Going bananas over bacon

Sunday, 15 September 2013 - 6:00am IST Updated: Sunday, 15 September 2013 - 8:08pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
From being just a decadent addition to junk food to finding space in jams, butters, chocolates and cakes, the humble bacon is being revolutionised. Joanna Lobo takes a taste test

Amrita Kaur collects jars — big, small, round, made of sturdy glass and plastic. Each week she liberally fills the jars stocked in her Versova home with a jam, a concoction of coffee powder, mustard, hot Tabasco and bacon caramelised with maple syrup and brown sugar.

Kaur is better known in food circles as the creator of the OMG Bacon jam. The OMG is intentional. “It was people’s first response after eating the bacon jam,” says the food blogger (Life ki Recipe). Kaur started making the OMG jam in April and the response has led to her to experiment with bacon butter – a week-old creation that already has steady fans. “People are using it to make bacon fried rice, as topping on dosas and to make BLT sandwiches,” she says.

Sugar high on Bacon
Not too far away in Bandra the locals are tripping over each other to get their hands on Froilan Lobo’s decadent bacon chocolates and cake.

Lobo, who runs his home bakery Tweetye and Tween from his bungalow in Bandra, started experimenting with bacon and chocolate six months back. He now takes orders for bacon chocolates, cake and ice cream. The combination of savoury specially sourced bacon, “that doesn’t burn or crisp easily” and sweet Belgian chocolate works well enough for people who buy his stuff in batches, particularly during the festive season. He is now waiting for Christmas, because as everyone knows, pork and its variations are much appreciated then.

Recently, Lobo unleashed his bacon ice cream at a meeting of the 792-strong Facebook group the Porkaholics, started by Rhea Mitra Dalal - writer, food blogger and lover of all things pork – who herself makes a mean bacon whiskey jam. The ice cream was polished off.

Mehernosh Kersi Khajotia, also a member of the pork-loving group, often felt left out because as the owner of Mumbai’s Celebrations Fine Confections, his area of expertise was baking. Khajotia, a Parsi, then hit on a solution, combining the two to produce bacon chocolates. “I tried putting chocolate and bacon in my mouth together. It worked…the saltiness and crispiness of the pork went well with dark chocolate and wafer,” he says. The chocolates were introduced earlier this year and although they do well, he makes them only on order. “The shelf life is about a week and if kept out, the bacon on top of the chocolates tends to get soggy,” he adds.

At the other end of town in Mulund, Rutvika Charegaonkar, who always ate her bacon crispy fried, recently learnt how to make bacon jam at a workshop. The chartered accountant’s in-laws don’t eat bacon but luckily her husband does and the bacon jam she makes and stores comes in handy each time the couple craves for something “bacon-ey”. “I make the jam with sugar, coffee and minutely shredded bacon and it works well with lavache and breads,” she says.

Have your bacon and eat it too
What tastes best with bacon? More bacon. It’s an old joke but one that could very well be the philosophy behind the coronary delight, thebacon cake. In Mumbai, say bacon cake and most people identify one name, Roycin D’Souza. A year back, this gig photographer started making this savoury cake with pork, mince, cheese, bacon, herbs, fried ham, sausages and a topping of crispy bacon slivers and has since had many takers.

Another bacon overload is Sahil Makhija’s Bacon Bomb. “It’s pork mince based dish stuffed with red and yellow peppers, onions, cheese, crispy bacon and seasoning, wrapped in bacon and barbeque sauce and baked,” says the musician of the band Demonic Resurrection. Makhija also has a cooking show called Headbanger’s Kitchen and his bacon bomb was made during an interview with the metal band Bhayanak Maut.

Makhija takes orders once in three-four months depending on his gigs. The orders when they come in are usually 15-20 a day ensuring his free days are filled with bacon. “Bacon is a unique meat. It’s one of those things that is bad for you but so good, you cannot stop eating it,” says Makhija, who is working on another bacon recipe which he will reveal once perfected.

