Monday, 30 November 2015

Pasta with ham and mushrooms

Time for a sweary confession. It's hopefully obvious from this blog that I really love food and, more, that I'm fairly discerning about what I eat. I believe that great meals need good quality ingredients. All this is true, but I absolutely fucking adore pork scratchings. Pig rind, pork crackling, pork crunch, call it what you will, but in my opinion scratchings are the food of the fucking gods. Quite honestly, to me, scratchings are the ambrosia (no, not the rice pudding, you knob) to the nectar (no, not the loyalty scheme, you knob) that is beer. I would live on them if I could, though you would definitely be well advised to stand upwind of me if I did as they do not make a pleasantly aromatic bedfellow with my gut microflora.

I'm so much of a scratchings nerd it's often the second thing I look for in a new pub, after what beer they do. The most exotic of these was when I was getting pissed on San Miguel (Filippino version, not the Spanish version. They are supposed to be the same but they taste very different) it is in a small beach bar in Manila (in a street, not on a beach). They had vendors coming round to sell all sorts of weird things including knock-off watches, knock-off viagra (at least I assume it was knock-off) and even live snakes. Then a guy appeared who was selling actual pork scratchings which were fantastic. Of course, scratchings are also quite possibly the very worst thing you can actually eat: thick with fat, caked in salt and can shatter your teeth if you get bad batch. And don't even get me started on the smell that literally farts from the bag when you open it. Negative points aside, the point of all this is that, with all due respect to my vegetarian, Muslim and Jewish friends, surely pigs are meant to be eaten if even their packaging tastes so fantastic.

Filipino pork scratchings!

Obviously, there is far more to (from?) the pig than scratchings. There is a phrase from Spain saying they use "everything but the squeal" from the pig, (which is also the title of a book by a British expat living in Galicia), in that pretty much the entire animal is used in some way. If you think about it, there are a multitude of things derived from the original pig. Scratchings I've already mentioned, then there's bacon, sausages of various types, uncured pork meat in various forms, a whole anatomy of offal and even the blood in the form of blackpudding. There are less "meaty" products like lard and suet, then there are other uses for pigskin as leather and gelatine. Let's also not forget a wealth of medical uses: porcine insulin is used in treating diabetics and pig skin can be used to make dressings to treat burns patients. Pig products even find their way into cosmetics

I couldn't do a comedy/cookery blog mentioning Spam and not put this, could I?

One of the greatest product of the pig is ham. Like any food, ham can vary from the sublime, like Jamon Iberico from Spain, to the revolting, like tinned spiced ham otherwise known as Spam (so bad they named nuisance e-mail after it). In fairness, Spam is not a good representation of actual ham since it is at least partially mechanically recovered meat and not entirely pig in origin. Generally, real ham tastes good however much you pay for it.This is especially true if you intend to use it in a recipe like this rather than stick it in a sandwich. True, cheaper versions are pumped full of water so you're getting less meat per penny, but the flavour should still be there which, for the purposes of this recipe, is all you need.

This is yet another cheap, quick and easy meal. These factors are all well and good, and they form a bit of a theme in many of my blog entries. The most important thing, however is that this dish really tastes fucking fantastic which is a more prominent theme I hope runs through every single one of my recipes.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
100g chestnut mushrooms roughly chopped
150g cooked ham, roughly chopped (smoked if you prefer)
pinch of fennel seeds
pinch of mixed herbs
dash of lemon juice
1/2 a vegetable stock cube
100ml red wine
100ml pasata
Black pepper
All ready to cook
From 9 o'clock: ham, mushrooms, garlic, red onion

Heat the oil in a good heavy pan and add the onion and garlic.
Slowly cook the onion for 5-10 minutes then throw in the mushrooms.

Keep sauteing until they are cooked and add the ham to warm through.

Add the fennel seeds, herbs and lemon juice before crumbling in the half stock cube.

Pour in the wine and pasata and stir well, adding freshly ground black pepper. Leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Serve on pasta. Tagliatelle works quite well

Ready to eat

You can use smoked or regular ham. The tastes are different but both make a great dish.

For the version I took photos of for this recipe I used a cheap off-cuts pack of smoked ham from my local super market. It's not going in a sandwich and you're chopping it up so the original form doesn't matter too much and this was also quite cheap.You could use panchetta if you were feeling particularly foodie wankerish but it is a little over-powering in this dish.

I'm glossing over the recent WHO report naming  processed meat products such as ham as carcinogenic.

Yet again I need to point out that, while my regular blog guest star, Rick Stein, may mention being somewhere exotic like the Philippines in his painfully meandering stories, he probably wouldn't be talking about getting rat-arsed on cheap local beer and being offered drugs to give you a prolonged stiffy, or indeed pork scratchings. Sweary Chef wins again.

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