Jambon persillée

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    8

    or more

Appears in

Soho used to be renowned for its food shops. Perhaps the most picturesque of them was Randall & Aubin, a French charcuterie on Brewer Street.

The shop finally closed in the mid 1980s. There was a spirited but doomed attempt to revive it a few years later and it has now re-emerged as a rather good traiteur, selling excellent simple food to eat there or to take away. It is nice to see at least one premises continuing some of the area’s history and not being converted into a trendy bar. The shop in the 1970s was rather run-down with a dispiriting array of curled-up pâtés, terrines and sausages in the window, but even in decline they still made everything on the premises.

True jambon persillée is rather hard to get right: made in the traditional manner, it is almost impossible to serve neatly in slices (somewhat of a prerequisite for terrines); when extra gelatine is used to compensate, the dish becomes rubbery. This recipe takes advantage of the natural gelatine found in ham hocks; by shredding the meat it avoids the appearance of jelly or aspic which seems to so offend modern appetites; and it is cheap and easy to make.

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Ingredients

  • 2 gammon hocks
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50 ml dry white wine
  • 2 gelatine leaves (do try and find leaf gelatine instead of the powdered variety)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • salt

Method

Cooking the hocks

Put the ham hocks to cook in enough water to safely cover them. When they come to a boil, taste the water and if it is at all salty drain them and start again with fresh water. The hocks should be cooked at a simmer until they have begun to fall off their bones. At the narrower, foot end of the hock there are two bones which, as the meat shrinks, will start to protrude; the smaller of these will pull out quite easily when the meat is fully cooked, probably about 2 hours. Remove the hocks from the water and set aside. Bring the water back to a boil and skim off any fat and scum that rise. Remove the stalks from the parsley and add them to the boiling stock, along with the peppercorns, bay leaf and wine. Continue boiling this stock until it has reduced to approximately 500 ml.

Assembling the dish

While the stock is reducing prepare the other ingredients. The gelatine should be left to soften in about 500 ml cold water; it will swell up considerably but will not dissolve. Chop the parsley leaves coarsely, and prepare the shallots. Before the ham hocks cool completely, they should be shredded up. Exactly how much of the fat and skin is left finely chopped in the shredded mixture is up to you; personally I use it all. Add the bones to the reducing stock which, as it continues to reduce, should be skimmed as often as possible. When you think it is nearing the quantity needed, remove the parsley stalks and bay leaf, and add the vinegar. Remove the softened gelatine from its water (the best way to do this is by hand), and add it to the stock, stirring well as the heat dissolves it. Combine the ham, parsley and shallots in a bowl, add the reduced stock and mix well. Perhaps the most difficult part of the whole recipe is getting the salt content right: the meat is salty and the stock, having reduced considerably, will seem excessively salty. I’ve included salt in the ingredients but it is possible that none will be needed. This is a cold jellied dish so it does require generous seasoning.

Serving

Traditionally jambon persillée is set in a bowl and turned out on a plate to present a pink and green glistening dome. This is fine if you expect it to be eaten at one sitting. If it is formed in an oblong mould, then slices can be cut without unmoulding. This is neater and exposes less of the terrine to air, thus minimising drying out. Whatever your choice of mould, the terrine needs to sit in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours.

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