Sunday 23 January 2011

Parma Chameleon ! - recipes using Parma ham

I love eating Parma ham with melon as a lovely refreshing starter in the summer, or using it along with other cold meats, tomatoes, gherkins and boiled potatoes smothered in melted raclette cheese in the winter, but I must admit, I'd never really thought of other ways to serve it. Luckily, those lovely people at Parma ham have done the hard work and asked me if I'd like to share these recipes with you. And of course, I said yes ! Bon appétit !

Italian Style Eggs Benedict with Parma Ham
Serves 2

2 thick slices of ciabatta bread
1-2 tbsp olive oil
4 basil leaves
4 slices Parma Ham
2 eggs
salt and black pepper

Hollandaise sauce:

3 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
150g butter, melted
pinch of nutmeg

• Lightly toast the ciabattas on both sides, drizzle with olive oil and rub basil leaves into the bread. Lay a slice of Parma Ham on top of each and then grill for 1-2 minutes. Keep warm

• To make the hollandaise sauce, whisk the egg yolks until creamy. Place the lemon juice and vinegar in a small sauce pan along with the bay leaf and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and pour slowly into the egg yolks in a steady stream, whisking continuously

• Pour the melted butter into the egg mixture in the same way, whisking continuously until the sauce has thickened

• Add a pinch of nutmeg and season to taste. Keep warm and stir at regular intervals to prevent a skin from forming

• To poach the eggs, bring a large saucepan with 10cm water to the boil. Crack each egg into a small bowl and then tip carefully into the boiling water. Poach for 2 ½ minutes and then carefully lift out of the water. Drain

• To serve, place a poached egg on top of each slice of ciabatta, spoon over plenty Hollandaise sauce and arrange another slice of Parma Ham on top of each serving

Cook's tip: Poach 2 eggs per serving if you are feeling especially hungry. The nutmeg can be omitted if you prefer

Hot Parma Ham, smoked cheese and asparagus bundles
Serves 4

6 slices Parma Ham
50g Bavarian smoked cheese, cut into 4 strips
12 asparagus spears, trimmed

Infused oil:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon
salt and black pepper

• Preheat the oven to 180oC

• Cut 2 slices of Parma Ham in half, lengthways and wrap these around the 4 slices of cheese. Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes

• Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and add the crushed garlic and thyme. Cook for 30 seconds, being careful not to brown the garlic. Remove from the heat and add the zest of one lemon, juice of ½ a lemon and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Keep warm

• Blanche the asparagus spears in salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes and then plunge into iced water. Drain and set aside

• Lay two spears of asparagus and place a Parma Ham- wrapped cheese slice on top of these. Top with another spear of asparagus and then wrap a slice of Parma Ham around each bundle. Repeat to give 4 individual bundles

• Place each bundle on a serving plate and serve with a little of the hot oil

Cook's tip: This dish works wonderfully as a sophisticated starter but is also great as part of light main course, you can even use fine asparagus spears, chopped in half, for canapés. Ideally the asparagus, infused oil and cheese should be kept warm before serving


Parma Ham and Homemade Pesto Savoury Cheesecakes
Serves 4

50g/ 2 oz Oatcakes, crushed
50g/ 2 oz butter, melted
25g/ 1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lemon, grated
200g/7 oz tub Philadelphia cream cheese
2 slices Parma Ham, finely chopped
1 small handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
4 slices Parma Ham, to serve

Pesto dressing:

1 handful basil, roughly chopped
1 small handful lightly toasted pine kernels
½ garlic clove, finely chopped
75ml olive oil
lime juice, to taste
Cracked black pepper

· First make the cheesecake bases by mixing the oatcakes, butter, Parmesan and 2 tsp lemon zest, with plenty of black pepper

· Divide the mixture between the bases of 4 chefs rings (approximately 6cm in diameter)
and refrigerate for 1 hour

· Whisk the cream cheese with a pinch of black pepper and 1 tsp lemon zest, and fold in the chopped Parma Ham and basil. Divide evenly between the cheesecake bases, smoothing over the tops before leaving to set in the fridge

· To make the pesto dressing, simply blend the basil, pine kernels, garlic and olive oil to a paste, and add lime juice and black pepper to taste

· When you are ready to serve, place each cheesecake on a serving plate and carefully lift off the rings. Drizzle with pesto dressing and a slice of Parma Ham

Cook’s Tip: If you can, make your pesto dressing a few hours in advance to allow the flavours to develop. If you are looking for a lower fat alternative you can always use Philadelphia Light


Parma Ham, poached pear and goats’ cheese salad with a hot honey and pecan dressing
Serves 4 as a starter

2 firm pears, peeled, cored and quartered

poaching liquid:

200ml white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
50g granulated sugar
2 strips of pared orange peel
1 bay leaf


100ml balsamic vinegar
75ml runny honey
30g pecans, roughly chopped
½ tsp orange zest


50g chicory leaves
50g red chicory leaves
75g goats’ cheese
30g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
8 slices Parma Ham
salt and black pepper

