One of Danny, aka Food Urchin’s, favourite ways of using bacon is for making terrines. Not as a component within but as a “jacket of mouth-watering pink joy” to encase the loaf. He shares his recipe for Pork Belly, Chicken Liver and Leek Terrine including a story of how he gave up bacon (for a short while) all in the name of love.
Standing at the Crossroads of Bacon
Bacon is a force for good but it is also a devious unraveller of good intentions. I discovered this many years ago, when I made an attempt at living a vegetarian lifestyle. Not for health or moral reasons, but to simply impress a girl at college. I did well too, for about four weeks. The clean vigour of a carrot and mung bean diet obviously shone through quite quickly as the object of my affections, once she realised I had ditched the meat, was only too happy to go out on a series of dates.
A period of skipping through fields followed. Hand in hand, the pair of us would laugh gaily at robins and sparrows and such things and soon love blossomed over readings of poetry in quiet corners of the library. Then one Sunday at home, I woke up to a familiar smell. The alluring waft had crept up the stairs, slipped under my bedroom door and was tweaking at my nostrils with a wiggle and a pinch. Mum was obviously cooking bacon for breakfast.
Now, you would hope that the onset and thrill of fledgling romance would protect you from temptation but as soon as I smelt that glorious, smoky bacon, I knew where my true heart lay. After bounding down the stairs and tearing into some crisp streaky rashers, set betwixt two slices of white and splodged with tomato ketchup, I vowed never again to abandon bacon. And however gamine, attractive, intelligent and principled a girl may be; if she wasn’t a fan of thinly sliced, cured piggy, then well, it was never going to work.
Breaking up is hard to do but I believed at the time in doing it cleanly and quickly. So for our last date I took her to see Alive at the cinema and then offered to pay for a slap-up meal afterwards at McDonalds; super-sized, apple pie, the lot. I didn’t see her around much after that. Did I say bacon was a force for good? Hmm, I suppose it can make you callous too.
But steering away from regrettable actions as an obnoxious teenager and focusing back on bacon, we would do well to remember that it is not always about the treacherous bacon butty. As an ingredient, it is highly versatile and can be included in many dishes. A lardon of fatty porcine sweetness here, a sliver of lean salted loin there; mixed into a creamy sauce or used to lift earthy lentils; bacon certainly has a wonderful universal quality about it.
One of my favourite ways of using bacon is for making terrines. Not as a component within but as a jacket of mouth-watering pink joy to encase your meat loaf. Here is my recipe for a pork belly, chicken liver and leek terrine where all the main cooking gets done in a bain-marie (or Mary’s dirty bathwater as I like to say). The steaming process is a lot gentler and the bacon cooks in a different way to say, frying or grilling. As the fat from the streaky slowly renders out, the rashers sort of gently wield together. As such, the aromas from the oven that envelope the kitchen are a lot more subtle. Enticing, yet not quite as salivating or urgent as hot spitting bacon.
Which does makes me wonder sometimes. If Mum had decided to make a terrine that morning, rather than that fateful butty, could I have stuck to the vegetarianism? Could that burgeoning romance have ever turned into something more serious and profound? Was the path of my life changed forever by that moment and decision in time, to wantonly and quite carelessly devour a bacon sandwich?
I doubt it.
Pork Belly, Chicken Liver and Leek Terrine
1kg of pork belly, rind cut off
400gm chicken livers
20 rashers of streaky bacon
2 medium leeks
3 cloves garlic
2 tsps of allspice
Dried bay leaf, crumbled
salt and pepper
First, preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Finely chop the onion and fry until soft and translucent and place in bowl to cool. Slice the leeks and also gently fry until soft and put to one side to cool.
Chop the pork belly into small pieces and blitz in a food processor until you have a coarse mixture and add to the bowl of onion. Finely chop the garlic and also add to the bowl, season with salt and pepper and then mix together by hand until everything is fully incorporated. Divide into 3 portions.
Slice the chicken livers into slivers, place in a bowl and add the allspice and bay and mix together. Divide into 2 portions
Grease your terrine tin or dish with butter and layer with streaky bacon, overlapping some slices over the side. A good tip is to stretch the bacon with the back of a knife to make it go further.
Spread one portion of the pork at the base as evenly as possible and then evenly layer the chicken livers on top followed by the leeks. Repeat and finish by layering the third portion of pork on top. Fold the bacon strips over and secure the lid on top.
Place in a roasting tin filled with hot water coming halfway up the terrine tin/dish and cook in the oven for 1 and half hours, test with a skewer that it is completely cooked through; it should be piping hot to the touch.
Leave to cool and then place in the fridge overnight, weighing down the lid with some cans of soup.
Serve sliced into even portions with crusty bread and pickles.
Inspired? You’ll find many more tasty bacon recipes in Great British Chefs collection.
Aside from a bacon butty, how else do you like to enjoy bacon? What dishes using bacon as a main ingredient are your favourites?