Forkful's easy suppers: Apple and bacon salad
I love the changing of the seasons, but I particularly love when autumn starts to make itself known. It's such a subtle shift, that arrives faithfully every September. It's like clockwork, but every year it still feels like a pleasant surprise. It's a dip in the temperature and a change in the light, as the sun starts to reflect on autumnal tones of reds and browns.
This shift can always be felt in our kitchens, too, and the best kind of cooking is the kind that reflects the seasons. Words like local and seasonal have become marketing buzzwords, but when you really connect to their core meaning, it can make for truly special moments. Not every meal I make for myself reflects these values - sometimes life is too busy for local and seasonal - but I make an effort to keep in touch with the seasons. Because when you connect to autumn in both your meal and your pace, you can feel like you've reconnected with the natural rhythm of life, and that's a magical feeling.
See? I get fiercely wistful as autumn approaches! It makes me dreamy and slow, and this week I've put that effort into my supper. It's still speedy as ever, but with the apples and hazelnuts, this salad is a decidedly autumnal treat.
On my best day, I'd be using apples from David Llewellyn's Orchard in North County Dublin (llewellynsorchard.ie) and hazelnuts from Hell's Kettle Farm in County Wicklow (hellskettle.ie).
To suitably accompany these special apples and hazelnuts, I'd use really good bacon from the organic Coolanowle Farm Butcher (coolanowle.com), based in County Laois. They also have a stall in the Green Door Market in Dublin 8.
We really do autumn well in Ireland. Let's try to make the most of it.
Apple and bacon salad
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
4 rashers of really good streaky bacon
1 large handful of hazelnuts
Large handful of green beans
2 tablespoons of Irish rapeseed oil
Half a tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Half a tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of runny honey
1 crisp red apple
Sourdough bread, to serve
1. Start by cooking your bacon rashers in a hot frying pan with a little oil. Cook until beautifully crisp, about 10 minutes in the hot pan. Remove from the heat and let them sit on kitchen paper towel to absorb some of the excess grease.
2. Roughly chop your hazelnuts. In a dry frying pan, toast the hazelnut shards over a medium heat until well toasted but not burnt. Set aside.
3. Move on to your green beans. Use a sharp knife to top and tail them so they have tidy ends. Place them in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes, no more, so they maintain a lovely crunchy bite. Drain the water and trainsfer the green beans to a large mixing bowl, and let them cool completely.
4. While your green beans are cooling, you can make your dressing by mixing together your rapeseed oil, red wine vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the dressing, to taste.
5. Next, remove the core of your apple and then slice into pieces. I've done mine in thin matchstick strips, which I think looks rather nice. Once the green beans are cold and you've added your apples to the mixing bowl, add in the dressing.
6. Assemble your salads by dividing the green beans and apples onto two plates. Top with a sprinkling of the chopped hazelnuts. Slice the yummy bacon into chunks and add to the salad. If you had some to hand, a bit of blue cheese would be lovely in this salad too. Serve with some good toasted sourdough bread on the side.
This week's store cupboard essential:
Rapeseed Oil: We're getting spoiled for choice when it comes to Irish rapeseed oil, with some marvellous farms around the island producing liquid gold. One of my current favourites is Broighter Gold rapeseed oil from Limavady in Northern Ireland. Find them on broightergold.co.uk.