• Combine all the poaching ingredients in a saucepan and poach the pears over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the poaching liquid. Drain and halve each pear quarter to give 8 segments

• Heat the balsamic vinegar and honey in a heavy based saucepan with a good pinch of salt. Add the pecans and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes until the dressing is syrupy in consistency, but being careful not to thicken too much. Add the orange zest, season to taste and set aside

• Divide the chicory leaves across 2 or 4 serving plates, along with the pears, chunks of goats’ cheese and hazelnuts. Season with pepper and spoon over some of the dressing. Arrange 2 slices of Parma Ham on top of each salad and serve

Cook's tip: the dressing for this salad works well both hot and cold, just be careful not overheat the honey and vinegar as it will turn very bitter. If the dressing becomes too thick, simply add a little more balsamic vinegar to lighten the consistency


Parma Ham-wrapped scallop and king prawn surf ‘n’ turf skewers
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main

4 long stems of fresh rosemary
4 slices Parma Ham, sliced in half lengthways
8 scallops
12 raw king prawns
olive oil


2 handfuls chopped coriander
3 tbsp capers
3 tbsp diced cucumber
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
½ green chilli, finely chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest and juice of 1 lime
salt and black pepper

• Strip the leaves off the rosemary spears, leaving 2-3cm leaves at the end of each

• Wrap a strip of Parma Ham around each scallop

• Thread a prawn onto each rosemary skewer followed by a Parma Ham-wrapped scallop. Alternate prawns and scallops so that each skewer has 3 prawns and 2 scallops

• Combine all the ingredients for the salsa and season to taste

• Heat a lightly oiled heavy based frying pan, griddle or barbecue and cook the skewers for 1-2 minutes each side until the prawns are pink and no longer raw, and the scallops are firm to touch

• Serve the skewers with plenty of salsa and green leafy salad leaves

Cook's tip: If you are short of time, prepare the skewers in advance and refrigerate until you are ready to cook. The salsa can also be made and chilled for 3-4 hours in advance


Parma Ham, Avocado and Cucumber Sushi Bites
Makes around 20 pieces

250g/ 9oz sushi rice, rinsed and left to drain for 30 minutes
10-15 Parma Ham slices
1 avocado, sliced lengthways to 0.5cm thickness
5cm piece of cucumber, deseeded and sliced into 0.5cm thick slices
3 slices sushi ginger, finely sliced, plus extra to serve
wasabi paste, to serve
dark soy sauce, to serve

Sushi rice dressing:

50ml/2 fl oz mirin (Japanese rice vinegar)
1tbsp caster sugar

· Place the rice in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid with 400ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmering point for 15 minutes, and then remove from the heat to steam for a further 15 minutes before transferring to a plastic bowl

· Meanwhile, make the sushi rice dressing; place the mirin and sugar with a good pinch of salt into a heavy-based saucepan, and slowly dissolve over a low heat. Toss the cooked rice in the dressing to cool

· Lay slices of Parma Ham across a sushi mat, allowing a 1-2cm overlap. Dampen your hands with a weak mix of water and mirin, and spread enough rice over the Parma Ham to give 1-2cm in thickness and to leave a 3cm strip of Parma Ham bare at the far side

· Make a well across the width of the sushi rice to lay strips of avocado and cucumber. Take the near side of the sushi mat and start to roll away from you. Tuck the Parma Ham in and continue to roll the bare Parma Ham around the sushi roll

· Remove from the mat and use a damp sharp knife to cut rolls of sushi to 2-3cm thick. Repeat to make another sushi roll with the remaining Parma Ham and sushi rice

· Serve the Parma Ham sushi bites with soy sauce, wasabi paste and sushi ginger strips

Cook’s Tip: If you are a fan of ginger, why not add a little to the sushi bites along with the avocado and cucumber. Experiment with different fillings for your Parma Ham sushi, halkidiki olives or grated courgette make a delicious alternative!


Parma Ham, Parmesan, Spinach and Basil Savoury Muffins with Creamy Goats Cheese
Makes 12

6 slices of Parma Ham, sliced into 0.5cm squares
250g/9oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp crushed black pepper
50g/2oz Parmesan, grated
1 handful roughly chopped spinach leaves
1 handful roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
275ml/10 fl oz milk
1 large egg, beaten
80g/3oz butter, melted
creamy goats cheese, to serve
rocket leaves, to serve
12 slices of Parma Ham, to serve
salt and cracked black pepper

· Preheat the oven to 190oC, gas mark 5, and line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases

· Dry fry the Parma Ham squares for 1-2 minutes until crispy and set aside

· Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and stir in the Parma Ham, crushed pepper, Parmesan, spinach and basil

· In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, beaten egg and melted butter and carefully fold into the dry mixture

· Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Leave on a wire rack to cool

· Slice open the muffins and spread with goats cheese. Add a few rocket leaves, sprinkle with black pepper and serve with a slice of delicious Parma Ham

Cook’s Tip: Fold 1 tbsp of hot water into the mixture before spooning into muffin cases to kick-start the cooking process

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