms being set off when people have tried to cook bacon! The Bacon Express is advantageous for cooking small amounts of crispy bacon where perhaps you won’t be cooking eggs in the same pan for the flavour or don’t want to turn on the gas/hob or oven – for example for a salad topping or a pasta salad.

Moreover the Bacon Express lends itself well to multitasking in the kitchen. Really the bacon does not require any of your attention thanks to the beeping after it has preheated and after the bacon has cooked meaning that except from opening it just to have a check on its progress, you can very easily prepare your bread for your bacon butty or scramble your eggs while the bacon sizzles away happily in the Bacon Express which is a huge positive.

When it comes to cleaning, the cooking plate, the two door plates and the drip tray are all very easy to remove but not as easy to clean. The cooking and door plates all get surprisingly messy and after letting them cool so you can remove them safely, I found they had to soak for a while before I could properly clean them and even then, I couldn’t clean them fully without scratching the plates at least – this may have been down to the fact that I cooked lots of bacon and the residue from the first batch burned as time went on.

And when it came to replacing the door plates, I did struggle with one of them getting in properly at times. But the Bacon Express prevents any bacon fat splattering around due to the closed design which is a big advantage of the product and something I really liked about it.

When the doors of the Bacon Express are closed, it is very compact and fits well into most kitchens both size wise and aesthetically. But when the Bacon Express does require a bit of space when the doors are open and many kitchens just may not have the space to fit in this gadget.


The Bacon Express retails for £49.99 which, for me, seems to be on the expensive side considering I am approaching this from a student’s perspective who would benefit greatly from this product; I would have expected a cost of around £35 – £40. But even if you aren’t a student, the Bacon Express is certainly a fun kitchen gadget with an appeal to not only student kitchens but for people living on their own, new couples, new homeowners and kitchen technology lovers too! For the bacon lovers, the Bacon Express will deliver the crispy bacon that they so desperately crave without the hassle of buying a cast iron skillet.

Overall I really enjoyed my time with the Bacon Express. The bacon it yielded was the crispiest I think I have ever had it, especially for the time that it took. The speed at which it cooked impressed me and made me think that the Bacon Express could have a place in my student kitchen when I need a cooked breakfast in a hurry – and I could also make a cup of tea or make some toast while it cooks, saving time. I would probably have a few issues with cleaning the door plates since I probably wouldn’t be able to clean it until after I got back from a day of lectures and it would require soaking for a while. It also would take up little room in the kitchen while it’s not being used which is a huge advantage.

The Bacon Express is certainly coming with me back to uni for my second year!

At the time of writing, the Bacon Express is currently available exclusively at Harts of Stur; I’ve put their social media links at the end of this post as well as a direct link to the product and their website so you can plenty more cookware items to purchase – and they have a clearance on too so make sure to check that out; you get free delivery on orders over £50 too!


As with all of my reviews, I keep the product after reviewing it but do not receive direct payment from this review. I have not been told to falsely write positive comments about the product and everything is my opinion. Also thanks to Ben for letting me borrow his kitchen – I’m sure he didn’t mind having bacon cooked for him!

Check out Harts of Stur’s website as well as their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Pinterest!

A direct link to the Bacon Express on the Harts of Stur website can be found by clicking here.

Comment down below about what you think of the Bacon Express! I would love to hear your thoughts!

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and make sure to check out my previous recipe post for Sausage Stuffing Bonbons!

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Slow Cooker Pulled Bacon with Homemade Barbecue Sauce

It used to be the case that meats that took a long time to cook were cheaper than the quicker cuts and while generally that still remains true, I found a little secret in some supermarkets which inverts that rule. “Cooking bacon” is what the supermarkets call those pieces of bacon which they can’t make into rashers and they put it all into one pack and it’s RIDICULOUSLY cheap, £1.15 for 1kg of bacon.

You do have to sort through all of the different packs as some of them can be incredibly fatty however if you do get a good pack then the bacon can be used in replacement for rashers, lardons or even slow cooked to make the most amazing pulled bacon!

My tips for looking for a good pack of cooking bacon is to choose a pack that contains hardly any fat/pieces of rind and depending on what you want to use it for, find a pack that contains what you want; packs usually either contain small rashers or large steaks. For my pulled bacon recipe, it’s best to go for the steaks. Of course choosing a pack with no fat/rind can be tricky so spend a few minutes preparing the bacon by trimming off any large pieces of fat/rind.

The pulled bacon is incredibly versatile and when it’s pulled in this way, it makes it go a lot further but for now, I am sharing my recipe for a homemade barbecue sauce which I mix with the pulled bacon and serve on poured over chips, similar in style to the Canadian dish poutine, which is chips topped with chewy cheese curds and covered in gravy.


