Thursday, June 28, 2012
Last week I bought a chicken from the Ginger Pig. Amazing thing, a cockerel that lived for one hundred days (most chickens get 65 max) that I poached with leeks and served with butterbeans then salad the next day and the stock enriched barley the day after for a salad with edamame and chilli. It cost about £18 and it was very special.
This week I dropped into Greensmiths for something unrelated and the Ginger Pig counter had a veritable mountain of smoked ham hocks atop it, a delicately scented golden jumble, just delivered. Three pounds each - seriously, only three of your finest British pounds. For the life of me I could not resist. No plan, no idea even - indeed it didn't actually occur to me to wonder till I was home whether it needed cooking....
A quick google suggested it might. I soaked it overnight in cold water, then poached it gently next morning for a couple of hours with onion, celery and juniper till the meat was literally falling off the bone. I flaked it into sizeable chunks, discarded the skin and all the fat that I didn't eat (warm lightly smoked pork fat, in small quantities, is definitely one of my cook's treats). Truth to tell, even at this point, I didn't really know what dinner would be.
Took myself to Brixton to do a few things and, wandering past one of the veg stalls in the market, caught the honeyed waft of peaches. A real scent of summer, the peaches are sweet but not sugary with a slight resistance to the bite before they give up their golden flesh, I just love them. I wandered on with that lovely perfume in my head, collecting a couple of things I needed. The peaches lingered - I could suddenly taste them with the smoky hock, crisp peach with tender pork, juices mingling. Once I started on that flavour track there was no stopping me - I imagined salty threadsof finely grated ricotta salata, big fat butterbeans for ballast and a mish mash of baby salad bits for air, flecks of parsley for bite.
Smoked Ham Hock, Peach and Butterbean Salad
I used fresh ingredients for this but you could certainly sub the ham with thick slices from the deli and butterbeans thoroughly washed from a tin for a spectacularly quick and pretty salad.
2 large handfuls of salad leaves
200g cooked ham hock, smoked is nice
150g cooked butterbeans
2 ripe peaches, stoned and elegantly sliced
1 tbspn flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbspns olive oil
1 tbspn lemon juice
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbspns ricotta salata, finely grated (use Pecorino or Parmesan if you can't get salted ricotta)
Make a dressing with the oil and lemon and season. Put the salad leaves into a large bowl and toss with most of the dressing. Add the ham, butterbeans, peaches and parsley and the rest of the dressing and toss gently with your hands. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
And that literallly is all you do for a *peach* of a summer salad. And a total bargain!