I was invited recently to the launch of the new winter menu at The Library restaurant at the Dandelion in Dublin. The menu reads well, but my piggy eye was immediately drawn to their starter of a Ham Hock & Pistachio Wellington.
I love clever chefs and good food, and this was such a simple idea and well executed on the night. Punchy food packed with flavour. Soft salty shards of ham covered in a thin pastry crust with a smear of horseradish cream. I had to try to recreate this at home.
Not having a recipe to follow I had free reign to make it up as I went along. In my head it was fairly simple. Wrap a ham hock terrine in a pastry and bake. But I couldn't help myself but tinker with it a little.
The terrine was simple enough. Boiled two ham hocks in a pressure cooker for 40 minutes with a glass of wine, 2 pints of water, a carrot, celery, pepper and star anise. No salt needed. Peeled and discarded the flabby skin from the hocks and shredded the tender meat that was falling from the bone. Mixed in some crushed shelled pistachios and chopped cornichons. Pack the mixture into a small tupperware box and poured in some of the cooking liquid which is packed with natural boney gelatin from the hocks. I weighed down the top of the terrine with a tin of tomatoes, wrapped the whole lot down with cling film to keep it compressed and popped in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to set.
The poured in cooking stock and compression sets the terrine. Carefully release it from the tupperware with a palette knife. If stuck float the tupperware in a bowl of boiling water to loosen the terrine. I decided to wrap the terrine in leek. Soften cut sheets of leeks by quickly blanching for two minutes in boiling water and plunged into cold water. Then wrap around the terrine. Thinly roll out some defrosted shop bought puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut a 1/3 of it away and use that as the base. Take the other 2/3's and cover the terrine crimping the edges with a fork. Beat an egg and brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes. until the pastry is golden.
Now the idea is to let it cool and serve as a cold cut, however as always, I was a little too eager and cut it while warm from the oven. This meant that the terrine didn't get a chance to re-set and the chunks of hock looked more shredded than set. The curse of the greedy man.... I served it simply with some roasted root vegetables and a very mustardy vinaigrette.