Not a capital demand
While foodies in Mumbai can’t stop experimenting with bacon, Delhi which is starting to be recognised as the gourmet, international cuisine capital of India, has few people willing to experiment with the salty pork delight. Caelisa Appleton, the founder of the domestic bakery, Wake and Bake, claims that people in Delhi are a little afraid of experimenting with bacon. “They aren’t that adventurous,” she says. Appleton has two bacon cupcake options on her menu – a French toast apple cupcake with bacon bits and an Elvis cupcake that has bananas, peanut butter and bacon. While folks in Mumbai would be loading their refrigerators with these cup cakes for mid-night indulgences, the response to the cupcakes in the capital has been slow with most orders come from friends.

Parul Pratap Shirazi, food blogger (The Shirazine) and ITC-trained chef does all her experiments at home in Delhi. “I am always looking for cool things to do with bacon....it’s a family favourite,” she says. Her latest experiment was a muffin with cream cheese and maple bacon that she claims tastes like a bacon cream cheese bagel. “It’s a full breakfast,” says Shirazi. Between her travel and work, Shirazi makes it a point to eat bacon at least thrice a week in as varied forms as possible, including cooking with bacon fat. Her plan now is make maple bacon preserve, which will see her through winter months.

While the west has experimented with bacon in varied ways, from bacon flavoured lollipops to bacon coated gum, it appears Indians are now waking up to the versatility of the meat and how ‘everything tastes better with bacon’. “Bacon is seen as something that is extremely indulgent and you can cook it in different ways,” says Appleton. Have you met anyone who eats meat and doesn’t like bacon? Appleton hasn’t. Neither have we.

Here are some interesting bacon recepies:

Shirazine Breakfast Muffins with Cream Cheese and Maple Bacon
200 gms flour
100 gms butter
100 gms sugar
200 ml milk
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla essence
2 eggs

200 gms cream cheese, softened, whipped lightly
2 tbsp icing sugar, blended in

8 rashers of streaky bacon
8 tbsp maple syrup
2-3 tbsp brown sugar

Sift the baking powder with the flour and set aside. Mix together the eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla essence, I used a whisk to do this. Let the butter melt at room temperature and be completely soft.. Slowly add the melted butter into the egg mix, it will clump up a bit since the egg mix is cooler. Now blend in the flour and baking powder mix, incorporate it all together with a mixing motion, no need to beat the batter, just fold it all in, till smooth. Line a cupcake tray with paper liners and fill almost to the top, with a bit of margin for the muffins to rise. Bake at 200C for 10-15 minutes or till lightly browned and firm. For the topping, lines the bacon rashers in a clean pan or skillet. Put the heat on, as the rashers begin to sizzle, pour the maple syrup over them and sprinkle the top with brown sugar, use a wooden spatula to give it a quick stir, turn up the heat and let the syrup and sugar caramelise over the browning rashers. Fry for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat on to a clean plate or bowl. Cool the bacon to use as a topping.

For the frosting, soften the cream cheese by leaving it out to come down to room temperature. Use a clean whisk to blend in the icing sugar and make the cheese smooth and easy to pipe. Fill a piping cone or just use a tablespoon to scoop a dollop on top of a cooled muffin, finally top with a maple bacon rasher. I serve these kind of warm, but not hot, since the cheese would melt. If you want to serve them for a day or two, then cover and keep un-frosted, warm for 10-20 seconds in the micro, frost, add the bacon.

For the kids you can chop up the cooled maple bacon and whip it with the cream cheese, makes it easier for them to eat and spreads the flavour through the frosting.
(Recipe courtesy Parul at The Shirazine)

Bhayanak Bacon Bomb
500 grams pork mince
Fresh Basil
Spring Onion
Red and Yellow Peppers
Garlic Salt
BBQ Seasoning
BBQ Sauce

Mix the chopped basil with the pork. Lay the pork out on the cutting board and spread into a square shaped base. Season with garlic salt, pepper, rosemary and BBQ seasoning. Top with spring onions, red and yellow peppers, fried bacon & ham and cheese.
Roll the pork mince over. Lay out the bacon strips and place the pork bomb in the center.Wrap the bacon around the pork bomb.

