Guest Post By Natalie York
I was thrilled to be going along to a Parma Ham Christmas cookery demonstration by amazing chef, Bridget Colvin, I love Parma Ham but have never really done much with it as an ingredient, being generally quite happy just to snack on it straight out of the packet, so I was keen to learn how to do more. I think I’ve always associated Parma Ham, indulgent and slightly exotic, with something special, with celebration, so it seems like a perfect ingredient to build a Christmassy menu around. On heading towards the Good Housekeeping Cookery School (a bastion of respectability in the heart of Soho) I was trying to guess what Bridget would come up with, I could imagine various things you could do for a starter and a main but a Parma ham dessert? That sounded pretty exciting…On arriving we kicked off straight away with a glass of Prosecco and some indulgent canapes, crisp little Parma Ham and Parmesan palmiers were gorgeous, straight out of the oven, but the real treat were wonderfully sweet figs, wrapped in Parma Ham and drizzled a little balsamic vinegar.The class kicked off preparing dessert, as that would need the longest time to set. We started making a panna cotta, I wasn’t quite sure how we would get the ingredient of the night in, would a Parma Ham panna cotta work? As it turned out the ham would be coming in right at the end with shards of candied ham garnishing a very festive clementine panna cotta. I’ve always found panna cotta a little bit too rich, especially after a big meal, but Bridget Colvin’s decision to halve the normal amount of cream in the recipe and replace it with Greek Yoghurt worked wonders, resulting in the lightest, tastiest panna cotta I’ve ever tried. The candied Parma Ham really worked- giving just the right hit of sharp, saltiness to cut through the panna cotta without overpowering it.With the dessert in the fridge and a Christmas morning smell of clementines in the air, we got on with making the soda bread for the starter- a towering bruschetta, piled high with Parma Ham, Roquefort, figs and roasted butternut squash. I’ve always been a bit lazy about bread making, I didn’t have the patience, but I had never tried making soda bread and this recipe was a revelation. With no yeast and no waiting around it was quick, easy and, when it came out of the oven, delicious- swirled through with pumpkin seeds and black-strap molasses.For the main, an indulgent Pork Wellington, we obviously didn’t have time to put one together from scratch in the few hours we had. Instead we got a brilliant demonstration from Bridget as she wrapped a pork loin in a thick layer of Parma ham and wonderfully savoury, almost meaty, mushroom duxelle. A sheet of puff pastry was covered in parmesan and sage, then folded over and rolled out, this worked beautifully when cooked, elevating the pastry to a rich, cheesy crust, something a little bit more special and festive than your average Wellington.And then with everything prepared and ready we got ready to eat! November may have been a little early to get started on a Christmas dinner but as we sat down to enjoy our work, Christmas songs on the radio, candles lit and the smell of good food, everyone started to feel very festive indeed.