Month: March 2012

Cider-cured ham

Simple, classic and, with the addition of cider, incredibly tasty. Surprisingly easy to prepare, a home-cured ham is a satisfying and low-cost alternative to a roast joint. Start curing this weekend to be ready to serve for Easter next weekend. Any leftover ham can be used to make lots of other dishes; soups, sandwiches, salads, omelettes, risotto, tarts, pasta sauces, pie fillings etc.

I saw a recipe in The River Cottage Meat Book for cider-cured ham and adapted it, with helpful advice from Vincent Castellano and Steve from Buxton Butchers, to serve at the Spring Cider Dinner last weekend. I used curing salt (with added saltpetre), which is optional but helps to keep the meat pink, and Ben Crossman’s Farmhouse cider (from Bristol Cider Shop) in the brine but any good quality still farmhouse-style cider will do. I used a whole leg of locally reared free-range Gloucester Old Spot pork and cured in 10 litres of brine for a week. This easily fed 18 people with plenty to spare. Depending on how many people you are planning to feed, buy a suitably sized joint of pork and adjust the recipe for the brine accordingly, ie. for every kilo of meat you will need about a litre of brine.

For 8-12 people

Half leg of pork (4-5kgs), on or off the bone (boned will cure quicker and is easier to carve).

Brine (5 litres);

375g salt, 1 litre cider, 1 litre apple juice, 3 litres water, 125g demerara sugar, 2g juniper berries, 5g black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1g cloves

Bring the water, sugar and spices/bay to the boil, stir in the salt, bring back to the boil to dissolve then remove from the heat. Add the apple juice and cider when cooled slightly. leave to cool completely before immersing the pork joint. Store in a sealed non-metal container in the fridge for a week, turning occasionally if necessary.

The day before you plan to serve the ham remove from the brine, rinse with cold water (no need to soak with this recipe) and place in a saucepan with a carrot, bay leaf, onion, stick of celery, sprig of thyme, a few peppercorns and a handful of parsley stalks. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Remove any scum that comes to the surface and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 4-5 hours. Remove the ham and cool slightly. Pass the stock through a sieve and reserve to use in sauces or soups.

Preheat the oven to 180c, remove the skin of the ham and rub in a mixture of honey and whole grain mustard all over. Roast for about an hour until the ham is golden and sticky.

Serve while it’s hot with parsley sauce, buttered potatoes and greens, or any way you like. Enjoy with real cider!

Here’s a link to the River Cottage recipe, Hugh waxes lyrical about ham which is sure to inspire you and get your taste buds tingling



Rhubarb and blood orange cheesecake

Spring is here and that means rhubarb time! I love the stuff, particularly when paired with orange. Here’s a quick and easy little dessert recipe perfect for a BBQ, picnic or dinner party. I served this at one of my supper evenings recently.




Makes 4-6 portions.

Oat digestives (or use shop bought);

65g soft butter, 65g plain flour, 65g oatmeal, 50g soft brown sugar, 1/2 tsp baking powder, a little milk to bind.

Rub butter into the flour, oatmeal, sugar & baking powder until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough milk, a little at a time, to bind the mixture and form a sticky dough.

Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge to firm up a bit.

Preheat the oven to 180c, roll out the dough & cut into rounds.

Lay on lined baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes.

When cool, crumble up, Mix with a little melted butter to bind and press into the bottom of a lined cake tin or sprinkle into the bottom of glasses, see pic.

Cheesecake filling;

165g cream cheese, 100ml double cream, 50g caster sugar, 10g egg yolk, zest and juice of a blood orange, a shot of Cointreau (or other orange liqueur).

Beat the cream cheese until soft. Add the sugar and egg yolk and mix in. Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in. Add the zest and juice of orange and liqueur and fold in.

Spoon or pipe onto the biscuit base. Leave to set in the fridge.

Rhubarb topping;

Chop a stick or two of rhubarb into chunks and arrange in an oven dish.

Sprinkle with caster sugar.

Segment 2-3 blood oranges and set aside. Squeeze any excess juice onto the rhubarb. (If you have any grenadine to hand, drizzle a little over too.)