Coat with BBQ sauce and cook in the oven for 45-60min at 250 C. Baste with BBQ sauce while cooking as well. Serve and eat.
(Recipe courtesy Sahil Makhija, Headbanger’s Kitchen)

Bacon and egg ice cream
Heston Blumenthal shares his iconic bacon and egg ice cream recipe served at his world-renowned eatery The Fat Duck.
Credit: Recipe from 'Heston Blumenthal at Home’, published by Bloomsbury. Serves 6
For the ice cream base
400g sweet-cured smoked back bacon
1 litre whole milk
30g semi-skimmed milk powder
24 large egg yolks
120g unrefined caster sugar

For the crispy soldiers:
Clarified butter
1 brioche loaf, crust removed, cut into soldiers (1.5 x 1.5 x 5cm)
Golden caster sugar

To serve:
6 medium eggs
Pastry offcuts or other bits of dough, to plug holes
400g dry ice
Orange marmalade

To start the ice cream base, preheat the grill to high. Lay the bacon slices on a parchment-lined baking tray and place under the grill for 5–7 minutes or until crisp. When the bacon is cooked, drain on kitchen paper and cut it into strips. Place in a bowl, pour over the milk then leave to infuse overnight.

The next day, put the milk and bacon into a saucepan and add the milk powder. Place over a medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat. In the meantime, blitz the egg yolks and sugar together using a hand blender. Combine the egg mixture with the warm milk and bacon and return the pan to the heat. Warm the liquid until it reaches 85ºC. Once this temperature has been reached, remove the pan from the heat and pass the ice cream base through a fine sieve into a clean container over iced water, pushing the custard through with the back of a ladle. 

To cook the crispy soldiers, melt a tablespoon of clarified butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add some of the soldiers and fry on all sides, remove and place on kitchen roll to absorb any excess fat. Repeat as necessary to cook the remaining soldiers. Clean the pan completely then place it over a medium-high heat. Add enough sugar to cover the bottom of the pan and allow to melt.

Once the sugar has completely melted and caramelised, add some of the soldiers, no more than 4 or 5 at a time. Turn using tongs in order to cover every side, being careful not to touch the sugar as it is extremely hot. Once coated on all sides, remove the soldiers from the pan, place on a silicone mat and allow to cool. Repeat as necessary, cleaning the pan thoroughly after each use.

To serve the ice cream, use a large-gauge needle or an egg punch to make a hole in the top and bottom of the eggs and gently blow out the contents. Rinse the shells in cold water and place in boiling water for 45 minutes to sterilise. Remove, allow to cool and plug one of the holes in each shell with pastry. Using a syringe, fill the eggshells with the ice cream base. Plug the remaining hole with pastry and keep refrigerated until needed.

To serve, make the ice cream in front of your guests by cracking an ice-cream base-filled egg into a saucepan and adding some of the crushed dry ice while mixing continuously until the ice cream is formed. This will take approximately 1 minute and it will look like scrambled eggs. Place in a bowl, add a teaspoon of orange marmalade on top of the ice cream, place a slice of crystallised bacon on top and serve with crispy solders on the side.

Bacon Cotton Candy
(Yield: 10 gallons)
Isomalt: 200 g
Glucose: 50 g
Sucroester: 3 g
Smoked bacon fat: 120 g
Monodyglycerides: 3 g
Granulated sugar: 200 g
Candied Bacon: as needed (may we suggest1lb. for starters)

Combine the isomalt, glucose and sucroester and cook to 160 degrees C. As the caramel is cooking, dissolve the monodyglycerides into the fat heated to 50 degrees C. When the caramel temperature reaches 160 degrees C, drizzle in the oil and stir to bind with a spatula.

When the caramel has absorbed the fat, spread the mixture out on a non-stick silicone mat. Allow it to cool and become hard. Combine the candy and sugar in a food processor and pulverise the candy into a fine powder. Use the powder in place of sugar to spin into cotton candy in a machine, using the manufacturer’s instructions. Wrap the cotton candy around strip of candied bacon.
(Credit: Recipe taken from Bacon Today)

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