Ham hock terrine

This article first appeared in the Wells Journal on Thursday 23 January 2014.

ham hock terrine

One day I would like to own my own pig; one day when I’m all grown up and have a vast enough garden, so I can fence off an entire section for the pig to churn up. Oh, and a house big enough to accommodate a huge chest freezer too.

I like the idea of keeping a pig for home-reared pork and bacon. I’d love to learn about butchery and making my own ham and sausages, as well as having a go at things like chorizo or salami.

It’s a bit of a romantic ‘good life’ idea, I know, but the pig is an incredible beast when it comes to providing meat. I don’t think there’s any part of the animal you can’t eat; nothing gets thrown away. How’s that for good value?

Of course, nose-to-tail eating is rather trendy these days, but it’s a good trend. As Fergus Henderson, author of ‘The Whole Beast’ says,

“If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”

For now I must rely on my local butcher as my source of free range pork, and I enjoy exploring and cooking with different parts of the animal. I have yet to try the trotter but I am extremely partial to pig cheek, which is cheap as chips.

The first time I asked my butcher for cheek, a few years back, I came home with a couple of sections of pig head, complete with parts of an ear and snout. Thank goodness I’m not a particularly sensitive type, as it took quite a lot of hacking to extract the cheek. I’ve now learned to ask the butcher to trim it down for me.

Ham hock or knuckle is another cheap cut. It has a wonderful flavour and a little goes a long way. Plus when the hock is cooked, you’re left with a delicious stock which makes the perfect base for a soup.

Ham hock terrine is one of our favourite dishes. Whenever we have family gatherings where we are asked to contribute one of the courses, this terrine is what we normally turn up with. It’s a lovely starter served with homemade piccalilli (I followed Mark Hix’s simple recipe, which is very good) and a few leaves, or try it with crusty bread for a delicious light lunch.

ham hock terrine

Ham hock terrine

Serves 10

2 ham hocks, about 1kg each
2 carrots, halved
2 celery sticks
1 onion, peeled and halved
handful peppercorns
2 large handfuls fresh parsley, roughly chopped
170g jar cornichons (baby gherkins), roughly chopped
2 gelatine leaves

Place the ham hock into a large pan, with the carrots, celery, onion and peppercorns. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3 hours until tender. Take the ham out of the pan and set aside. Leave the stock to cool.

Wet the inside of a 900g loaf tin and carefully line with three layers of cling film. Make sure you leave excess cling film overhanging.

When the ham is cold, pull the meat off the bone and tear into strips into a large bowl. Discard the fat. Add the parsley and cornichons to the ham and combine. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin.

Soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Pour 300ml of the stock into a saucepan, warm through and remove from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeeze out the water and place in the cooking stock. Gently stir until melted and leave to cool.

Carefully pour the gelatine and stock into the tin. Wrap the overhanging cling film over to seal the terrine.

Cut some card large to just cover the terrine and wrap in foil. Place on top of the sealed terrine, and wrap the whole thing in more cling film. Set overnight in the fridge.

Use a sharp knife to cut the terrine into thick slices and serve with a simple rocket and spinach salad and a generous dollop of piccalilli.

Egyptian dukkah spice mix

Dukkah with bread oil and vinegar

I discovered the delights of dukkah not so long ago at a great little pop-up restaurant in Frome called The High Pavement Evening Cafe, which I was rather excited to see will re-open later this year. Also written duqqa or dukka, this spicy Egyptian side dish consists of nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, toasted and then crushed up together to create something so simple and yet so incredibly delicious. I’m amazed I haven’t come across it before.

It was served to us at the start of our meal at The High Pavement as an accompaniment to bread alongside oil and vinegar. I was instantly hooked. When I tried making it myself at the weekend, I served it the same way. Homemade bread dipped in oil, then vinegar and then dukkah is just so, so good.

bread with dukkah

Admittedly I made it a little too spicy for the children and they weren’t impressed at all. Next time I’ll go a little easier on the paprika and perhaps they’ll get into it too. It is perfect finger food after all. But my husband and I got well and truly stuck in.

I found a hundred and one different ways to make dukkah on the internet; it seems to be the kind of dish you can play around with – lots. According to Wikipedia it’s typically made with hazelnuts but I didn’t happen to have any of those, so I went with almonds and walnuts. But you could use pistachio or just about any other type of nut you fancy really.


Similarly there are a hundred and one different ways to use dukkah. Sprinkle it onto salads and soups, over hummus and soured cream, use it as a crust for fish or a rub for meat, or as a topping for flat breads. I took some to work in my packed lunch the other day, bringing to life an otherwise boring cheese roll. It is very versatile.


40g chopped almonds
40g walnut pieces
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp white mustard seeds
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1½ tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika (you may wish to adjust if serving to children)

Dry fry the almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds in a hot frying pan until they just begin to turn a darker, golden colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In the same pan, toast the fennel seeds for half a minute, then add the cumin seeds and toast for a further 30 seconds. Pour these into a bowl, separate from the nuts and sunflower seeds.

Next add the mustard and coriander seeds to the pan and toast for a minute or so, before tipping into another bowl.

Reduce the heat a little and toast the sesame and caraway seeds until the sesame starts to change colour. Place in yet another bowl.

Crush the fennel and cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar, before placing in an electric grinder along with the almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds. Give them a quick whizz until you achieve a rough crumb texture and then pour into a bowl.

Lightly crush the mustard and coriander seeds in the pestle and mortar and add these to the dukkah bowl, followed by the sesame and caraway. Season with the salt and paprika (go easy if you have kids) and mix well.

There it is – you’re done. So, how will you eat yours?

I served mine in my gorgeous Brabantia dip servers, part of the fantastic prize I won last year at the MAD Blog Awards.


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Haricot bean and garlic dip
Haricot bean and garlic dip
Spicy Indian-style dips
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Middle Eastern chicken salad with hummus dressing

Celery and blue cheese soup with crispy smoked pancetta

I think celery is a wonderful ingredient for soup. It can seem on the surface a bit of a nothingy vegetable; great for adding a bit of crunch to a salad but not particularly interesting in its own right.

Don’t get me wrong. I love celery in a salad but it is usually a bit part player.

But when cooked, it is transformed. The flavour deepens and intensifies. And combined as in this soup with the saltiness of smoked pancetta and a strong blue cheese, such as a Stilton or Blue Vinney, I really don’t think you can achieve much more pleasure in a bowl of food than this.

I make my celery soup with chicken stock plus a sprinkling of crispy pancetta to serve, but for a vegetarian version simply leave out the pancetta and use vegetables stock instead.

This is a perfect soup for a light but indulgent lunch and is also interesting enough for a starter when you have friends over for dinner. Its taste belies how simple it is to make. My children will eat it quite happily, but only if I omit to tell them there is any blue cheese in it.

Celery and blue cheese soup with crispy smoked pancetta

Serves 4

Large knob of butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
5 large sticks of celery, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
800ml chicken stock, hot
75g blue cheese
50g pancetta, diced

In a large pan melt the butter and gently fry the onions until golden. Add the celery and potatoes and toss in the butter for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the hot stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the celery and potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile fry the pancetta in a little more butter until crispy. Place on some kitchen towel so they are not too greasy.

Liquidise until smooth and then return to a gentle heat. Crumble in the blue cheese and stir until it has melted in. Check for seasoning at this point, but I’d be surprised if you need any.

Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of crispy pancetta. Soup doesn’t get sexier than this!