Bake the rhubarb at 175c until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Leave to cool.

Strain the rhubarb in a fine colander or sieve, collect the juice to make the jelly.

Arrange the rhubarb compote on top of the cheesecake filling, followed by the blood orange segments.

Dissolve gelatine in the rhubarb juice (Measure the amount of juice collected and follow instructions on the packet accordingly).

Pour the cool, but not set, jelly onto the cheesecake and pop in the fridge to set.


My first encounter with feijoada, regarded as the national dish of Brazil, came when I was working at Bocanova back in 2004. I have fond memories of curiously watching this dish being prepared, curing the pieces of pork, the long, slow simmering of the beans, right down to the toasting of the farofa to sprinkle on top.

This curing process, at first a necessary way to preserve pieces of meat until enough was accumulated, has now become a tradition that is considered imperative for an authentic tasting feijoada. The Brazilians I know take this very seriously, as an important piece of their cultural heritage, much like other nations with their national dishes, and serve it with love and pride. Cooking and serving a feijoada becomes an occasion, an excuse to get a rabble of friends and family together as this is a simple peasant dish meant to be made in ample quantities and shared with loved ones. Food being an important way to express love, in my opinion (which is probably why I became a chef in the first place), one can use it to celebrate the event of getting together, and also motive to do so.

Lovingly prepared and lovingly shared, just how food should be.

I haven’t actually ever been to Brazil myself but I was taught this by Brazilians, who all shared their own feijoada experiences with great enthusiasm. Try it for yourself, it’s great fun to make and even more fun to share with a group of friends and a big jug of caipirinhas!

Add as many different meats as you like: pig’s ears, tongue, tail, ribs, trotters, belly, shoulder, gammon, hock, sausages, chorizo, morcilla, black pudding, pancetta, salt beef or pork and any other cured meats, whatever you can get hold of or have to hand. I recommend Source in St. Nicholas market and Castellano’s (at Bristol Farmers’ market every Wednesday) for raw and cured meats to use in your feijoada. If you don’t wish to ‘go the whole hog’ just use pork belly and/or shoulder and sausages to simplify the preparation process.

To make enough for about 10 people;

NB. Allow at least 5 hours cooking time, a day to soak the beans and up to a week to cure the meats. It is best cooked the day before serving to let the flavours infuse into the sauce.

1 of each trotter, ear, tail, tongue

3-4 ribs

250g pork belly, shoulder and/or gammon

125g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon

125g chorizo

125g pork sausages

125g salt beef

100g morcilla or black pudding

500g dried black turtle beans

1 bay leaf

a handful of parsley stalks

3 sprigs thyme

1 large onion

2 sticks of celery

2 fat cloves of garlic

6 chopped tomatoes

oil for frying

salt and pepper

The traditional accompaniments are farofa; toasted cassava flour, plain boiled rice, steamed kale, orange slices and chilli sauce.

3-7 days before serving –

Cure the ears, trotters, tail, ribs, tongue, belly, shoulder ie. any raw meat by sprinkling liberally with sea salt or immersing in brine (if curing your own salt beef or gammon cure in a brining solution for 7-10 days depending on the size).

2 days before serving –

Rinse the cured meats well and soak in fresh water overnight.

Rinse the beans well and soak in fresh water overnight.








The day before serving –

Place the beans in a large pan with bay, thyme and parsley stalks tied in a bundle. Top up with cold water and/or chicken or pork stock.

Bring to the boil, cook for 10 minutes removing any scum that rises to the surface with a ladle. Reduce the heat, add the raw cured meats and simmer gently for 1-2 hours.

Cut the pork belly, shoulder, chorizo and sausages into chunks, brown in a frying pan in batches and add to the pot.

In another pan, sweat off diced onion, garlic and celery until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook down into a thick sauce.

After about another hour or so remove the trotter, ear, tail and tongue (and gammon/salt beef if using) and pick the meat off/chop into manageable chunks and return to the pot. If you’re using any ready cured or cooked meats add these now.

Ladle a few cups of beans, which by now should be tender, into the tomato sauce. Mash up together and transfer the lot back to the main pot and stir in.

Remove the herb bundle and season to taste.