With St. Patrick's Day almost upon us, I thought it would be fun to do an alternative take on that Irish favourite; Bacon, potatoes and cabbage, encouraged by the Paddy's Day Food Parade over on The Daily Spud.
This hot pot is a great thing to have for lunches or dinner. While it does take a little time to cook, it is very tasty. I've put in leeks rather than cabbage though as they add a nice oniony flavour, but they are still green like cabbage. I also make this with a cheesey sauce rather than a plain white sauce as I think it gives much more flavour.
The first things to do in this delicious little hot pot, is to preheat the oven to 180° C and make the sauce that it will all cook in. This involves making a roux, but don't be afraid, this is really quite a simple task and not as difficult as you may think.
First grate the cheese so that you have it easily to hand when you need it. It is also a good idea to have your flour weighed out and milk measured and ready to pour near the stove also, as they will both be needed quickly in the sauce making.
Melt the butter in the saucepan until it is sizzling, then quickly lower the heat.
Add in the flour and stir. The flour and butter will bind together into a sort of soft dough. Let this cook on the low heat for about a minute.
Now add in the first 500 mls of the milk bit by bit, whisking all the time. Turn up the heat to a low medium and keep whisking until the sauce starts to thicken.
Bring the sauce to the boil, then turn down the heat and add the cheese. Stir through and add the remaining milk, if necessary, till the sauce is of the consistency to lightly coat a wooden spoon. Season with a little pepper and leave to one side till you need it. Don't worry if your sauce gets a little too thick as the liquid from the leeks when cooking will make it thin it out.
Now it's back to the fun job of chopping vegetables. First off the potatoes. Peel them and slice them into disks. Use a mandolin if you have one or the slicer on a cheese grater as they will make nice, equal sized pieces. If you don't have either of these a sharp knife and a chopping board are all you need. When you've sliced the potatoes put them into a bowl of cold water to soak.
The leeks must now be washed, trimmed and sliced into rings about half a centimetre thick. Then put to one side while you deal with the bacon.
The bacon needs to have the rind trimmed from it and then it should be cut into small pieces. The easiest way to do this is to use a kitchen scissors.
Time to start layering up the different ingredients in your oven proof dish. Start by putting down a layer of potatoes, then a layer of leeks and finally a layer of bacon. Try to make sure that your spread each ingredient evenly accross your layer.
Repeat these layers until you run out of ingredients, retaining enough potato for a top layer. Before you add this last layer of potato, season the hot pot with a little more pepper, then layer the final potatoes on.
Time to add the sauce that you put to one side back at the beginning of the this recipe. Carefully pour it over your layered meat and veg and spread out with a spatula to any places that look a bit bare.
Pop your hot pot into the oven for an hour. After the hour take it out to check how it's progressing. You can do this by poking a skewer into the hot pot. If the potato still feels hard, the hot pot should go back into the oven for another 30 minutes. If you're afraid that the top might burn during this time, cover the hot pot with a layer of tinfoil shiny side down.
After the 30 minutes, the hot pot should be done. Do check it again with the skewer if you're worried and if it still seems a little hard give it more time in 10 minute intervals.
Once the hot pot is ready, leave it cool for 5 - 10 minutes and serve. I really hope that you enjoy this. Please let me know if you need clarification on anything in the recipe above.