Well you certainly don’t need me to tell you, but I shall nevertheless point out, that Rhubarb is in season and is therefore my flavour of the week. Given that I’ve added unto its already significantly luscious magnitude by palling it up with ginger and vanilla in a gooey blanket of jam, it can also be flavour of the month, nay year!! (I don’t rate its chances though). It’s sooo worth the effort too – not that there’s really much effort involved. If you’re already a fully paid up member of the jam making society (by which I mean anyone who’s ‘that way inclined’ and already has all the kit; preserving pans and the like) then you’ll likely already have the necessary pectin quota stashed away, or otherwise Jam Sugar itself, which is just jam with added pectin. In any case, that is the only ‘special’ ingredient needed for this recipe and it’s readily available too (no scouring the Internet and paying icky P&P costs for this baby). I confess that I tend to think of jam as being a bit of a faff to make. We have our standard brands that we like and so just stick to our favourite flavours of raspberry and blackcurrant, with the exception of occasional saucy little purchases from our travels (I’m getting a flashback of a particularly sensational Rose Jam that we bought from Antibes a few years back…*sigh*). Besides, we just don’t grow nearly enough fruit to warrant any glut–busting jam inspired notions. A handful of berries here and there usually find their way directly into our faces, but it’s a rare day indeed that they traverse the few metres distance to the kitchen to be washed and prepared and served in a proper dish. So that just leaves the option of buying loads of fruit especially to make jam and, well, that’d cost quite a bit…is it really worth it? (Lidl’s jam is really rather good anyway.) The answer is a resounding, YES! Well, it is in this case at least. You see, the fantastic thing about rhubarb is that, weight for weight, compared to other ‘fruit’ it’s a total bargain. Plus, for those lucky enough to have their own plants, it seems that it grows like the proverbial weed; springing forth its robust turgid pink stalks at a rate of knots. In its growing season (that’s NOW by the way) such folk are literally throwing it at friends and family: ‘Go on take some, no take more…make a crumble…freeze it!’ I bought my bunch from our local award-winning farmers market (completely forgetting about my free just-as-local supplier, aka Mum) as it looked so good, all freshly picked and neatly bound. We indulged in a cheeky roast chicken for lunch/dinner that day (I made bumper ciabatta chicken sandwiches…I can’t deny there was more than a little mayo involved) which meant that my original rhubarb pudding plans went forgotten. We may have slept instead. As rhubarb keeps well, though, it was no biggy and gave me the opportunity to try something new with it instead. I put on my musing cap and went about my (Mon)day.
I’ve been meaning to try candied bacon for a while, but couldn’t decide on its partner in culinary crime, so to speak. It’s big in the States (no surprises there), but using salty bacon in sweet dishes – and in ‘sweets’ themselves – is popular over here too. The mighty food blogger, Niamh Shields – of Eat Like a Girl fame – runs classes on the subject and is working on a book ‘Project: BACON’ that I imagine will inspire lots more uses for this favoured meaty treat. For now, however, and with a recent olfactory memory of bacon jam still ringing in my, er, nose, I decided on partnering candied bacon with rhubarb jam and serving it atop a fresh ricotta hotcake with a dollop of creamy yoghurt (or yoghurty cream, the choice is yours). The rhubarb jam is an utter delight – I have to say – and is the star of this post, in my humble opinion. If you only make one of these elements, please let it be this. I researched a few recipes for rhubarb jam and mine is adapted from here. The vanilla is a subtle comforting note against the zingy ginger, which is a common pairing with rhubarb anyway. Quite delicious. It being my first experience with candied bacon, I thought a take on pancakes would be ideal (rather than jammy scones or buns) making it a good weekend breakfast option, for the little devils among us!
