Monday, 19 March 2012

National Bacon Connoisseurs Week in the UK is 19 March – 25 March 2012.

Here’s a quick challenge for you:

My favourite meal with bacon is of course the Great Full English Breakfast but another favourite is pasta with a smoked bacon, tomato and cream cheese sauce.

I fry ½ onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add 2-3 cloves of garlic (chopped or pressed) along with a packed of smoked back bacon cut into little pieces and fry until the bacon takes on a bit of colour and the onions begin to get transparent.

Next I add about 3 Tablespoons of tomato puree and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Follow this with a tin of tomatoes (chopped or whole according to preference), 2-3 Tablespoons pesto (homemade or from a jar if you don’t have much time),
200g packet of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese has melted through and then season to taste.  I often add 1 tsp chilli flakes and freshly ground pepper.  You may not need to add salt depending on how salty the bacon is.

Serve over cooked and drained pasta of your choice.  My favourite is linguine.

E-mail in your favourite bacon recipes before midnight on 25th March and a photo if possible ( and leave a comment in the box below to let me know you have done so.

Follow my blog ( and leave a comment below to let me know you have done this.

Follow me on Twitter (@HeidiMSKstalban) and let me know below that you have done so and include your Twitter name.

Re-tweet this challenge and comment below that you have done so and include your Twitter name.

Share this post with your Facebook friends and leave a comment below and on my Facebook page (Heidi’s Secret Kitchen) to let me know you have done this too.

On the 26th March 2012 I will review the entries and announce a winner.  Each separate entry will be given a number and the winner will be picked at random from those numbers.

The winner will receive a small prize for their efforts.  This challenge is only open to residents of the UK.

Thanks and I look forward to receiving your entries.

Friday, 16 March 2012

New Challenges Coming Soon!!!

I am currently working on  a couple of blog challenges which will be ready by the beginning of April so watch this space!!

Hope lots of people will take part as they will be fun and there will be loads of prizes.

I am just trying to work out how to create a badge for each so I have Googled and it might as well be written in Russian for all I understood. Will get to the bottom of it and let you all know what's coming soon.

Till then - mum's the word!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

JamiesItalian - Bon Appetito

We had been watching the hoardings with great interest in St Albans, the ones around The Old Bell pub saying that Jamie'sItalian restaurant was coming soon. The scheduled opening was Sunday 5th February 2012 but I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of the preview sessions for lunch the day before.  We paid for our meals but were given a 50% discount on the food since these preview sessions help the staff with their training. I asked my friend Ren Behan (a blogger with a great blog Fabulicious Food) to join me and we met at 1:00 pm ready for the Jamie experience.

I hadn't been to any other of Jamie Oliver's restaurants so I didn't have any pre-conceived ideas to cloud my judgement in any way.  I had never been inside the The Old Bell when it was a pub but have been told it was quite dark inside.

Jamie's Italian in St Albans is light and airy inside with plenty of tables (I believe it has about 160 covers) and the pace was fast and furious.  This was a training day which gives the staff a chance to go through their paces in readiness for the official opening.  They had similar sessions the couple of days before hand and Genarro Contaldo attended and even Jamie Oliver made a surprise visit on Friday. Too bad we missed him - it would have been lovely to meet.
Our waiter, Andy, was very keen and very knowlegable about the menu and the different ingredients and their origins.  We made our choices and sat back to take in the atmosphere.There was lots going on around us and all tables seemed to be full.  I liked the antipasto bar where all the starters are prepared underneath the high hanging hams and salamis.

We decided to have a carafe of house wine - a delightful and crisp chardonnay and proceeded to make our order.  I have never been that good at choice so it did take me a while to decide. 

Ren was quite keen to try the Bufatta Mozarella - this is made in one small village in Italy and has become so popular with chefs that the village is now struggling to keep up production!

I chose the crispy squid which is one of my favourites.  I must say that although the taste was good, it was not really that crispy.

On the main course menu I felt that chilli and lemon featured very strongly - I had the pasta with prochutto and lemon (I do love lemon which was handy) and it tasted fantastic but a bit dry for my liking.  I do like a bit of sauce.

Ren had the meatballs, which again was a bit dry for my preference but the taste and texture were both lovely.
We were feeling quite full up but thought for research purposed we should have pudding (that is my excuse anyway).  Ren had the chocolate brownie which was loaded with sauce, amaretti biscuits and fruit with a very nice home made vanilla ice cream.  ( I alway try the vanilla ice cream feeling that if they can get that right they can make any flavour!)
My pudding was a sort of Bakewell with peaches and a dollop of cream on top.  It was a lovely sponge pudding on a light base with a faint layer of jam.  There were large pieces of pieces of peach scattered through out and a good portion size.  I like to have something sweet but often it is too large and I end up eating it for the sake of it.
The overall presentation of the dishes was well presented and thought out.  We were very keen to look at the meals at the tables around us as well to get a better idea what was on offer.
The staff were keen to help but the overall service was quite slow.  I think however that you have to be a tad patient as this was a training effort.  I would hope that they tighten up on the service once they get into full swing.

Postscript: My friend Mandy went to the restaurant a week after the official opening and agreed with me that the food was lovely but said that the service was interminably slow.  Mandy said she had been talking to the waiter (who by description I think was Andy) and he said that they had two chefs walk out in the first week which is not a good thing.

I will go there again and look forward to some lovely food and hopefully better service!