Thursday, 14 April 2011

... & peas & ham & peas etc

Food is Good is proud to present the second and concluding part of our Ham & Pea Adventure, or How We Got 4-5 Good Meals (or a significant part thereof) Out of Two Quid’s (£2) Worth of Ham Hocks.  Now read on…

Meal 3/4: Pea and ham soup

There are two distinct and very different types of pea and ham soup, although in the making of them they are all but identical.  Made with dried split peas (either in standard green or daring yellow) you get a traditional London Particular, a thick, hearty, winter warmer of a soup, while using fresh or (more likely, and considerably more convenient, and really every bit as good) frozen peas will result in a lighter, brighter, fresh and refreshing soup suitable for a spring or summer lunch (and particularly so with the addition of mint), and even servable as a chilled soup, as Becca and I had it for lunch this weekend just gone, out on the roof terrace in the blazing sunshine.  In the first half of April.  I’m not sure that’s right at all, but it’s not going to stop me enjoying it…

Minted Pea & Ham Soup

1l ham stock
1 onion finely chopped
250g fresh or frozen peas
a couple of sprigs of fresh, soft leafed thyme (optional)
a small handful of mint leaves

Making the soup is simplicity itself, and very quick.  It is, as I said above, essentially identical to the process for the split pea and ham soup I made with my Christmas leftovers, except even simpler and quicker in that there’s not even the question of having to soak the peas beforehand, and they cook as much as they need to in just a couple of minutes.

Start by finely chopping your onion and softening it in your pan with olive oil and a grind of pepper (no salt, there will almost certainly be enough residual saltiness in the stock, and if not you can add more at the end).  I added the stripped leaves from just a couple of sprigs of my growing thyme as well, but you don’t have to, and I would only recommend using the very freshest, youngest and softest of thyme leaves here, so if you have a pot growing, go ahead, if not don’t worry.  In a separate pan bring the stock to somewhere close to the boil.  When the onion’s soft add the peas, and the hot stock.  Bring to a gentle simmer for really just a couple minutes till the peas are done, then add a handful of shredded mint leaves.  Check the seasoning now.  Blitz with a blender till smooth.  Serve hot or chilled if the weather outside makes that appropriate, with a few shredded pieces of ham if you have any leftovers, or a decorative sprig of mint.

Meal 4/5: Jellied Ham and Pea Terrine, with Piccalilli.

This is my version of a trademark Mark Hix dish that was a menu staple at the Rivington in my day, which I was inspired to recreate not solely out of nostalgia (my memories of working in restaurant kitchens are not uniformly rose tinted ones…), or even just because it’s such a good way to use a ham hock and a little of its cooking liquor (which it certainly is), but by the lunch we’d just enjoyed so much at The George in Chideock, directly before stopping in at the farm shop where I found the hocks.  It was specifically, of course, the potted pork and, in particular, the piccalilli, that was so good it presented a challenge. 

Now my memories of making piccalilli at the Rivington are particularly unrosy.  Indeed I remember it as being an outstandingly arduous and unrewarding chore (among many such), and as a result, combined no doubt with the fact that until I had it at the George the other week I’d never really felt any particular affection for it as a pickle anyway, it was something that never crossed my mind to do at home.  As it turns out though, in domestic as opposed to the industrial quantities you have to prepare in a restaurant kitchen (and believe me, cooking industrial quantities of vinegar is not just arduous, but actively unpleasant), it is, far from being an arduous chore, actually remarkably easy to make.  Indeed it turns out to be much less work than a chutney of the kind I make regularly without even thinking about.  And right now, at the time of writing, and thanks to the good people at The George, it is undoubtedly my very favourite pickle of all…

Both these recipes are lifted more or less directly from Mark Hix’s British Food, adapted in the case of the terrine by my simple addition of peas and mint.  I’ll do the piccalilli first, although it seems like the secondary item, simply because otherwise you’ll likely do what I did and make the ham terrine first and then discover that you were meant to have made the piccalilli a week ago.  Don’t worry if you do, the terrine itself needs to be left in the fridge overnight before eating, and will keep in there for at least another three or four days, by which time the piccalilli will be more than edible, if not quite yet at its peak…

For one jar of Piccalilli (Ideally made a week ahead)

Half a medium cucumber (halved lengthways, deseeded and diced into roughly 1cm pieces)
¼ of a large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ an onion (peeled and chopped)
½ a tablespoon salt
75g caster sugar
1 heaped teaspoon English mustard powder (or a couple of ready mixed mustard)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
About an inch of fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped
75ml malt vinegar
75ml white wine vinegar
½ tablespoon cornflour
75ml water

Whether you peel your cucumber, or use red or yellow onions is purely an aesthetic decision, and entirely up to you. In each case, the dark green of the cucumber peel or the red onion will provide a contrast to the otherwise uniform yellow of the finished pickle. I peeled my cucumbers and used red onion, you could go with unpeeled cucumber and yellow onion, or go crazy and have both the dark green peel and the red of red onion, whatever rocks your boat.  The colour of the red onion does bleed a little though, rather like a rogue red sock in the wash, so your finished piccalilli will be rather more chrome yellow in tone than the bright cadmium that is familiar.

Put the cauliflower, cucumber and onion into a bowl, sprinkle with the salt and leave for an hour, then rinse well and drain.  Put all the other ingredients, apart from the cornflour and water, together in a saucepan, dissolving the turmeric and mustard and bring to a gentle simmer for three minutes.  Mix the cornflour with the water and whisk into the vinegar mix, then continue to simmer for a further five minutes.  Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables, stir together thoroughly and leave to cool. 

According to Mark, it should be left in the fridge for at least a week before eating (although impatience will probably always get the better of me), and sealed in a sterilised jar will keep in there for up to six months.  Good advice on sterilising jars, along with the original recipe can be found here

Jellied Ham & Pea Terrine

The meat from one ham hock (Loosely shredded, chopped into rough 1cm dice, or, as I prefer, a combination of both - minus a little previously used to garnish the risotto below and soup above)
350ml of the stock from cooking the hock
3 sheets gelatine
A small handful of cooked peas (about 50g)
A small handful of chopped parsley
A small handful of chopped mint

Put the three sheets of gelatine in cold water to soak. Then take 350 ml of your ham stock - if it looks scummy or cloudy skim and filter it through muslin - Bring it to the boil in a small saucepan, then remove from the heat.  Take the soaked gelatine sheets, squeeze out the excess water from them, dissolve them in the hot stock. And leave it to cool, but not set. 

In Mark’s original recipe he suggests putting the chopped parsley into the jelly mix, I preferred to mix that in with my ham, peas and mint in a mixing bowl.  I haven’t been specific about quantities for any of the green elements in this recipe, because I think you just add enough of each so the ratio of pink ham to green peas and herbs is aesthetically pleasing to you.

When the jelly mix is cooled but not set, pour a little over your ham, pea and herb mix in the bowl and stir it through then tip into your terrine dish (I use one of those lidded plastic Indian takeaway containers) and top up with the remaining jelly.  Cover with a lid or clingfilm and leave to set in the fridge overnight.

To serve, tip out onto a wooden board (you may need to dip your dish briefly in hot water to release it if you’re not using flexible plastic) and carve as best you can into thick slices (don’t worry if those slices just fall apart), to eat on thick slices of toast with the piccalilli on the side.  A delicious light lunch or perfect dinner party starter. 

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