Potted Ham For Posher Picnics

Summer may be drawing to an end, but between now and October (contrary to the belief of Mr Crumbs who is a wuss) there will be plenty of warm and sunny days to enjoy a picnic somewhere scenic. In pre fridge days potted ham and other potted meats would have been a staple on every tea table and picnic basket to the point where people got a bit tired of it, there weren’t many ways of keeping meat for just that little bit longer.

In today’s leftovers concious society it’s nice to come across such a thrifty recipe which is so delicious, so good in fact that it is worth making specially on purpose. Serve as a starter if you’re into that sort of thing, for lunch and picnics with crusty bread or crackers or on sandwiches, particularly for afternoon tea (very popular with old ladies)

Many recipes recommend ham hock for potting, I find it too stringy and gelatinous, prefering to buy a gammon or ham joint, slow cook it for tenderness and enjoy a couple of meals from it, then use the leftovers for potting. Just one third of a gammon joint costing £5 will make a couple of ramekins full of potted ham, which is plenty.

Potted Ham

  • leftover cooked ham or gammon joint
  • some of the stock it was cooked in
  • butter

Cut the ham into chunks and put into a food processor. Chop finely.

Add a knob of butter and a splash of stock and process again. Repeat this step until the ham has become a paste.

Pack into ramekins. Cover with clingfilm or seal with clarified butter. To clarify butter, gently heat a couple of ounces in a saucepan until melted, leave to stand for a few minutes to separate. Pour the yellow melted butter over the ham leaving the white milk solids behind

See how the butter is separating into liquids and solids.
See how the butter is separating into liquids and solids.

Pop in the fridge till the butter has set and there you have it! Pack up a picnic and enjoy the autumn sunshine. But do take some waterproofs, just in case!

Tell them about the honey, mummy!*

*For those not old enough to remember, it’s a catchphrase from the Sugarpuffs advert in the 80’s.

It has been said that if honeybees dissapeared mankind would die out within four years. I don’t know how acurate that statement is, but it is true that honeybees are responsible for an estimated 80% of all crop pollination. No pollination = no crops = no food = famine.

Yet bees are dying at an alarming rate. Could it be pesticides, disease, parasites, loss of foraging? All these have been implicated. Maybe science fiction is right and thay have just “gone home”. How can we help?

  • become a beekeeper, many courses are available for beginners
  • if you see a swarm, contact  a beekeeper to come and collect it, rather than pest control who will just spray them
  • plant bee friendly plants in your garden/window box/allotment/somebody else’s garden etc, they are keen on flowering herbs and daisy shaped flowers
  • buy local honey, support your local beekeepers, also it tastes much better than the blended supermarket stuff
  • in the supermarket look for honey with a sticker stating that the suppliers are supporting research into bee related issues

Honey is amazing, really! Bees make way more honey than they actually need so we are not hurting tham in any way by sharing it with them (sorry vegan types) It’s a completely natural sweetner that also contains beneficial enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. An antibacterial and anti inflammatory, take it for a sore throat or if you don’t mind being really sticky rub it on your face to help moisturise the skin and prevent spots (local or manuka honey would be the best, supermarket honey is over processed) Oh, and it tastes good too.

I seem to have used a huge amount of honey recently, in super sticky chicken recipies, honey and honeycomb (cinder toffee) ice cream and mead. I also drink a lot of herbal tea, always with a spot of honey to sweeten.honey icecreamMead is a strong and heady brew, made in the days when sugar and grapes were hard to come by in ye olde England. Variations include melomel (fruit and honey) metheglin (spice and honey) and sack (herbs and honey). When we were first married I did a lot of home brewing, it’s fun and cheap. Equipment is readily available second hand and a bottle of country wine works out at around 50p to £1 per bottle, sometimes less. Mead is a bit more pricey but still way cheaper than buying it in the gift shop at National Trust properties. The best books if you want to get into winemaking are ‘First steps in winemaking’ and ‘130 New winemaking recipes’ both by C.J.J.Berry. In print since the 60’s, it’s fun to look for second hand copies for the pictures. The first editions have a plump housewife wearing a housecoat demonstrating how to use the equipment, moving on to the seventies there is a slim, heavily made up babe in the pictures instead! More on homebrewing another day.

Never give honey to a child under one year old as it may contain bacteria or spores that could cause serious illness. Babies underdeveloped immune systems could be overwhelmed.

Buttered Crumbs Bake Off: Technical Challenge – Scones

Q: What’s the fastest cake in the world?

A: Scone!

The second technical challenge in series 1 of the Great British Bake Off was scones, Paul Hollywood’s scones to be precise. I did try them a while back but to be honest they weren’t anything special (try for yourself here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/paul_hollywoods_scones_70005) So rather than recreate his rather fussy recipe I’m going to share the recipe that I think makes the perfect scone.

A good scone should be light and fluffy, not dry and crumbly. It shouldn’t have so much baking powder in it that your teeth feel squeaky clean after eating it (like baking soda toothpaste) Enter Mrs Simpkins, author of the absoloutley essential ‘Tea With Mrs Simpkins’ http://www.mrssimkins.co.uk/

She has a lot to say about the art of making scones and quite frankly they are the best, and very simple to make. I didn’t think they could be improved on until today when I tried using buttermilk instead of milk, just that little extra moistness and richness of flavour, wow!

Mrs Simpkins Scones

  • 8oz (240g) plain flour
  • 1½oz (45g) very soft butter
  • 1oz (30g) caster sugar
  • 2tsp cream of tartar
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 5floz (140ml) warm milk or buttermilk Although you get a better rise with warm milk, it will work just fine with milk from the fridge

Makes from 4 to 8 scones depending on the size of the cutter used.

Pre heat the oven to 200°c/400f/gas mark 6. Grease a baking tray and find your biscuit cutter. I recommend a 2½ inch diameter cutter, they do grow much larger than this in the oven!

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar.

Mix in the milk or buttermilk to make a sticky dough. With floured hands, briefly knead the dough on a floured surface only just long enough to bring everything together. If you overhandle the dough you will get tough scones!

I find it easiest to pat the dough out with my hands rather than trying to use a rolling pin, it is VERY sticky. Pat or roll if you must, till the dough is about an inch/2.5cm high. Stamp out rounds using a floured cutter, or if your’e feeling lazy just divide it into balls or cut into squares/wedges.

Place well apart on the baking tray and bake for around fifteen mins or until light brown ontop. I bake at 200º degrees even though most recipes say to go higher, but I know that my oven is rather fierce. It’s worth investing in an oven thermometer to check how your oven is performing.

You can brush egg wash on top if you like, I think it’s a waste of time and egg.

Cool on a wire rack. To serve, split in half and spread thickly with jam and clotted cream.

In England jam first v’s cream first can cause heated debates. Jam first is the Cornish way and cream first the Devonshire way. I prefer to spread the cream first because it is easier to spread the jam over the cream than vice versa, however I do think that jam then cream looks prettier…Gah, a very British dilemma!