Grizzled and warier from my last outing into the world of Economy Gastronomy, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. This time the pedigree of my bedrock ingredient would sing from the proverbial rooftops to all that would care listen!
And so I began my search, first punching in the number for our dear friends at William Rose Butchers to sound them out for their finest 2.5kg specimen. However, I was told in no uncertain terms (but incredibly friendly and polite, as is there way), that they didn’t stock uncooked collars of gammon. A tragic shame.
My hand was therefore forced into calling our not so dear friends at Moen Butchers for the same request. Again, I was told they do not carry this item in stock. I was informed that perhaps I was “better off trying one of the large supermarket stores”. Did I imagine a hint of a sneer accompanying that statement down the phone line? Possibly. Is the humble collar of gammon looked down upon by independent butchers en mass? It would appear so.
With my tail between my legs and the thoughts of a painstakingly reared ham diminishing fast, I scurried off to Sainsburys to salvage the situation. The best I could do in the end would be a £10 2kg Dutch unsmoked gammon. Smaller than I had in mind and certainly not as romantic. Paltry even, I thought as my mind flitted back to that blockbuster but ultimately hair-singing Brixton afternoon this summer past. The crackle of the skin over the open charcoal, the fatty smoke billowing out across the yard and the first bite of the flame-licked and juicy flesh still laced my senses. Staring down at the limp offering in my trolley, surrounded by bacon’s watchful eye, I felt a porcine sadness threaten to overwhelm me.
Fortunately, words of warning from my erudite lower sixth form English teacher, Dr.Greenhalgh, chose to materialise at this moment. “Beware the trappings of nostalgia, for it is a false emotion.” Steeled by this I pushed on to gather the rest of my ingredients.
The gammon, plus a variety of other ingredients, cost around £30 (same as the pumpkin) and yielded the following:
3 portions of Boiled Ham with Spinach Dumplings, Root Vegetables and a Grain Mustard Sauce (all eaten).
3 portions of Honey and Maple Glazed Ham with Cheesy Champ (all eaten).
4 portions of Spinach, Ham and Ricotta Gnocchi (2 eaten, 2 frozen)
And finally 2 absolutely belting ham sarnies with h0me-made bloomer bread.
All in all that’s 12 portions of food at roughly £2.50 a go. Not as good value-wise as the pumpkin bedrock, but still pretty amazing and cheaper than most ready meals that you would probably consider eating. With the remaining ham stock I also made about eight portions of freezable Sausage and Lentil Soup which was absolutely delicious. Lentil (or any pulse based soup) being the only option as ham stock is too salty and strong flavoured to use in most other ones.
However, the big question following the pumpkin was how did it taste? Did the £10 gammon stand its ground in the face of a thrice-time cooking? Definitely.
Everyone knows a glazed and baked ham is a treat of the highest order. That’s just a fact of life and I won’t waste both our time by preaching to the choir. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty and decadent the boiled ham dish turned out. Boiled meat is often something I turn away from, mainly due to the texture, but this was juicy and succulent. Plus the mustard spice sauce gave it that needed bite.
The ragu was the simplest of an already simple batch of recipes. I pretty much inhaled it and its frozen relations over subsequent nights. Indeed, coupling it with the leftover pumpkin risotto made me reach a Nirvana-esque level of smugness.
Laura’s faith is also restored. That is, at least for now.