Food & Drink

Sunday morning fry up anybody? The Bacon Wizard may well have saved your bacon...

Sunday morning fry up anybody? The Bacon Wizard may well have saved your bacon...On Wednesday the 10th of March 2013, Jasper Aykroyd AKA Bacon Wizard attended a stakeholder’s meeting at Noble House in London: The Headquarters of the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs. Subject du jour was the move by Brussels to ban use of saltpetre and nitrites in the organic curing of meats. It has been something of a surprise to the EU that certain producers in The UK object loudly to these proposals; the committee in Brussels probably feel they are doing the right thing. Bless.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed.

No surprise that your friendly Bacon Wizard has strong views, and was determined to make them heard. Thanks to Robin Fransella from DEFRA, they were indeed heard loud and clear. There was agreement and welcome support from the UK’s industry leaders, food technologists, legal experts and government departments. Saltpetre has been instrumental in the successful curing of artisan meats since at least the Roman era, and possibly as far back as prehistoric times. (It is a salt found in caves, although latterly manufactured, especially when needed to make explosives!) While its early use was driven purely by what was seen to work and with no science to support it, one can hardly compare this with some of our other ancient practices which thankfully did not make it into modern usage:

[ Deadly nightshade is seen to make an excellent eye-drop if you wish to
a) appear in love
b) die slowly and horribly! ]

As so often happens, the greedy sought greater convenience and profit for themselves. Saltpetre and its derivatives became abused in amounts that might affect the greater population's health (In much the same way as farming has overused it on the land in the past, too) Laws were therefore passed to prevent this, once scientific knowledge caught up with the practice. Now though, the political impetus to completely ban the use of saltpetre or more potent cousin “Sodium Nitrite” in organic bacon production, threatens not only the artisan but the consumer too. Authorities are so poorly educated in these increasingly specialist (and if we’re not careful, extinct) areas of craftsmanship that to make useful judgements on behalf of a public; to inform the public even, is impossible. Unfortunately it seems that knowledge is not power. Certainly we are seeing once again that one can exert power without knowledge. In answer to this increasingly obvious deficit, and in self defence, wider industry has made inroads to understanding the curing process over the last 2 years: Hardly complete, but groundbreaking nevertheless. Especially considering how unbelievably complex it is in biochemical terms. some might even say magical. It was indeed the alchemists (who included people such as Newton among their number) who first identified nitrates (saltpetre being such a thing) as the “source of life itself”.
A statement too far in-fact, but in modern science confirms the vast importance of these compounds in biochemistry.

Shame then, that until yesterday’s Stakeholder meeting, nobody wanted to know.

Is it too late? Will a knee-jerk political reaction consign millennia of dedicated artisans to the history book? At the moment, just about, a bacon butty doesn’t have to be organic to be good. But the point is that if the proposed changes to EU law are passed, it will be impossible to be both organic, and good. That can’t be right. Organics have always claimed to be more about ethics than quality, which is a shame. But in the 21st century some joined-up thinking might now be the order of the day. The objective; to understand our ecosystem such that quality and ethics meet each other and go skipping hand-in-hand onto the consumer’s plate. In modern terms then, this represents a chance to declare once and for all where the organic movement hopes to go. Something that is truly relevant and accessible to the non-flag-waving majority might be a good start: The fruits of organic labour need to be a thing that non-subscribers can, nevertheless, both enjoy and afford.

This being said, such an aspiration would require a day-to-day understanding of food production and economics which are currently lacking in our population. Given the recent demise of close community and the nuclear family, our experiences come primarily through supermarkets and media. It seems strange to me that food knowledge is of any less importance than say reading and writing. After all, we put it inside our bodies! At base level, eating differs in no way from administering a complex package of drugs. It can also be hugely pleasurable, and helps quite a lot with not being dead, too.

So let me address one small part of that problem and ensure that you, dear reader, have been informed.

Saltpetre, and the “nitrites” into which they can be transformed quite naturally, are vital for pork to become bacon or ham, organic or otherwise. The quantities in bacon are vastly smaller than the amounts found naturally in green leafy vegetables. What concerns there might be for health can be very easily prevented by use of herbs and spices, or vitamin C which protects the consumer from any potential harm (which is itself a contentious issue) There are no alternative technologies to replace the last few millennia of nitrate use, and there never will be. Agreed, there are many, many reasons to resent the shrinking piece of something-or-other that you bought (2 for the price of one, no doubt!) and the scummy water you find in the pan. But that’s simply an issue of supermarket giants and their multinational suppliers making awful bacon, full of water and other undesirables in order to drive down price and increase profit. While none of the above parties might appreciate the role of nitrites other than for a bit of colour and shelf-life, the following statement is no less true:

For the absolutely everyone: artisan, multinational company, or for you and your family, the total banning of nitrites in curing would mean-


Bacon Wizard left that meeting in London yesterday confident that this was now understood by the DEFRA representative, confident in the UK’s international position and in the force of its argument. Other member states are perhaps used to thinking of Britain as a culinary midget. But in a moment when the rest of the EU are filled with apathy, they could be in for a very big shock indeed.

After all, we do make BLOODY good bacon! And you can't ignore that.

Contact Jasper on 07545 803 261


Good Oil Gone Bad?

