Another repost today – at time of writing, I have won at NaNoWriMo but am still working on getting my story finished. Thanks especially to those who have offered guest posts, which have been keeping Rock Salt up and running last month and this. Seeing how many people are on board with me, and how nobody laughed when I said I wanted to be a writer, has been a great experience in itself, and I am hugely grateful.
My writing style has changed, and I’d like to think improved, since these early posts. This one is from September 2010, and some of it leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve become much more strict (usually) about noting down recipes as I go, though of course I do sometimes lose them after I’ve done that. I’ve also become much more disciplined in the frequency of my posts, so that when I do blog I don’t feel the need to write a trillion words every time. All that said, I was so proud of these terrines, and it’s good to remind myself of that and of the technique I used to make them.
Back to the snacks.
This post is about the time I made individual smoked chicken, ham hough and asparagus terrines, with redcurrant jam, oatcakes and salad. I made all of that stuff from scratch, and I feel extremely smug about it. I’d wanted to try a meat terrine for a while, even though it was fairly high-risk in terms of it not setting properly and being like a weird, cold soup on the plates. This didn’t happen, so I’ll report now on what I did to make these little beauties.
For the terrines -
- one smoked ham hough
- black and white pepper
- three bay leaves
- half a large onion
- half a sachet of gelatine
- three chicken thighs
- one bunch of asparagus
First, I put the ham hough in a pot large enough to comfortably hold it, along with the pepper, bay leaves, onion. I added enough boiling water to the pot to come half way up the sides of the meat, and put on a low simmer for half an hour. At the half hour mark, I turned the hough over and cooked for a further half hour. After this time, I had the double result of having cooked the lovely soft, salty ham and making a great, tasty stock to hold the terrines together. I drained this stock off into a bowl and whisked through the gelatine to dissolve, then set aside. I then went through the somewhat time-consuming process of removing the meat from the bone and getting rid of the skin and fat from it. What I ended up with can be seen in this picture – a fairly small pile of ham and a slightly larger pile of bits to go in the bin (or possibly make further stock with, if you’re more organised than me).
I love how far apart I’ve put the two piles on the board, like if I left them too close together they might re-attach and I’d have to do the job again. Not the most appetising picture but it gives a good idea of the actual meat you’ll get from a hough. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the wonderful stock you get, too, which is a great base for a soup, as I think I’ve said before, or to hold together some rather fancy mini terrines.
While the stock was bubbling away, I fired up the indoor smoker again for the first time in ages. I replenished the pine cone and dried herb mix in the bottom and sat it over a medium heat to get going. Once it was, I closed in the three chicken thighs and left for twenty five minutes. At this time, the largest thigh wasn’t cooked through, but I chose to finish it off on a griddle pan instead of leaving it in the smoker – I just gave it five minutes on a medium-high heat to really make sure the meat was cooked through to the bone. I then stripped off the skin and fat from the chicken and set aside. I also steamed the asparagus over the ham hough while it was boiling, just for five minutes till it was cooked and no more. I cut that into lengths that would fit the terrine moulds (read: mini loaf tins) that I was using – this turned out, handily, to be almost exactly half the length of a full spear, so that worked out well. Before I cooked them, I snapped off the woody ends by hand – I think this is a Jamie Oliver tip, though I’m not positive. The theory is that the point where the asparagus stops being tough and starts being tender is also the natural breaking point, so if you just hold a spear with one hand at the bottom and one about a third of the way up and gently bend it, it will snap off and leave you with just the good bit. Pretty good, no?
Once I had all the ingredients ready for the terrine, I lined four little loaf tins with clingfilm, leaving plenty hanging over the sides to cover over at the end, and began to layer them up. I put in a little stock first, then added the tip of an asparagus spear which had been sliced in half lengthways, just for presentation’s sake. I then added a little more stock, a few pieces of ham, a little more stock, some chicken, a little more stock, three lengths of asparagus and repeated with the remaining chicken and ham. I did all four at once so I could keep an eye on how much was left of everything and didn’t end up with one terrine packed with ingredients and three tiny ones mainly made up of meat jelly. I tried to keep pressing the terrines down as I filled them, and once I was finished I gave each one a few tapes on the counter top to make sure that the stock got down into all the gaps that were inevitably there. Another time I would probably try slicing the meat a bit more uniformly, though there was a certain rustic charm to them. They didn’t slice well, though, which I think was a combination of not using sharp knives at the table and the meat being a little too thick.
To set them, I folded over the clingfilm that I’d left hanging over the edges, then placed two of the moulds on a plate and stacked the remaining two on top. I then put a second plate on top of these and weighed down with a couple of tins, and put the whole lot in the fridge overnight. When I checked them the following afternoon, they came out of the moulds no problem, and looked like the picture above. I think they may have looked nicer with a clearer stock, but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice the flavours just to achieve that result. Also, that poor bit of asparagus did go awfully bendy. It must have been just a little too long for the top of the tin, but I made it go in there anyway. Probably shouldn’t have pointed it out – look at all the other (varying degrees of) lovely pictures and go ‘ooooh!’ instead of sniggering over the bendy asparagus, please.
To go with the terrines, I made oatcakes and redcurrant jam. The oatcakes were pretty simple to do – I followed this recipe – the only thing I changed was that I only had jumbo oats, so I gave them a spin in the grinding mill attachment of my blender until they were sort of medium oatmeal. I found that they didn’t colour up a lot when I baked them but they did have a gentle crunch without being too hard to bite through, a problem I encountered when I first tried to make oatcakes. The redcurrant jam wasn’t too tricky, either, though I was making that up as I went along a bit more. I bought jam sugar, with added pectin, and there was a recipe for strawberry jam on the back of this. I didn’t follow it but it gave me an idea of what amounts to use. The first thing I did was wash and pick over the redcurrants, evicting a little caterpillar guy who’d been living in among them. Poor soul, but I didn’t want to add essence of caterpillar to the jam. I put him outside with a few of the berries – he may even have gone on to make a new life for himself.
Once the redcurrants were washed, I took them off the stem and put into a small pot, with a generous dash of fig-flavoured balsamic condiment, and some plain balsamic vinegar. It was a little difficult to judge the flavour because I knew I was going to be adding sugar, so I wanted the mix to be quite tart at this stage. I simmered until the fruit was broken down, then added a quarter cup of sugar and tasted again, adjusted as I saw fit and brought to the boil. I boiled until the jam reached ‘setting point’ – this is when you take a little of the jam and put it on a saucer, let it cool for a couple of minutes and then check to see if the surface goes wrinkly when you draw a finger through/across it. It took about five minutes, as there was only a small amount of fruit – about 150g, I think. I then set the pot aside to cool for fifteen minutes, stirred through once and decanted into a little jar, which I’d thoroughly cleaned and then filled with boiling water for ten minutes in a sort of uneducated attempt at sterilising. The result was a sweet jam with a tart undertaste, which complemented the smoky flavours in the terrine rather well, if you ask me.