There are few things nicer than boiled bacon, Savoy cabbage and floury potatoes.
I remember the cry of the pigs on the local farms and have a memory of lying in bed at night and hearing them squeal like banshees. 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 eating bacon and cabbage was at my grandmother’s house. She would use the collar of the bacon which she cured herself in brine. The meat would have been bought from the local butcher and 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 it and wash it again under cold running water. She would then add a whole peeled onion and a carrot, and boil under a low heat for a couple of hours. About half an hour before the bacon was fully cooked, she would add the cabbage.
The potato skins would split, ready to explode as the water evaporated and the steam rose, fogging up the 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 unpasteurised milk.
Bacon and cabbage terrine with celery and onion puree (serves 12)
1 collar of bacon about 2kg
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 of peeled garlic
1. Steep the bacon overnight in cold water. Rinse under the cold tap, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil in a covered pot. Strain the water off and refresh the bacon by running again under cold water.
2. Cover with fresh water, then add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil again. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours, making sure to top up the water every 15 minutes. You can tell when the bacon is cooked for terrine use when it pierces easily with a fork so that the meat just about holds together.
3. Remove the contents, place them in a stainless steel bowl and allow them 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.
2 heads Savoy cabbage
Small bunch of chives (finely chopped)
Freshly milled white pepper Fine sea salt (to taste)
30g unsalted butter
Cooking oil (for lining the mould)
1. Remove eight to ten good quality outer leaves from the cabbages. Remove the centre vein and wash.
2. Blanch these leaves for two to three minutes, then remove and refresh by running under cold water. Set aside for lining the terrine mould in a clean kitchen linen cloth.
3. Cut the remaining cabbage head in half, remove the stalk and shred the cabbage finely. Wash the shredded cabbage under cold running tap.
4. Dice the shallots. Add butter to a heated pot and cook the shallots for about one minute without colouring. Add the cabbage, season with pepper and reduce the heat. Cook for a further two to three minutes.
5. Add enough bacon stock to just barely cover the cabbage, and cook under a medium heat for a further ten 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.
6. Taste the cabbage and correct the seasoning. Allow to cool, then add the chives and mix. Taste again.
1. Ideally use a terrine mould or alternatively a bread tin. Brush the mould with oil then line tightly with clingfilm, ensuring the clingfilm overhangs the mould.
2. Season the cabbage leaves. Line the moulds with the leaves, making sure the leaves overhang the mould. Layer the shredded cabbage – about two centimetres – and use the back of a spoon to press it down. Cut the bacon into slices of about 2 centimetres thick, then layer it over the cabbage. Repeat the layering of cabbage and bacon to the top of the mould. The shredded cabbage should be the last layer and should reach just over the top of the mould. Fold over the cabbage leaves and add the remainder if necessary to completely cover the top of the mould. Fold over the clingfilm tightly.
3. The terrine mould needs to be weighted on top to press the terrine into shape. Use a piece of cardboard cut to the shape of the mould top and covered with tin foil – 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. A few kilos of sugar can be used as weights. Rest in the fridge overnight.
To plate terrine
1. Puree the celery and onion by removing them from the stock, roughly chopping them and cooking them over a low heat to dry them out slightly. Puree in a blender, remove and pass through a fine sieve. Correct the seasoning.
2. Remove the terrine from the mould, leaving the clingfilm on. Slice thinly with a carving knife and remove the clingfilm from individual slices.
Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.