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Saturday 4 December 2010

Margherita plus... M&S Festive Spiced Streaky Bacon

While I love pizza, I am a conscientious objector to the Margherita. I mean, honestly, what's the point? It's a pizza without any topping (no, cheese is not a topping, it's the default state - one may have extra cheese, but the presence of some cheese is a given). It's pizza for people who don't like pizza.

But it's also an excellent starting point. And, with this Blog going experimental with baking, it was surely only a matter of time before I had the epiphany that led to adding my own choice of toppings to the humble Margherita.

And what better way to begin, as ye Festive Season approacheth, than with Marks & Spencer Festive Spiced Streaky Bacon? The label describes it thusly: "With festive spices of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg. Perfect for laying over turkeys or as part of Boxing Day breakfast". While I might query the grammar of the description (spices of? Really M&S?), I cannot deny its veracity. It seems to have been prepared in much the same way as yer average breaded ham - a great chunk of meat is coated, then sliced finely - in that the festive spices appear as but a thin layer around the edge of the bacon. Fret not, however, as the flavour suggests a slightly more extensive form of seasoning once the bacon is cooked.

And, yes, I'd sampled the bacon prior to this pizza experiment. A couple of slices made it into an all-day breakfast I'd prepared the night before. I normally steer clear of streaky bacon just because the proportions of meat to fat are damn near 50:50, and I prefer my meat to have more... well... meat. But the description piqued my curiosity, and I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

Hey, don't knock it - first, I may be experimenting with food, but I ain't stupid; second, the sampling of festive bacon actually helped to inspire this pizza.

Come on now, do I really need to list the ingredients? Oh, why not? Let's get specific...

  • 1 Pizza Express Margherita (shop's own brands would do, but a trusted brand in pizza is preferable)
  • 4-5 Rashers M&S Festive Spiced Streaky Bacon
  • Nothing Else. Really. Move Along, Please.
Preparation Time: Approx 14 minutes

Tools Required:
  • Oh, Good Grief. Really?
  • Alright, then... A Pizza Slice. Or a Knife, if you prefer.
How specific do I need to get here? Preheat the oven to 190degrees. Open the Pizza Express Margherita box, remove it from its plastic wrap. Lay out 4 or 5 rashers of the bacon across the pizza, then place the pizza into the oven - being careful to separate the pizza from its polystyrene base beforehand - and cook for about 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve when fully cooked.

Did I miss anything? I don't think so... but, hey, let me know if there are any glaring omissions (such as "use oven gloves and exercise caution when placing the pizza in the oven and when removing it. The oven will be hot"... Except I guess I just covered that one...).

See how quick that was, both in preparation time and cooking?

The Results:
Well, lesson #1 in 'How to Make a Margherita Less Boring' was both simple and very successful. Normal bacon can be a little sharp and salty for adding to even the barest of pizzas - the oil from the cheese and the fat from the bacon would tend to make it rather unpleasantly slimey, which is why bacon normally appears on pizza in tiny chunks. This stuff, meanwhile, is subtle of flavour... not especially salty, and the spices serve both to bring out its flavour and supplement it. The effect, upon a pizza as otherwise bland as the Margherita, is nothing short of stunning.

On the downside, even having given this the full, recommended 14 minutes of cooking time, the bacon remained a little underdone for my taste: I prefer the fat to be fairly crispy, and some of it was still positively moist. Breaking the habit of a lifetime, I did not permit this to deter me... and I very much enjoyed this little upgrade.

I do feel, however, that I should apologise for having basically created The Christmas Pizza... I mean, all you'd need to do is add a few choice cuts of turkey, some sliced cocktail sausage and a touch of cranberry sauce, and you're right there.

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