Economy Gastronomy: Collar of Gammon

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.

A wise man indeed. And incidentally now published by Penguin.

A wise man indeed. And incidentally now published by Penguin.

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).

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

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.

The money shot.

The money shot.

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.

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Pheasant, liver and a rude awakening

A couple of Saturdays ago, I had made plans to have some of the chaps round for dinner. It would be an all male affair and I was keen that the food reflect this. Having watched Braveheart only a few days before (which unbelievably Laura, 26, had never seen), I could not think of a more suitable theme than Scottish.

I also wanted game to play a part. Another forbidden meat group during our midweek cooking, a dispute I often cry freedom from as I cut into yet another chicken breast.

It didn’t take me long to find the perfect recipe. One that I envisioned garnering sagely nods of approval in a dimly lit room, around a table strewn with empty glasses, heroic tales and half-baked banter.

Golden Pheasant & Chicken Liver Hash, with a Rack of Lamb and Pearl Barley Risotto

Golden Pheasant & Chicken Liver Hash, with a Rack of Lamb and Pearl Barley Risotto

It so happened that the Saturday coincided with us house hunting in East Dulwich so I took the opportunity to drop in on a butchers that I have often admired from afar but never actually been inside. William Rose Butchers on Lordship Lane.

Even though the queue was fairly sizeable (and having been back I realise now that it is every Saturday), to say I was not disappointed would be a serious understatement.

Can you spot the pale ghost of Lordship Lane?

Can you spot the pale ghost of Lordship Lane? (hint: its not the ginger kid)

Not only was the selection top drawer, the meat enticing and the produce all locally sourced but the real winner for me was the service. Incredibly helpful, friendly and (despite it being absolutely rammed) still very much up for a chat. Very different from our local butcher Moen & Sons that I’ve fallen out of love with over the two and a bit years I’ve lived in Clapham.

After some pootling around houses and down potential roads, we ducked into The Palmerston (top pub) for a swift half, me clutching my pound of flesh.

The food that evening I thought turned out rather well with the pearl barley risotto packing the surprise package. Creamy, cheesy and with a bit of al dente chew that tends to get lost a little in a lot of regular riced risottos when they are overdone even slightly.

Have to say the pheasant and liver hash with a twist of bitter marmalade at the end really reminded me that Christmas wasn’t far around the corner.

Piccalilli (no matter how delicious and homemade) does not go with cheese. Fact.

Piccalilli (no matter how delicious and homemade) does not go with cheese. Fact.

We finished the meal with a cheese board and a bottle of port (sure). I imagine this caused Dyson’s cursory nap minutes later in the lounge. It was a carbon copy of about a year ago when he fell asleep in exactly the same position and fell foul of exactly the same fate.

This is after having his mouth smeared by a chopstick covered with Pain 100% Hot Sauce. My favourite bit is when he tries to drink the candle…