Hello! Hope you’ve all been enjoying the sunshine!
Tonight I have my parents coming to dinner. Yesterday I had the usual Saturday things to do, wash car, mow lawns, dry washing etc. Leann and I had been invited to a party in the evening, which I wasn’t able to go to after drawing the short straw when the babysitter cancelled. And today I was mountain biking so I thought I’d better organise something fairly easy to serve with the bulk of the preparation done well in advance.
A terrine of ham hock is the perfect starter to prepare the day (or even a few days) before the event. This involves blanching a couple of ham hocks and then simmering them slowly for two to three hours. While simmering, I like to add some onions, carrots, celery and herbs to make a fantastic ham stock – perfect for the base of a Minestrone soup! As soon as the ham hock meat is beginning to fall from the bone, take them out of the stock and keep them to the side until they’re cool enough to handle. While they’re cooling, turn the stock up to a fast boil to reduce it by half. When you’re able to handle the ham hocks, strip any skin, fat, sinew and bone away from the meat and discard. Then cut the remaining meat up into varying sized chunks. Put this in a bowl and add any flavourings that you enjoy with ham. I like to add finely diced shallots, coarsely ground yellow mustard seeds and lots of chopped fresh parsley. Mix all of this together and add a good couple of ladles of the reduced stock. Mix this together again and put the mixture into a terrine or loaf tin, level the top surface and chill overnight. The following day, loosen the sides of the terrine and turn out onto a chopping board, slice and serve with some good toast and piccalilli!
For main course, we’re having Spaghetti Bolognese, which I made following the same principles as for Chilli Con Carne (see earlier blog post) but with different seasoning. I made the Bolognese sauce yesterday and used a blend of freshly ground fennel seeds, a touch of freshly ground chilli flakes and a couple of ground star anise seeds. I have found that the star anise really helps to bring out the flavour of the beef. As with many stewed meat type recipes, Bolognese sauce is better the following day and is very easy to serve, in that all I’ll need to do is cook the spaghetti and shave some Parmesan.
For dessert, I’ve made a vanilla fudge cheesecake. This is one that I’ve adapted from a New York cheesecake recipe. Earlier this week, I made some biscuits from Marcus Wareing’s Nutmeg & Custard book, I’ve found that almost every recipe in this book is slightly (sometimes massively) out in terms of ingredient quantities and I ended up with quite a few bits of biscuit left over which were begging to be made into a cheesecake base! On the same day I’d made a batch of vanilla fudge, which I always get off-cuts from when cutting the slab into fancy diamond shapes. So, these off-cuts were quickly cut into bite sized chunks and arranged (dropped) into the cheesecake topping before baking. This will be served with pieces of caramelised banana.
So, that’s it! Nice and easy! A well prepared, easy to serve dinner party! What are you waiting for?
Thanks for reading and I’ll let you know how all three courses were in my next post…..