Bacon, Beer and Lentil Stew

This sounds like an odd flavour combination, but it really works. Just like when you cook with wine, the beer you use does make a difference. This recipe needs something quite dark like a stout or a porter. Here I’ve used Bath Ales Dark Side because it’s delicious and local, and I definitely recommend exploring breweries local to you to find an ale. If you can’t be arsed with that, Guiness works really well. 

It’s not a quick supper as it will take a couple of hours to make, but I like to make this in advance and reheat later in the week. It also makes quite a lot, so if you don’t fancy eating it every day for a week, I’d recommend freezing some. Spending one afternoon a week cooking dinners means I get to spend more quality time with my family when I get home from work and less time doing washing up! 

Ingredients

  • 250g smoky bacon lardons
  • 250g brown lentils
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 leek
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 carrots
  • Salt and pepper
  • Whole grain mustard
  • 1 500ml bottle of ale
  1. Take a large saucepan and place it over a medium flame. When the pan is really hot, throw in the lardons and cook until really crispy. 
  2. While the bacon is cooking, prep the vegetables. Dice the onion and celery, thinly slice the leek and put to one side. Peel the turnips and carrots and chop into 2cm cubes. Place to one side but don’t muddle up with the onions and celery.
  3. Once the bacon is nice and crispy, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Put the onion, celery and leek in the pan and cook in the bacon fat until softened.
  4. Next add the root vegetables and cook for five minutes.
  5. Pour the lentils into the pan, along with half of the beer. 
  6. At this point, the stew will need to simmer for an hour or so. Keep an eye on it, keep topping it up with water every time it starts to look dry. The lentils will absorb a lot of liquid, so you’ll need at least a litre. You really have to use your own judgment here as to how much water to add. I like a nice, thick stew so I add the water a little at a time and reduce until it looks good.
  7. After an hour, when the lentils and root vegetables are soft, pour in the rest of the beer and the cooked bacon. Simmer for another 20 minutes. 
  8. Add the mustard,  taste the stew and season well with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread. 


Tips

  • If you make the stew too runny and want to thicken up the gravy, there a few things you can do to help:

  1. A few teaspoons of gravy granules added and stirred in well. Make sure it won’t make your stew too salty though. Don’t tell my mum I use Bisto though, she would be horrified!
  2. Mix cornflour and water into a paste, add to the stew and cook for a few minutes. 
  3. Smash (again, don’t tell my mum!) can be added a teaspoon at a time and stirred in well. 
  • If you really like the smokiness of the bacon, I highly recommend adding a bit more smoky oomph with a couple of dashes of liquid smoke. You can get it online or in fancy delicatessens and it is totally worth every penny. 
  • If the stew tastes a little bland to you, try adjusting the acidity before reaching for the salt. Extra mustard or a tiny dash of cider vinegar can really brighten up the flavour. Just remember to add seasonings a little at a time and taste after every adjustments. 

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Passion Fruit Curd

 I make this curd frequently because it’s freakin’ delicious and so easy to make. It’s a really great filling for tarts, you can use it in layer cakes, dump it on ice cream or lick it off the spoon. 

Ingredients 

  • 100g butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 passion fruits
  1. Place a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Be careful that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl. Stir until the butter is completely melted and the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Cut the passion fruits in half and scoop out all the gunk inside. Add this to the sugar and butter; juice, seeds and all.
  4. Beat the egg yolks lightly and add to the other ingredients. 
  5. Whisk the curd and continue to cook over the Bain Marie until it has thickened enough to to coat the back of a spoon. It’s important to keep the curd moving so that you don’t end up with lumps of cooked egg in your curd.
  6. Remove from the bowl and place in a clean jar or plastic container. Once cooled keep refrigerated and use within a week.


Notes

  • If you don’t like the seeds, or you live with a fussy child who finds seeds highly suspicious, once you curd is cooked strain through a metal sieve.
  • If you get bored of whisking the curd and wander off only to return to weird, fruity scrambled egg, remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to wazz the shit outta that mess. You won’t have a perfectly silky curd, but it’ll still taste good and you won’t have to bin it. 

Spiced Plum and Almond Cake


Anyone who has shopped in a British supermarket will know that it is nigh on impossible to buy ripe and ready to eat stoned fruit. We get these ‘ripen at home’ punnets of lies which, after languishing in the fruit bowl for a few days, seem to magically go from rock solid to growing their own civilisation in the blink of an eye. 

I bought some plums the other day, took them home and nestled them in amongst my bananas. A week later, there was no sign of ripeness, so I decided to bake them into a cake. The sourness of the underripe plums is actually perfect in this cake and lifts the flavour of the spices wonderfully. I like this still warm from the oven, with a hearty dollop of clotted cream. 


Ingredients

  • 200g butter, melted and cooled.
  • 200g sugar
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 Cardomom pods, seeds removed and crushed
  • 8 medium plums, halved and pitted


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 degrees C
  2. Mix the sugar into the melted butter, along with the spices. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the flour and ground almonds.
  4. Pour into the cake pan.
  5. Arrange the plums on the batter, pushing them down a little. Sprinkle with flaked almonds if you have any to hand.
  6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and springy.