Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ham in Parsley Jelly

I had this great idea for lunches this week, Ham in a Parsley Jelly - Jambon Persille as it is known in France. Seemed perfect because the weather is finally properly baking hot and I liked the idea of a cool and slippery jelly with crisp fresh salad - an ideal match on a hot day.

It started so well. I bought a beautiful hock, about a kilo and a half in weight, from Sillfield Farm for £2.95 and, for 40p, a pig's trotter from Ginger Pig to guarantee a properly gelatinous stock. I was aiming for elegant but it wasn't going to be expensive. Added some parsley stalks and a few other aromatics, cooked it to perfection, set it overnight and turned it out to cut slices to put into our lunch boxes. Up to this moment it all went entirely according to plan. Then as I sliced it the jelly resisted, then wobbled and finally gave way, collapsing into a shiny little mountain of ham and parsley and jelly. Disappointed but undeterred, I spooned it into the tubs and then added crunchy sugar snaps, baby plum tomatoes, sliced rounds of carrot and cucumber and a generous spoonful of herbed cannelini beans. It looked lovely with the bright shiny rainbow of green, red, orange and white vegetables nestled against the ham. All was not lost.

But I hadn't factored in that hot bus ride from hell between home and work. It's slow at the best of times around Monument and Bank and with the heat - because of the heat? - it was slower than usual. And about 10 degrees hotter on the bus than on the street even with all the windows open because of course the heating was on because they can't turn it off which is something that really is beyond comprehension.

By the time I got in lunch was soup.

Popped it in the fridge and hoped for the best. By 1 o'clock it had reset, all the salad vegetables caught in the pale lake of jelly, flecked with parsley and herbs. It looked like a freeze frame or a still life - Disaster Following perhaps. But it tasted great - the juxtaposition of crisp and soft and cool was wonderful, everything I had hoped for when I planned this as lunch. So good in fact I will make it again - just with different expectations on what it will look like.

Ham in Parsley Jelly

1 unsmoked ham hock
1 pig's trotter, ask the butcher to split it for you
6 parlsey stalks
1 onion, peeled and halved and stuck with 4 cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 large sprig of thyme
5 tbspns chopped flat leaf parsley
300ml dry white wine

Put all the ingredients, except the chopped parsley into a large stockpot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that forms, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for about 90 minutes until the ham is cooked. Put the hock onto a plate and cover till it's cool enough to handle. Strain the stock into a bowl and refrigerate until any fat separates and sets on the surface. Discard the aromatics and the trotter.

Strip the meat from the bone and rip into small pieces. Mix with the chopped parsley and put it into a jelly mould or loaf tin that has been lined with cling film. Scrape any fat from the top of stock, then warm the stock again till it is all liquid and pour it over the meat to cover entirely. Refrigerate overnight. Next day, turn out the ham using the clingfilm and slcie to serve.

I think my mistake may have been to fill the container completely with stock even though the meat/herb mix only filled two thirds of the tin. It may have held together better if it had been denser all the way through. The collapse is really only a visual disaster - the flavour is fine!

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