Candied Bacon Salad

OK, so this is our favourite starter to date, adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.  When served in small amounts it works brilliantly, is sweet and tart in equal measure and looks great on the plate.  Anyway, who doesn’t like bacon?

Assembly takes a while, but pretty much everything can be prepared in advance.  I’ve adapted the recipe ever so slightly to make things easier to slap together at the last minute.

Serves 4 hungry people as a starter

For the dressing:

• 3 tablespoons good-quality rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
• 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine/cider vinegar
• 1 level teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 level tablespoon natural yoghurt
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
• 8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, the best quality you can afford
• 1 small clove garlic, peeled
• 2 slices of fresh white bread, broken into chunks and crusts discarded
• Olive oil
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 4 heaped teaspoons demerara sugar
• Juice of 2 clementines and two more for slicing (or something else that’s sweet and juicy)
• Small bag of mixed salad leaves, washed and spun dry
• 1/2 pack of pomegranate bits
• A small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked

First thing to do is to make your dressing.  Bung all the ingredients into a jam jar (with a screw top) and give it a good shake.  It needs to be a bit acidic to counteract the sweetness of the bacon, so give it a try and add more vinegar if you think it needs it. That’s it, dressing done.

Next, sort out your bacon. Get a frying pan on a medium heat (medium heat stops the bacon from curling up too much).  Cook them until they’re nice and golden, but not crispy. Once they’re done, set them aside and let them cool down a bit (or a lot if you want to do this earlier in the day)

Squash your garlic clove, add it to the pan with the bacon fat, whack up the heat and fry your bread. They want to be nice and crispy (add some more oil if you need to). Sprinkle them with a bit of salt and pepper whilst they’re cooking and then set them aside.  You can rehaeat them once you;re ready to serve in the oven – low temperature for a few minutes.

Next you’re going to caramelise the bacon so wipe your pan clean, add the sugar and juice and let the sugar melt and heat up a little.  Add your bacon slices a few at a time and let them get covered in the sticky liquid.  Once nice a sticky, remove them to a clean plate (covered with a little oil to stop them sticking).  Give the rashers a twist (with tongs!) so that they cool in interesting shapes – they’ll set pretty hard.

Peel and slice up the other clementines nice and thinly.  You’ll shove them in the salad later.

Finally, grab a bowl, chuck in your salad leaves, pomegranite and picked mint leaves.  Add the dressing and give it a good mix – only do this when you;re ready to serve or the salad will wilt. Add your croutons and split the mix between four plates. Add the clementine slices and top with your candied bacon.