For the slow cooker bacon:

200ml apple juice

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 clove of garlic, crushed

½ tsp paprika

A pinch of dried chilli flakes

¼ tsp ground black pepper

1kg cooking bacon

For the barbecue sauce:

40g tomato puree

60g tomato ketchup

40g soft dark brown sugar

2 tbsp malt vinegar

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp hot sauce such as Tabasco or sriracha

Chips and grated cheese, to serve


Pour the apple juice and all the spices and seasonings into a 1.5L slow cooker. Mix to combine and place onto low while you prepare the bacon.

Trim off any large pieces of fat on the bacon and discard. Cut the bacon into manageable sized pieces that will fit into your slow cooker and then submerge into the slow cooker. Use a spoon to stir the contents so that the bacon chunks are coated in the spices.

Put the lid on and turn the slow cooker onto high and leave the bacon to slow cook for around 4 to 5 hours until the bacon is soft and falls apart easily, giving the contents a stir every hour or so. Once cooked, turn off the slow cooker and leave the bacon to sit in its cooking juices for 15 minutes. Gently lift out as much of the bacon as you can and use two forks to pull apart the bacon.

For the barbecue sauce, heat together all of the ingredients with 100ml of water and 100ml of the cooking liquid in a saucepan, stirring it constantly until it boils. Reduce the heat to medium and leave it to simmer for around 15 minutes until it has reduced slightly, stirring every so often to prevent sticking. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.

Mix together the pulled bacon with the barbecue sauce in the pan and spoon over the cooked chips in a bowl and finish with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

Making a White Sauce for Smoked Bacon and Broccoli Pasta

If there is one recipe that you have to know, it’s how to make a white sauce. The humble white sauce itself is incredibly versatile; whether you use it as a binding agent for something like fishcakes, a sauce base for pasta and pies or even as a topping for open sandwiches and gravies, you can see just how essential it is to your cooking.

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The standard recipe calls for an equal quantity of fat, which is melted, and flour which is cooked out over the heat to remove that raw floury taste to create a roux. Cold milk is added in multiple additions so that as the sauce gradually becomes looser and the roux absorbs the milk, it becomes a sliky smooth sauce that is lump free. As the sauce begins to take shape, you can add more milk at a time. The traditional seasoning is nutmeg which really works in the white sauce. You might read some recipes that say to whisk the sauce constantly but I find that you can leave the hob for a few seconds without worrying about burning sauces.

And what’s more, you don’t have to stick to just milk. I always add some cream cheese to mine which adds silkiness and richness but you can also add some double cream to your white sauce or if you want a veloute, which is another one of the “mother sauces” of classical cookery, you can add stock instead, whether that’s fish, chicken or vegetable.

It’s perhaps not entirely classic to use the same pan that you cook bacon in to make the béchamel (the French for white sauce, it just sounds better) however I think it adds a lot of extra flavour and colour to the classic white sauce and it just saves on the extra washing up!

I’m using my white sauce in my Smoked Bacon and Broccoli Pasta which is a fantastically quick meal to make when you are looking for something warming and comforting. I can make it in 20 minutes from start to finish and this includes cooking the bacon, pasta, broccoli and the white sauce.

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This recipe is enough for 2 servings so make more and keep it in the fridge for lunch the next day or a quick microwave dinner when you get home and you want something quick and easy.


140g dried pasta, such as penne or fusilli

2 rashers of smoked bacon

¼ a head of broccoli, florets cut off and cut into 1 inch pieces

20g margarine

30g plain flour

120 – 200ml whole milk

30g mature cheddar, chopped into cubes

30g cream cheese (or crème fraiche)

¼ tsp ground nutmeg, to season

White pepper, to season


In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and fry the bacon until it is cooked through and browned well. Remove from the pan and drain the excess oil on kitchen paper. Then chop the bacon into strips. Do not clean the frying pan.

Fill a saucepan half full with boiling water and season well with salt. Add the dried pasta and cook according to packet instructions. When there are 6 minutes left of cooking, add in the broccoli florets and continue to cook.

Add in the margarine to the frying pan and melt. Once melted, add the plain flour and whisk until it forms a thick brown paste – this is the roux. Over the heat, add the milk in slowly, whisking between each addition until the milk has been incorporated and to prevent lumps forming. Continue to add enough milk until it forms a sauce which has a coating consistency and is thick; imagine pouring it over a chicken breast and it doesn’t run off.

At this stage, remove 50ml of the cooking water from the pasta pan and add it into the sauce along with the cheddar and cream cheese. Whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce becomes silky. Add the nutmeg and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Once the pasta is cooked – some like it al dente, I like it to be quite soft so I always cook mine a bit longer than I should! – drain it with the broccoli and add it all at once to the white sauce along with the bacon pieces. Stir to coat everything in the sauce and taste again for seasoning. Serve with garlic bread or it is just as good on its own.

