I was delighted to be invited to another evening of Italian food by Brand Dialogue, who recently asked me to a Parmigiano-Reggiano event at Bocca di Lupo. This time we were to enjoy and celebrate Parma Ham. The event was held at the Good Housekeeping Institute Cookery School in Soho – and it sounded as if we were going to have to cook our supper!
As it turned out, we only had to do some cooking; the splendid main course – a Pork Wellington – had been prepared beforehand, although we were given a demonstration of the basic steps. But before any cooking was required, we were given glasses of prosecco and some gorgeous snacks – all featuring Parma Ham of course! There were delicious Parma Ham, Griddled Pear, Pecorino & Rockets Rolls (truly scrumptious) and tasty Parma Ham, Parmesan & Tapenade Palmiers.
Then the cooking began. We had to pair off and I was joined by the lovely Natalie who was there representing her father who writes The Hedonist blog as he was at another event. We were working backwards, making Vanilla & Clementine Pannacotta with Roasted Figs and Clementines Served with a Honey Glazed Parma Ham Crisp first so it had time to set. If this sounds difficult then it wasn’t for us as everything had been well prepared: first a demonstration by our tutors for the evening, Bridget and Chris.
When we got to our workstations, everything had been weighed out so all we had to do was follow instructions and put it together and put the pannacotta in the fridge to set. Later, at the end of the meal, Bridget demonstrated adding the garnishes – then we prepared our own and enjoyed eating them.
The Parma Ham crisp was a wonderful, a slightly salty contrast to the sweet cream and caramelised fruit.
Back to the beginning and while our dessert was setting in the fridge we made some soda bread – one of the quickest and easiest of breads to make – for a base for a bruschetta starter: Homemade Pumpkin Seed Soda Bread Bruschetta, Topped with Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnuts & Parma Ham. Bridget again showed us what to do first.
Everything had been weighed and prepared as before, so it was just a case of putting it all in a bowl and mixing, kneading a little at the end and shaping into a loaf, cutting two deep slices, as instructed, across the middle and dusting it in a little more flour.
These were put in the oven to bake for 30 minutes, then left to cool. This meant that we made our bruschettas to eat as the starter to our meal from slices of soda bread Chris had made earlier. Bridget demonstrated how to put it all together and then we did our own, sat down at a large dining table and ate.
They looked and tasted fabulous; a great combination of flavours. It was actually a very large starter and I commented that I’d happily eat just that for a light lunch or supper. It showed how versatile Parma Ham is, going so well on this open sandwich and combining perfectly with the sweet squash and fruit. Our own loaves were given to us at the end to take home.
We were shown how our main course was made too, a Pork Wellington: a fillet of pork with a mushroom duxelles topping, wrapped tightly in Parma Ham, then wrapped in puff pastry. Bridget decorated it with leftover pastry and glazed it with egg yolk.
When it was served to us for the main course of our meal it look so impressive.
It was served with roasted rosemary potatoes, red cabbage, roasted baby onions, jus and Parma Ham crisps.
It was really gorgeous – a fabulous treat! It’s quite a complex, time-consuming dish to prepare but the great thing about it is you can prepare it well ahead, even the day before, and so it makes it ideal for entertaining and of course particularly wonderful at Christmas.
It was a fantastic meal, served with excellent wines, and in the company of some great other food enthusiasts so no one was going to mind talking food all evening! It was also great to see how versatile Parma Ham is and how many ways you can use it.