Cooks notes: The rhubarb jam is very quick to make – a mere ten minutes or so bubbling time, once the sugar has dissolved. I would encourage you to do as I say and not as I do with regard to the size of pan you use. I didn’t want the shadows affecting my ability to document the process in my photos and so used a far shallower pan than was ideal. Give yourself as much room as possible – hot sugar is no fun if it splashes you. Other than that, the key is to just stir and skim; diligent scum skimmers will be rewarded with a magnificently clear and jewel-like jam. A real treat to top off your morning Ricotta Hotcakes or regular pancakes, if you prefer. For the mega lazy, it would also make a crunchy slice of toast sing like an angel. Ingredients: Rhubarb, Ginger and Vanilla Jam
- 600g rhubarb, washed and cut into 3cm chunks
- 600g caster sugar
- 5g pectin
- 1 tablespoon of ground ginger
- 1 large vanilla pod (soft and squishy, please), cut in half lengthways with seeds removed
- Juice and grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 3-4 knobs of preserved stem ginger plus 2 tablespoons of the syrup
- 7 rashers of good quality smoked streaky bacon (or however many you can comfortably fit on your baking tray)
- Soft brown sugar – approx. 4 tablespoons
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp cinnamon (or any spices that you like)
Ricotta Hotcakes (adapted from Bill Granger’s recipe )
- 250g ricotta
- 100ml whole milk
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 90g plain flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp orange extract, or the grated zest of an orange
- 200ml double cream, whipped softly
- 3 tablespoons Greek-style yoghurt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Icing sugar (to dust)
- Mint leaves (I was going to write, ‘optional’ but they add a definitely pleasing dimension, so ‘not optional’)
Method: Rhubarb, Ginger and Vanilla Jam Place a small saucer in the freezer; this will be used later to test that the jam has properly set. Add all the ingredients to a large non-reactive pan (the largest you have to give yourself plenty of stirring room) except for the preserved ginger. Stir everything together then place on a low heat and cook until the sugar has melted. Stir occasionally to prevent the sugar from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat up slightly and continue to cook until the mixture starts to bubble. From this point it takes only ten minutes, or so, for the jam to be ready. When the inevitable unappealing scum starts to appear on the surface, skim like a demon with a large metal spoon. (See above note about diligent scum skimmers…they go to heaven too).
When the scum has been removed add the finely chopped preserved ginger and stir through. After ten minutes bubbling time, remove your saucer from the freezer and place a small blob of jam on it. Leave it for a couple of minutes and then push it with your finger. If it leaves wrinkles then it’s ready; if not then continue to cook for a bit and test again.
When it’s ready leave to cool and then decant into sterilised jars, or whichever receptacle you like. Candied Bacon Preheat your oven to 180 deg (160 FAN). Place a layer of baking paper on a metal baking sheet. Place the rashers of bacon on the sheet pan, making sure they don’t touch and are evenly spaced (the sugar melts and spreads a little and you don’t want them getting stuck together). Mix the cinnamon and ground ginger with the sugar, then spread a good layer over each rasher of bacon. Place in the oven and cook for around 12 minutes.
Remove from the oven, turn the bacon over and re-coat with more sugar. Return to the oven to cook for a further 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Keep in an airtight container for later use.
Ricotta Hotcakes Mix the ricotta, milk, egg yolks and orange extract (or zest) in a large bowl. Sift in the flour with the baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.
In a separate large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold the egg whites into the batter with a metal spoon, to help keep in as much air as possible. The mixture should be light and bubbly. You don’t need to let the batter stand, but it keeps perfectly well in the fridge for a few hours if need be. Heat a non-stick frying pan, or skillet, on a low-medium heat and add a blob of butter to coat the bottom. Add large spoonfuls of the batter to the pan per pancake (I just did two at a time, but it depends on the size of your pan…and pancake) and cook for a couple of minutes. Flip the pancake over and continue to cook for another minute or so until it’s golden on both sides.
Mix the whipped cream with the yoghurt and vanilla. Serve the pancakes with a large dollop of jam, a spoonful of the whipped cream mixture and a rasher of candied bacon. Sprinkle with icing sugar and a few mint leaves.
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