Olive Oil - Good oil gone bad?The joy of olive oil lies in its many delightful aromas and flavours, from voluptuous ripe olive to bright green grassy notes and from a soft subtle finish to a zippy peppery kick There is a world of sensory exploration awaiting the adventurer. But like any great explorer, you will be faced with risks, crocodiles in the placid waters. The sad truth is that most people are accustomed to the flavour of olive oil that has passed its best. Olive oil is no longer an occasional presence in the kitchen so it is time to change that. We need to start by recognizing one essential fact about olive oil, it is a perishable product. Olive oil tastes best when it is fresh. Think of olive oil on a freshness continuum that goes from just-made, harvest-fresh at one end, to completely rancid at the other. How long it takes an olive oil to go from one end of this freshness continuum to the other depends on many factors: storage temperature, exposure to air and light, and the amount of natural antioxidants in the olive oil in the first place. All olive oils, even the finest ones, will go off eventually. This is why you must never hoard olive oil: use it and enjoy it. Waiting for a special occasion to use your good olive oil? How about dinner! It's olive oil, not a fine wine! Do you have a clear sense of what rancid oil smells and tastes like? A good image for many people is the smell of crayons. Another hint is something that almost everyone has tasted, old peanuts, with that soapy taste. Rancid is fat gone bad, something all of us have encountered at some time. On a rancid scale of 0 to 10, almost everyone will notice a 9 or a 10. The trick is to develop the confidence to pick out rancidity when it is a 5, or a 3, or lower. The flavour of rancidity in olive oil is usually accompanied by a greasy mouth-feel; in fact, the greasiness often is noticeable first.

Go to your cupboard and pull out the olive oil. How old is it? Is there a “Best Before” date on the bottle? Generally that date is two years from the time that it was bottled. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell you when it was harvested and milled. Sniff it. Taste it. Crayons? Putty? Old peanuts?

If so it's time to say goodbye....


Salmon-Stuffed Crab Cakes

Salmon-Stuffed Crab CakesIngredients:-

1 pound fresh crabmeat
1/4 cup finely chopped sring onions
1/4 cup finely diced roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3 ounces smoked salmon
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
Tartar Sauce


Stir together first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Divide mixture into 8 balls.
Flatten each ball into a 3-inch patty. Divide smoked salmon into 4 pieces, and place in center of 4 patties. Place remaining patties over salmon, pressing edges to seal; coat cakes in breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add cakes, and cook, in batches, 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with Tartar Sauce.

Orange, Poppy Seed and Milk Chocolate Biscuits

Orange, Poppy Seed and Milk Chocolate BiscuitsThese tasty biscuits are easy to make and perfect for when your little ones want to get into the kitchen and bake their own sweet treat. The biscuit mix can be cut into any shape you fancy for a rainy day bake or special occasion. Plus the little hands will enjoy decorating the biscuits with milk chocolate, which perfectly complements the zesty combination of orange and seeds, introducing them to new textures and flavours.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 10-12 minutes
Makes: 20 approx.


Oven Proof baking tray
1 litre glass mixing bowl
Wooden spoon
Cling film
Rolling pin
6cm fluted biscuit cutter
Non-stick baking parchment
Cooling rack
Small saucepan
0.5 litre glass mixing bowl, which will sit on the top of the pan


175g unsalted butter, soft
75g golden icing sugar
The freshly grated zest of 1 orange
A drop or two of orange extract
15g poppy seeds
15g sesame seeds
225g self-raising flour
75g milk chocolate

Method -

In a bowl beat together the butter and icing sugar.
Add the lemon zest and extract and poppy seeds and mix these in
Gradually add the flour and stir together until you have added it all and you have a well-combined, smooth biscuit dough.
Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for around 20 minutes.
Now preheat your oven to 160°C.
Roll out the dough on a lightly dusted worktop to around 5mm thick.
Dip your cutter in flour and cut out the biscuits, carefully transfer onto your lined baking tray.
Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes, until pale gold (you can roll and bake in batches).
Leave the biscuits on the tray for 5 minutes to let them firm up a little, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Break your chocolate into pieces and place in your small bowl which is sitting over a pan of gently simmering water- don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl, or boil (you could melt the chocolate in the microwave on a very low setting).
When the biscuits have cooled, put some extra baking paper under the cooling rack and use a spoon to splatter and drizzle over the melted chocolate then let this set.

Selby Food & Wine Festival 2014

Selby Food & Wine Festival 2014The all new Selby food and Drink Festival will be taking place outside Selby Abbey on Saturday 12th July

This will be the third Selby Food & Wine Festival, the first two having been much smaller affairs than what's planned for this year. Previously the event was held at Selby Town Hall and hosted by Richard Sharp of Mollie Sharp's Cheese & Deli, a local shop in Selby. This year, with the formation of the Selby Food Festival Committee and the great cooperation of Selby Town Council and other sponsors, it has been possible to expand the event to the town centre. We are working hard to bring as many exciting, quality food outlets to the town on the day and look forward to a great turnout from the people of Selby and those from future away.

With confirmed exhibitors including Yorkshire Ales, Ultimate English, Chilli Jam Man, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil, Osteria 23 Delicatessen, Raisthorpe Manor, Masons Yorkshire Gin, Davill's Bakery, Salt's Catering, Round Green Farm Vension, Ostrich Direct, Mrs Shah's Food Company, Lymn Bank Farm Cheese, Rose Cottage Pantry and Saints & Sinners Preserves – this years festival promises to be a great day out for all the family.

In the afternoon the food gives way to the wine, as it were...

The Wine Festival - Wine Tasting Event

Come and try some excellent wines from across the globe. The event will run from 4pm onwards at Selby Town Hall. Many wines on offer by the glass - you get to taste a range of great value everyday styles to premium examples. Entry is just £5.

Cheese and Antipasti platters will be available and there will be live music and entertainment. From 4pm until 10pm. A great evening guaranteed.

Selby Market,
Outside The Abbey,
North Yorkshire



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