|Summery ham hock salad – keep the BBQ in the shed!|
This is really pleasant. The sun is shining, which makes for a lovely evening, and as I write I’m sipping a chilled glass of white wine. It would appear that summer has finally arrived, albeit several months behind schedule. The smell of barbecues drifting through the open windows of Scrumptious Scran Towers confirms this.
Got to love a BBQ… Well yes and no. Done properly, they are great. Tastily marinated meat and fish, succulently cooked; chargrilled vegetable kebabs with squeaky haloumi cheese; and on the side, bowls of new potatoes coated in thick mayonnaise, chives and parsley. All shared by friends and family lounging around in a garden full of chat and laughter.
Enticing though this scene may seem, it isn’t always easily achieved. Forward planning is absolutely key to the success of a good barbecue. There’s the preparing of marinades, combined with the hours these take to work their wonder on the meat or fish of choice. Then there comes the stress of ensuring the charcoal is at just the right heat so that the fare that is on offer doesn’t get burnt to a crisp, or worse still, is revealed as being still raw in the middle when bitten into. Is it such a surprise then, that sometimes when the sun is shining I yearn for tasty, summery food this isn’t such high maintenance?
A great example of this is an appetising salad with smoked ham hock, and seasonal vegetables at its centre. The hock is cheap, and a good quality one – such as the one supplied by Simon Howie, which I used here – will provide all the smokey, meaty flavour you would normally expect from something cooked on a barbecue. All that has to be done to prepare the ham is pop it in a pan of simmering water for an hour and half and then shred the tender meat from the bone. Stress free lazing in the sunshine can ensue whilst this preparation takes place.
When ready, by mixing the hock with the salty-savouriness of green olives; the sweetness of tomatoes, beetroot and smokey, roast yellow pepper; and the spicy kick provided by radishes and red onion you will definitely achieve a winning taste combination. A salad isn’t a salad unless properly dressed, of course, and to accomplish this I douse the ingredients with a vinaigrette which mixes extra virgin olive oil with sherry and balsamic vinegar, and a good measure of grain mustard. Combining the two varieties of vinegar brings both acidity and sweetness to the dressing, which is then underlined by the gentle heat of the mustard grains.
The ham hock may take a little while to cook, but it can be left unattended once at a simmer, unlike meat on a barbecue, and the rest of the salad ingredients literally take a few minutes to prepare. What can be better than a great tasting, stress free dish that allows for plenty of lazing in the sunshine?
- 1 smoked ham hock, on the bone
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, grilled until the skin chars, skin removed and de-seeded
- 4 pre-cooked beetroot bulbs, roughly sliced
- 4-6 radishes, finely sliced
- 12 small tomatoes, halved
- 12 pitted green olives, rinsed
- 6-8 leaves of little gem lettuce, rinsed and roughly shredded
- 1tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2tsp sherry vinegar
- 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½tsp grain mustard
- Salt and pepper to season.
Preparation and cooking
- Place the ham hock in a large, lidded pan and cover with water. Bring the water to a simmer, and skim off any foam that rises to the surface, with a slotted spoon. Turn down the heat to low, place the lid on the pan and cook for around an hour and a half until the meat is “fall off the bone” tender.
- When the ham hock is cooked, remove from the pan to a plate, and allow it to cool before removing the skin together with any excess surface fat. Pull the meat off the bone and chop into smaller segments if necessary.
- Whilst the meat is cooling, grill a whole yellow pepper until all the skin becomes charred. Place in a freezer bag for a few minutes, which will allow the skin to be peeled away. Remove the stalk and seeds, but be sure to retain any juice from the pepper to add to the salad. Roughly slice the pepper flesh and place in a large salad bowl.
- Add the sliced beetroot, onion, radishes, tomatoes to the salad bowl, together with the whole olives and pieces of ham hock.
- In a small bowl, mix together the vinegars, oil and mustard – together with pepper and a small amount of salt (the olives and hock will add salt to the salad) – to form a smooth vinaigrette.
- Pour 2/3 of the vinaigrette onto the salad ingredients and mix to coat them well.
- Place the lettuce leaves on the serving plates, and pile the other salad ingredients on top of these. Pour over the remaining dressing and serve.