spicy bacon cucumber and potato salad
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Gosh – this is spicy. Nice spicy, not just burning hot. I liked the idea of the bacon cucumber combo, courtesy of Ching-He Huang, and have been keen to try, only waiting for an opportune moment.
Which arrived last May in the shape of the new Jersey Royal potatoes. Ah, the Royals, one might almost become a monarchist… So lovely when they only just turn up, picked very small, the size of hazelnut almost, take hours to clean and scrub being so small, but the taste rewards the toil. Buttery, a little nutty, with the delicate skin barely coming off if you took care not scrubbing too much – frankly, you don’t need anything else to go with them bar a twist of salt and a touch of butter.
The bacon and cucumber salad on its own will make a great spicy snack or starter - I threw new potatoes in to a/ dampen the fire a bit and b/ make it into a main course. It turned out to be an excellent match, albeit veering into the fusion zone: potatoes with a Chinese salad? On the other hand apparently the Chinese are the number one consumer and number one producer of potatoes in the world - wonders never cease, has anyone ever seen a potato dish on a Chinese restaurant menu? No, me neither.
Fusion or not, I enjoyed the combination of fiery bacon, spiced but still cool cucumber and the soothing potatoes. The heat and flavour provided by dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorns is great – just make sure you have a window open when they first land in the wok as the spicy cloud of fumes will knock your socks off.
spicy bacon cucumber and potato saladServings: 4Time: 25 minutes
- 1 lb. Jersey Royal or other baby new potatoes
- 150g (6-8 rashers) thick cut smoked streaky bacon
- 1 tbsp. groundnut oil
- 6 long dried chilies
- 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 red chili, de-seeded, finely chopped
- 1-2 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 tbsp. rice vinegar or cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- 200g cucumber, halved lengthways, de-seeded and sliced into 1cm chunks on the diagonal
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 tbsp. chili oil, optional
- 1 small handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1.Scrub and wash the potatoes and boil them in plenty of salted water until tender - usually about 15 minutes. Drain and keep warm in the pan.
2.Cut the bacon into 1 inch chunks. Heat the wok until almost smoking and add the oil, the dried chilies and the Sichuan peppercorns - make sure you have a window open or the extractor working full blast as these fumes will be deadly. Stir fry to release the flavours and then add the star anise.
3.Add the bacon to the pan and cook stirring until it starts to brown around the edges. Stir in the chopped fresh chilli. Add the rice wine, the sesame oil and the vinegar, followed by the cucumber. Stir fry for a few seconds.
4.Take the wok off the heat and stir in the potatoes. Season with salt, drizzle with lime juice and chili oil, if more heat is desired. Divide between bowls or plates and top with chopped coriander.