John McLeay reveals his bacon secrets

John McLeay_2016How good is the smell of frying bacon? I have vegetarian friends who reckon they’d turn for a single crispy rasher.

Red Spice Road‘s executive chef John McLeay (right) makes the bacon even more irresistible with his stunning enoki and snake beans wrapped in bacon (above) – one of John’s top five bacon dishes. Try the kung pao chicken with bacon. It’s a cracking recipe with maximum flavour pay-off.

But not all bacon is created equal. Most bacon and ham sold in Australia is made from imported pork, with unclear labelling about the country of origin. There’s no way of knowing for sure, unless you know your bacon supplier, or look out for the Pork Industry’s 100% Aussie PorkMark square on bacon packaging (below).

1. KUNG PAO CHICKEN + BACON

Kung Pao Chicken and Bacon. John McLeayKung Pao Chicken and Bacon. “Everyone loves Kung Pao chicken and it’s even better with bacon,” says John. “When we have it on our fortnightly lunch menus all the kitchen staff seem to put on a kilo or two.”

Ingredients
300g chicken thigh (skinless and boneless)
½ cup tapioca starch
200g Australian bacon lardons
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
3 tbs Chinese rice wine
3 tbs light soy sauce
3 tbs sweet soy sauce
1 tbs black vinegar
1 tbs sesame oil
50ml chicken stock or water
3 tbs vegetable oil
100g cashew nuts, roasted
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
½ tbs Szechuan peppercorns, finely ground
3 spring onions, sliced
10 small dried red chillies

Method
Cut the chicken thigh into medium dice and coat with tapioca starch. In a wok, heat the vegetable oil when the wok starts to smoke add the chicken cook for 1 minute then add the sliced onions, bacon, dried chillies and garlic. Cook while stirring for a further 1 minute, and check to see if the chicken is cooked through. If not, continue to cook for another minute, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the cashews, soy sauces, stock, black vinegar, rice wine, sesame oil and the Szechuan pepper and cook for a further minute while stirring. Add the spring onion, saving some for the garnish and spoon into a serving bowl.
Serves 2-4 as part of a shared meal

2. ENOKI + SNAKE BEANS WRAPPED IN BACON

Enoki and Snake Beans wrapped in Bacon 3“I first tried this simple delicious snack on 19th street in Yangon and was extremely impressed by the flavour,” John says. “A year later I was in Tokyo and had pretty much the exact same thing at a Yakitori bar. They are a great addition to any barbecue.”

Ingredients
8 streaky Australian bacon rashes
1 punnet enoki mushrooms
3 snake beans
8 slices of red capsicum
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil

Method
Preheat oven to 180C and cut the enoki and the snake beans into the equal lengths.
Lay out the bacon and place some enoki, snake beans and a piece of red capsicum on top, sprinkled with a little salt. Roll up the bacon to form a neat little parcel then skewer with a toothpick.
Heat a little oil in a frypan and place the bacon parcels in the pan. Cook for around a minute on each side then place the pan in the oven for a further 2 minutes.
Alternatively, you could cook them on your barbecue with the lid down. Serve with sour chilli sauce, if desired.
Makes 8 serves.

3. BLACK PEPPER CARAMEL SALMON WITH BACON + SHALLOTS

Salmon, Black Pepper Caramel and Bacon“The smokiness of the bacon really imparts a beautiful flavor to the caramel,” John says.

Ingredients
300g salmon, boned
8 peeled and roasted shallots
150g Australian bacon lardons, cooked
1 spring onion, sliced
Vegetable oil
For the black pepper caramel…
700g caster sugar
300ml water
2 tbs cracked black pepper, smashed in a mortar and pestle
15 star anise
150ml fish sauce

Method
To make the black pepper caramel, combine the sugar and the water in a large saucepan/pot. Place on heat and bring to the boil. Add the pepper and the star anise then continue to boil until it starts to caramelise and turns a light tan colour. Add the fish sauce turn down to a simmer and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 180C. Using a heavy-based, oven-friendly fry pan, heat the vegetable oil over a high heat on the stovetop. Place the salmon fillet in the pan skin side down and cook for about 1 minute. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven and cook for a further 3 minutes (you don’t want the salmon to overcook). Remove the salmon from the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes.
In a saucepan bring the caramel to the boil add the bacon and shallots, turn the heat down and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
Place the salmon in a bowl and spoon over the caramel, bacon and shallots. Garnish with the spring onion.
Serves 4 as part of a shared meal.

4. RED SPICE ROAD CHEF’S BREAKFAST RICE

“This is our breakfast of choice in the kitchen,” John says. “It ticks all the boxes for us, as it’s quick to make, takes advantage of ingredients we have lying around in our fridges and above all, it’s tasty. A great way to start a busy day.”

Ingredients
4 eggs
12 Australian bacon rashers, grilled or panfried
200ml vegetable oil
4 cups steamed jasmine rice
1 large red chilli, sliced
1 spring onion, sliced
1 handful coriander leaves
1 handful beanshoots
1 small handful Thai basil leaves
4 tbs crispy fried shallots
4 tbs soy sauce
For the green nam jim…
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
2 large green chillies, seeded and chopped finely
1 small green chilli, chopped finely
2 red shallots, finely sliced
50g palm sugar, grated
100ml fish sauce
150 ml lime juice

Method
Make the green nam jim in a mortar and pestle, pounding the coriander, garlic, chillies and shallots into a rough paste. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice and mix well. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a wok until it’s smoking. Cook the bacon until golden brown and set aside. Crack the eggs into 4 cups and one at a time carefully drop the eggs into the smoking oil. They will bubble and crisp up quite quickly. After about 30 seconds, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon.
Put some steamed rice into 4 bowls and top with the bacon and a fried egg. Scatter over some spring onion, coriander, Thai basil and chilli. Top with some bean shoots and fried shallots. Spoon over some soy and a big dollop of green nam jim.
Serves 4

5. BACON, CRAB & CHEESE WONTONS

“I came across a recipe called Crab Rangoon when I was researching dishes for a Colonial Burmese dinner we were hosting at Burma Lane,” John says. “At first I thought it was a really weird recipe but when I tried them, they were delicious and even more so after I added bacon to the filling.”

Ingredients
100g mozzarella
200g raw crab meat
120g finely chopped and cooked Australian bacon
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs dried chilli flakes
24 wonton wrappers
1 egg lightly beaten
1 litre vegetable oil

Method
In a bowl. mix together the mozzarella, crab, bacon, fish sauce, spring onions and chilli flakes.
Lay out the wonton wrappers and lightly brush around the edges with the egg. Spoon in some of the crab mixture, fold over to form a triangle and press the edges together.
To cook, heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large saucepan to around 170C and cook the wontons in batches of 5 or 6 until golden and crisp (about 3 minutes). Serve with sweet chilli sauce if desired.
Makes 24

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John McLeay reveals his bacon secrets