This is a belated Valentine’s day post, although personally, I think it’s a load of rubbish – my partner and I don’t need a ‘special day’ born out of rampant commercialism to express our love for each other. Still, gives one a good starting point on the food front doesn’t it? We invited two friends over for dinner and I thought about how to create a little bit of luuurve, on a plate.
It’s winter, it’s cold and so I crave the pie – all the time. Deep filled, meaty pie with unctuous oozy sauce and buttery pastry. Pure comfort food. First I toyed with the idea of using lamb shanks in a pie, all St. John style with the bones sticking out the top. When I googled to see if anyone else had done a lamb shank pie though – Jamie O had already been there, which put me off for some reason. So, I finally decided on ham, big chunks of smoked ham – lots of pink bits for your valentine.
I managed to completely stuff up the pastry top, by slinging it onto the filling with way too much enthusiasm (after drinking way too much wine). Still, it’s a pie so…I just patched it up a bit and stuck some pastry hearts on top for ‘decoration’, thinking no-one would notice once I dished it up anyway.
And they didn’t (or they didn’t say). It was a big thumbs up all round, although I know it was a bit salty. This is probably down to the fact I didn’t let the ham hock soak long enough. Saltyness aside though, it really hit the spot, especially with a dollop of minty peas.
I got even more out of the cheap as chips (£2.15) ham hock, by reserving a little meat and the cooking liquor for this classic soup recipe the following night - – now there’s a valentine’s gift that keeps on giving.
Smoked Ham Hock Pie
(I would advise soaking the hock for at least a few hours or overnight before discarding the water and cooking as below)
1 smoked ham hock
1 stick celery
1 large onion, peeled and halved plus 1 small one finely chopped, for the filling
4 bay leaves, torn
1 large leek, finely shredded
1 clove garlic
1 standard pack shortcrust pastry (sorry, don’t know the weight but it’s enough to cover the top of your pie dish..)
1 egg, beaten
8 black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
20g plain flour
Salt and pepper
A pinch of mace or nutmeg
A large handful cheddar cheese
- Put the hock, halved onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2-4 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
- Remove the ham and set aside, strain the liquor and reserve for later use.
- Cook the leeks and onion gently in butter until soft – about 10 minutes, then add the garlic for a further 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the bechamel.
- Put the milk, bay leaf, mace or nutmeg and peppercorns into a pan and bring slowly up to simmering point.
- Remove from the heat and strain the milk into a jug.
- In a clean pan, melt the butter gently, add the flour and stir to a paste. Add a little milk at a time, stirring to make sure all is incorporated.
- Start adding larger quantities, as if you are making mayonnaise, stirring with a whisk.
- When the lumps are gone, add the cheese and whisk again until smooth.
- Remove the meat from the hock, taking care to avoid the fattiest bits and combine with the leek mixture and the bechamel. Transfer to a pie dish. Roll out the pastry to desired thickness (I dunno, 1cm?) and top the pie with it. Brush with beaten egg.
- Bake at 190°C/ 375°F/Gas 5 for about an hour until golden brown.