Gochujang Fried Rice

The Korean dish, bibimbap, which literally translates as mixed rice, was the inspiration for this recipe, my Gochujang Fried Rice. With pieces of fried bacon, scrambled egg, spring onions, cucumber, sweetcorn and gochujang paste, which is Korean fermented chilli paste, this fried rice dish is ready in less than 30 minutes and is so simple to cook and prepare!

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I’m yet to fully master cooking rice on an electric hob and that’s something I definitely need to work on, however I am beginning to master the art of cooking quickly which is what I’ll need after a tiring day of lectures and workshops!

And if you’ve never tried gochujang, it’s a spicy almost garlicky chilli paste which lends lots of flavour to anything, whether that’s meat, vegetables or my fried rice. The flavour of gochujang is complex and I’ve never tasted anything like it however I do know that it tastes delicious! If you don’t have an Asian supermarket where you can buy it, you can find gochujang in most normal supermarkets these days.

If you’re worried about not using the whole tub, here are some of my other gochujang recipes you can try!

Korean Pork Belly with Japchae Noodles

Romaine Lettuce Kimchi


75g long grain rice

2 rashers of bacon

1 egg

1 spring onion, chopped into discs

¼ of a cucumber, cut into 2 inch matchsticks

2 tbsp gochujang paste

A handful of tinned sweetcorn


Wash the rice until the water runs clear and then place into a saucepan with enough water such that when your middle finger touches the surface of the rice, it comes up to the first ridge. Place the pan on a high heat and bring to the boil.

Once the water has boiled, turn the heat down as small as possible and leave on the heat with a lid on for a further 15 minutes or so. The rice is done when there are dimples in the surface and fluff it up with a fork only.

In a dry wok, fry the bacon rashers until they are cooked through. Any burnt pieces will add to the flavour so don’t wash the wok in between. Place it onto a chopping board and chop it into small pieces.

Add the egg into the wok and scramble it and pour it out onto the chopping board.

Into the wok, fry the spring onions with the cucumber until slightly softened. Add in the gochujang paste, the sweetcorn and the cooked bacon and egg and stir fry with a wooden spatula until everything is covered with gochujang.

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Add the warm rice in all at once and continue to toss around until the rice has turned a golden colour. Transfer to a bowl, finish with a few more slivers of spring onion and eat immediately.

Guest Post: Brunch Pies by Deborah Manger (of GBBO fame)

Anyone who has watched The Great British Bake Off will know the writer of this guest post. Let’s say that she was heavily involved in ‘Custardgate’ so much so that she even stole the custard. I contacted Deborah Manger, a former contestant on the show, about the possibility of writing a guest post for me and Deborah was more than happy to help.

Deborah

I asked Deborah a few questions and then asked her to provide me with a recipe that would feature on the blog and she didn’t disappoint. I’m also looking forward to working with Deborah in the future on more posts on the blog.

You can find Deborah on Twitter: @MangerBakes


What made you want to apply for The Great British Bake Off?

I decided to apply for the ‘Bake Off’ for many reasons. I enjoy a challenge. My family said why not and above all I try to approach life knowing that our memories are really important. I have great memories of my involvement so when I’m older and greyer they will be great times to reflect upon

What was your favourite moment from your series?

My favourite moment which never found its way onto the television was Mary saying “Boy can you make a great Genoise sponge” followed very close behind by my car journeys home from filming with Frances [Quinn, winner of Series Four]

Do people still mention Custardgateto you?

They do. I have learnt that most people do it as a friendly tease; such is the usual GBBO viewer.

Custardgate dm

Have you had any ‘disasters’ in your own kitchen?

Plenty! I defy anyone who cooks and bakes to say they have not. My family, including my cats, are my greatest critics. I know I’ve really failed if the cats turn their noses up at stuff the men reject!

Do you have an idea when you started to bake?

I started to bake when I went to grammar school. I studies home economics up to A-Level. The first thing we baked was a Victoria sponge cake

What do you bake most of, and is there a reason why? Cakes, biscuits, bread or pastry?

I bake a lot of bread. Many flavours and presentations (free form, tin). We need bread for breakfast, lunches and snacks. We do not like shop bought bread. I bake bread every week.  Probably closely followed by cake for ‘pudding/dessert’. With an active teenager in the house cake is a great way of filling him up as part of a meal

Who is your favourite TV chef or cook?

My favourite TV cook/chef has to be Raymond Blanc. I love the fact he was essentially self taught. His skills have grown from living in a family where food and eating matters. He is dedicated to eating food that has been grown/raised as locally as possible and is obviously passionate about his trade.

What would you say is your one and true Signature Bake?

Brunch pies [below]. These are favourites of both family and friends. They are a play on the picnic pork pie with flavours of pork, bacon, tomato and egg, all wrapped up in a thin hot water crust case.

