Monday 4 December 2017

Ham hock terrine (and pea and ham soup)

I'm really not very good at blogging. The actual writing bit I can manage, and the photography is improving, but, but, but, the social interfacing, the digital glad handing, the brand building... I'm woeful at. Other food bloggers match their writing to major events; so you'll get a build up to Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's, Easter, summer... Others, remembering that blogs are international and their readers aren't confined to Palmers Green, will include events from other populous parts of the world so they'll feature festivals such as Thanksgiving, the World Cup or Diwali. Not me.

But no more! Here's my dish to celebrate National Finland Day. December 6th. 100 years a country. Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää, Suomi!

No not really.

It is just by chance that I have recently made a dish that is perfect for Boxing day so I could pretend this is part of some advent recipe scheme. It's not. I wish. In fact, the next blog will be about a cucumber gel. About as Christmassy as flip flops.

Ham hock is a very popular, very cheap and very flavoursome joint of pork; even more so if it's smoked. Given the choice I prefer most things smoked. Apart from my house. Although Etien may disagree there. Very often when I'm enthusing with a skillet, he'll come in coughing conspicuously, turn the extractor to full and leave with a sanctimonious look skywards and a door slam. He's 17 now so obviously he is beyond reproach.

Making a terrine of the ham hock gives you a delicious, handy food item that can be left in the fridge and sliced as needed. Just dandy for that hungover December 26th dinner. Two hocks will cost about a tenner and serve 10-12 people.

It is a time consuming process but most of that time the pork is doing the work, not you. You will need a tin of some form but there is no reason why a terrine need be a long oblong. Go mad and make it circular.

There is a side benefit too. As part of the hock prep, you'll end up with a couple of litres of hock stock (ha). Boil this up with some frozen peas and you have a brilliant, next-to-no-cost pea and ham soup of a colour that will amaze your eyes.

A warning though: you will need some pig feet and these are only available from a butcher. My family seem to have an inexplicable revulsion to pig's toes. I know not why. But they will run out of the kitchen if I come at them brandishing a trotter. It's bizarre really because the hock is just the back of the foot really; the ankle.

Ham Hock Terrine.
Serves 10-12

From yoour butcher buy two ham hocks (smoked or not) and two trotters. Get the butcher to split the trotters. Small children will love inspecting the insides of the feet. Teenagers and adults will run away crying 'ew, ew, ew'.

In a large pot with plenty of water, bring the hocks of the feet to the boil. Skim scum. Boil for about ten minutes and then pour away the water. No, they're not cooked. That was merely the wash boil. Now replace the porky doings in the pot and add: a bottle of white wine, four tablespoons of cider or white wine vinegar, a handful of peppercorns, a couple of sticks of chopped celery, two bay leaves and a bunch of thymeparsley and rosemary. Top up the pot with cold water to cover the hocks and feet.

Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of hours, scum skimming occasionally. You'll know when the hams are done because the bones will be mobile. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the liquor. 

You're scum you are!
Now remove the hocks from the liquor. Keep the stock but throw away the trotters, or give to a delighted dog. Unwrap the hock skin and fat and pull out the bones. Pick the meat apart into nuggets, cleaning off any white fat.

Taste the cool ham stock. Hopefully not too salty. It should be flavoursome. This will be your terrine jelly. Take a litre, strain though a sieve, and add about 6g (a packet) of veggie-gelatine. It's actually agar agar. It's in the home baking section of the supermarket. I've found the ham stock by itself doesn't have enough gelatine to set properly. You could reduce the stock of course but that risks rendering it sea water salty. Whisk in the agar agar and bring to the boil for a few minutes. Allow to cool.

This makes quite a gentle jelly. I wanted a slippery mouth feel. I don't want rubbery. If you do. Add twice the amount of agar agar.

In a bowl, mix your ham pieces with a big handful of chopped parsley and a tablespoon of capers. You could also add small pieces of apple and/or cornichon. I didn't as I was serving mine with a pickled apple salad. Taste. Add some pepper maybe but no salt. Remember your stock is fairly salty.

This was my first terrine. The one that was tricky to cut. Lay your pieces across not along.

Line your terrine tin (bowl, tray, whatever) with two layers of cling film allowing a serious amount of overlap to cover the top of the terrine. Fill it full of the ham mix. I recommend lying the pieces sideways (parallel to the ends) rather than lengthways  This makes it much easier to cut, especially if, like me, you're after neat slices. Press the meat down firmly. Now pour in the agar agar stock to just cover the meat. Bang the terrine on the work surface to ensure the liquid fills every crevice. Cover with the cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Now it's ready to serve. Carefully turn out onto a board, remove the film and slice.

I served mine with some warm pease pudding (blog coming soon) and a pickled apple salad, which is one of the finest things I've ever come up with. It works brilliantly with pork.

And finally. You'll have a couple of litres probably of the ham stock. To make a startlingly tasty soup, strain the stock, add a kilo of frozen peas and bring to the boil. Simmer for no more than two minutes. Liquidise. Season. You know pea and ham soup is so often this dreary cardboard colour. Nuh huh. Not this. This is the colour of bright peas.

If you have some small pieces of the meat, so much the better. You could always add some bits of cooked bacon or pancetta, some chopped mint or a blob of creme fraiche. Free soup! For the day after boxing day.


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