Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cabbage & bacon, a love story for the ages.

A few weeks ago, St Patrick’s week to be precise, in a episode of preternatural genetic pre-programming I found myself with a longing to make boiled bacon and cabbage. Wary of the traditional recipe’s ability to infuse the entire house with a sulphuric stench that would turn the hardiest of stomachs, I was determined to fuse the Irish staple with another culinary tradition, preferably something with a fragrance more palatable. I was thinking more of ‘Sydney’-style fusion food, where culinary traditions are melded in an unfussy and unpretentious way born of a natural meshing of cultures in an ethnic melting pot rather than an okra laden throw back to the New York culinary scene in the mid-90s. I decided to stick with the Irish tradition of boiling or poaching the pork, as it keeps the bacon moist and cooks it evenly and quickly, though I made an aromatic spiced broth with star anise, stock, soy sauce, coriander and a scattering of pink peppercorns. It infused the pork with a delicate and aromatic flavour, quite subtle, but distinctly Asian in its influence.

Look on my cabbage ye mighty and dispair

I don’t know many people besides myself who really love cabbage, the culprit of the foul odour when cooking traditional boiled bacon and cabbage. In Ireland cabbage seems to be destined to cameo only as coleslaw, relegated to the side of the plate, bound in glutinous mayonnaise and largely ignored or left behind. I toyed with and quickly dismissed the idea of Korean Kimchi cabbage. Kimchi requires treatment more akin to that of a day spa than dinner, including a long steep in a bath, a vigorous massage with scented oil and a two day rest in order to ferment. Simple stirfry seemed the best option, using savoy cabbage. Savoy is my favourite variety, imposing quite a silhouette on the chopping board, almost magestic, with its vivid colour and crowned with curly leaves. Cooked quickly, with a touch of stock, soy sauce and chilli flakes it retained its crunch and complimented the salty smokiness of the pork perfectly. Some noodles served topped with crunchy potato married together the Irish and Asian influence for my carb-loading brother in law and Mr 9BR. On the side that other darling of Irish sandwich shops corn, though this time in its baby form coupled with some sweet orange capsicum (pepper) completed the meal.

An Oriental Influenced Irish Buffet for Three

Star Anise Poached Pork
Spicey Stirfried Cabbage
Crunchy Potato Noodles
Baby Corn and Orange Peppers
Blackbean and Honey Sauce

I have written these out in the order that makes sense for serving immediately.

Star Anise Poached Pork
500 grams of boiling bacon, or ham
litre of pork or chicken stock
3 star anise
teaspoon coriander seeds
half teaspoon pink peppercorns
teaspoon of minced ginger
Tablespoon of soy sauce

Soak bacon or ham for at least an hour in cold water to remove some of the salt and then drain.
In a large pot combine all ingredients besides the pork and bring to a boil.
Reducing to a simmer, add pork and cook for 40 minutes.

Crunchy Potato Noodles

Any kind of noodles will work for this, I used dried rice noodles, rehydrated in hot water.

3 tablespoons Sesame, groundnut or vegetable oil
One shallot, or 2 scallions, minced
One clove of garlic, minced
One large potato, cut in half and finely sliced
200 grams of fresh or 100 grams dried noodles, rehydrated according to the directions and thoroughly drained.
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, you could use soy sauce at a pinch, or 1 tablespoon of fish sauce

In hot wok heat oil, add the potato slices and fry until crispy on both sides, about three minutes.
Add the minced garlic and shallot and cook for a further minute.
Add noodles and cook without stirring for two-three minutes until the ones on the bottom are crispy, then toss through the hoisin sauce and cook for another two-three minutes without stirring.
Add a little more oil if required, stirring through then cook for another two-three minutes without stirring.
The result will be a nice contrast of textures, crunchy and soft.
Remove from wok and place in warmed bowl for serving.

Baby Corn and Orange Peppers
100 grams baby corn, quartered lengthways
One orange capsicum/pepper, sliced into strips
One teaspoon vegetable oil
teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
White Pepper.

Heat oil in pan or wok and cook pepper until soft about two minutes. Remove from pan and place aside.
Add quartered corn to the pan and cook for about five minutes until slightly softened.
Return peppers to pan and cook through to reheat seasoning with pepper and sesame seeds.

Spicey Stirfried Cabbage
Head of savoy cabbage, shredded
Half teaspoon of chilli flakes
¼ cup of shoxing wine (if you cannot find use extra stock with a half tablespoon of soy sauce mixed in)
¼ cup of stock
Tablespoon of soy sauce

Place shredded cabbage into a wok over high heat and pour over stock, wine (if using) and sprinkle over chilli flakes.
Cook for three minutes, stirring to ensure all cabbage cooks evenly.
When bright green and slightly soft (but retaining some crunch) remove from heat and place in serving bowl, pouring soy sauce over.

You may wish to make this sauce, for serving separately. The whole meal is so tasty though I am not sure it is required.

Two tablespoons black bean sauce
Half cup water
Tablespoon honey

Combine all ingredients in pan over medium heat. Mix to combine and heat through.
Serve on side separately.


Claire @ Weddings said...

Many congrats on winning in the Irish blog awards yesterday!

Hot Cross Mum said...

Many congrats on winning Best Newcomer! Hope the celebrations went on long into the night! HCM

Bionic Laura said...

Congratulations on the blog award! Totally deserved.

I'm not a fan of cabbage usually but I do think that might be because of how it's usually cooked. I might have to try your stir fry method to see if it makes it tastier.

'NEEN at 9 BEAN ROW said...

Thanks so much. It was a bit of a 'deer in headlights' situation in Galway.

Laura, the stock makes all the difference too, it is like a cross between steaming and stirfrying.

Brownieville Girl said...

Just read the good news, congratulations!

I really enjoy your blog, and feel you richly deserve the award.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the award,just found you through bibliocooks blog. can't wait to catch up on all your entries x

Kate said...

Huge congratulations on the award. Well deserved - a lovely blog with gorgeous recipes and lovely asides about travel, your heritage etc.
Delighted to see it was honoured by your blogging peers

'NEEN at 9 BEAN ROW said...

Thanks again for your lovely comments. I am still a little bit giddy and a lot shocked.

Jen said...

Congratulations on your win, well deserved. And bacon and cabbage has never looked so appealing!

bwhite said...

If you love Savoy Cabbage there are two amazing dishes in the Silver Spoon Cookbook. One is cabbage baked with sausage, mozzarella and cream, the second is also baked with cream. Not great for the waistline but lovely nonetheless.

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