Would you say that how Britain sees baking has changed since GBBO?

I would like to say yes. I think we like watching others but the evidence is clear, the more recipe books and equipment we buy the more convenience foods are purchased. I suspect people like the idea of it but feel under confident in actually following a recipe or process. That’s where my home economics helped me.

What is your opinion on ‘Bingate’, the media blaming Mary Berry for the obesity crisis in the UK and the innuendo complaints as seen on Points of View? 

Bingate: I know that what we saw was the bakers being short of space, something we experienced, and the fridges and freezers struggling to cope with all the warm food placed in them. Ian was obviously stressed and his response was to do what we all do in our own home when cooking/baking goes wrong. Having been similarly stressed I do empathise with his reaction.

Obesity: This is a public health issue leading to ill health and placing an enormous strain on health and social care. Individuals need to take personal responsibility for their own health, including weight and levels of fitness. To blame any celebrity is disingenuous.

Innuendo: If you do not like watching the programme because you find it offensive, watch something else.


Deborah’s Brunch Pies

DM Brunch Pies

The key to these pies is keeping the pastry thin thus allowing you to have more filling within. They are a great, late morning alternative to a full ‘English’.

Preparation Time: 60 Minutes

Cooking Time: 45 Minutes

Hot Water Crust Pastry

200g plain flour

40g strong white flour

50g butter

60g lard

100ml water

1 tsp salt

Filling

6 quail eggs

6 small vine/plum tomatoes

8 large tomatoes with vine

1 onion, chopped finely

350g pork loin, chopped finely

100g smoked back bacon, chopped finely – if you wish to intensify the tomato flavour of these pies, you can buy smoked bacon that has been marinated in tomato ketchup

1 tsp lemon thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, for glazing

2 leaves gelatine


Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Grease 6 x 7cm cooking rings and place on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment

Place all the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter to resemble breadcrumbs

Place the lard, salt and water in pan. Heat until lard is melted.

Pour the lard/water mix into the flour mixture and mix thoroughly to produce a smooth, elastic dough. Place on a floured surface and roll to approx 3mm thickness. Cut six 15cm circles to line the pie rings and six 10cm circles for the lids. When lining the rings roll a ball of excess pastry and place inside some cling film. Use this to press the pastry into the rings ensuring full, thin coverage with no tearing.IMG_0113

Cook the quails’ eggs in boiling water for 2 minutes then plunge into cold water. Peel carefully.

Remove the skins from the 6 small tomatoes and then remove the core and seeds whilst keeping the flesh as intact as possible. Place a quail egg inside each tomato.

Mix the onion, pork, bacon, thyme and seasoning well. Place one dessertspoon of pork mixture in the base of the pie cases. Place the egg in the centre and then cover with more pork mixture.

Place the pie lids on.IMG_0037

Cut a hole in the top using a 1/2cm metal piping nozzle and crimp or use a fork to seal the edge of the pastry. Glaze the lids with egg wash.IMG_0038IMG_0039

Place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the pies from the rings carefully and egg wash the sides of the pies. Replace in the oven for a further 15 minutes.

Set the pies aside to cool.

Liquidise the 8 large tomatoes and their vines until smooth. Place in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the temperature to simmer for 5 minutes. Use a fine sieve to remove the tomato pulp; the pulp can be kept to use in other dishes. Replace the tomato essence in a pan and heat to reduce until you have 150ml/5fl oz of concentrated essence.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes; squeeze the leaves to remove excess water and then whisk into the warm tomato essence.

Pour the tomato/gelatine mixture through the holes in the pie crust. Leave the pies to cool in the fridge – if the family will allow!

Food on Youtube Archives – Byron Talbott (Part 2)

I’m continuing the search of the Youtube food archives with Byron Talbott’s Youtube channel.

Byron Talbott

If you haven’t heard of Byron Talbott before, I think it’s time to prepare yourself for a good hour of gasping in awe of the beauty of the food that Byron continues to produce without fail as you binge-watch his videos. In some ways Byron is different to other Youtubers in that he sort of has another Youtube channel which his wife, Rachel Talbott, runs and he has a background in the culinary arts already, which is evidenced by the skill he exhibits in the videos with recipes like his Chocolate Cups, which he shows and delivers simply so you feel welcome and like you can also do it.

Here are the recipes for Byron’s Chocolate Cups and Maple Bacon Donuts.



Food on Youtube : W/b 8th June 2014

Youtube is a hub for food channels and they are incredibly popular.

With some channels having 2 million subscribers and many British foodies showing recipes on Youtube, I’d thought I’d find some of the foodie gems to share here with links. I’m subscribed to many food channels and they always post cracking recipes. It is a space to find almost everything you need with great passionate people behind the channels posting regularly so it’s time to celebrate the best of the best.

Here are some of this week’s foodie gems: