Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Peach and Parma Ham Salad

I should subtitle this - "The most expensive salad I've ever made".

So this was for Christmas eve, which was of course about three weeks ago, but seems like longer. Life has been busy. And hot. Very hot. Of course, 'tis the season, here anyway.

So Christmas eve, we wanted easy, prepare ahead meals. Because we couldn't predict how hot it was going to be and didn't want to be spending the day cooking.

I've been eyeing off that Peach and Parma Ham Salad from Heston Blumenthal at Home recipe for a long time, and was certainly influenced by In Search of Heston's take on it. Christmas even seemed perfect as an opportunity.

And it was good. So. Good.

  1. Shake a bunch of stuff together. Make a vinaigrette
  2. Reduce some balsamic vinegar
  3. Slice up the peaches, ham and Gruyere cheese
  4. Toss the salad in the vinaigrette, add the other stuff
  5. Make fancy and serve.
Seriously easy. It ends up more assembly than anything.

Let's take a look shall we?

Make a vinaigrette.

(Just as an aside, I can't believe that's the correct spelling. It just looks wrong).
So a mustard vinaigrette - oil, seeded mustard and vinegar. Plus a little salt.
 Whisk it together. In this case, you also add some ground cloves. And that's it.

Reduce some balsamic vinegar.

Take a tiny amount of balsamic. Realise this is ludicrous and double it for handling purposes.

Heat it until it gets reduced. Don't get distracted or it becomes more treacle-like than you intended.

Oops. It does taste a lot better than the bought stuff (which can be very sweet, as Phil over at In Search Of Heston notes). Given how inexpensive balsamic is, I'd recommend putting in a large-ish whack then then just keeping some for leftovers. The trick seems to be keep an eye on it, ignore Heston's assertion it will take 10 minutes and just grab it off when it's down to about half. I listened to the 10 minutes thing and while it tasted fine, it was almost thin toffee consistency when cool. (As you'll see).

Slice up your ham, peaches and Gruyere.

So. About that ham. I don't buy Parma ham normally. This is the first time I've ever bought it. I've eaten it in restaurants before, but never bought it.

I bought the correct amount - 180g. Which is quite a lot.
When I went over my budget later that day, I thought there had been a mistake. I actually called the grocer. Because I genuinely didn't realise it was $130 a kg. I was mortified and glad I called and didn't visit in person. I felt like such a plebeian.
So. Yes, this will be the most expensive salad I've ever made. Is it cheaper in the UK? I have to wonder. Anyway, I think this was almost twice the weight of ham you actually needed for that portion size. I used about 2/3 the amount for 5 people and it was really more than needed. So halve it I'd say. (And read the label in the shop so you don't embarrass yourself.).
You then chop up the peaches, which I forgot to photograph me doing, and shave the Gruyere.  When shaving your cheese, you want nice thin slices - so use your cheap peeler on the left, not your excellent quality on the right. Otherwise you get thick cheese, and this recipe really wants thin and delicate.

Toss the salad leaves in the vinaigrette

 And season.

Ready to assemble! 

Dressed rocket...
 Plus yummy peaches... (ripe is good).
 Plus the Parma ham and Gruyere.
 Drizzle with your toffee-like nicely reduced balsamic and you're done!

Lessons learned

  • Watch that balsamic, ignore the time frame and pull it off when thickened, not sticky. This means it will get to the sticky stage once cooled. Instead of almost toffee. Which tastes good, but makes it hard to make it pretty. (See above)
  • Order less ham. Or more guests. Whichever works for you.

Guest Opinions

Very appreciative. (Yes mum and uncle, you can come to dinner again. Braddles, you missed out!)

This really is a dish where the highest quality ingredients make it sing. I really don't think regular ham would work here. The Parma ham is salty and almost prosciutto-like without being tough at all. It contrast beautifully with the sweet softness of the peaches and the cloves in the vinaigrette lift it.


This would make an excellent dinner party starter. It can be mostly easily prepared ahead of time, then assembled when ready with limited fuss. If you have great peaches in season, I think it is worth it.

And.. I'm going be in Italy next year in springtime. (First northern hemisphere trip ever - whoop!) So I will certainly think about trying this again there!

Next: Strawberry crumble-trifle-like thing.

1 comment:

  1. Kind words very much appreciated! Your serving looks magnificent, and it looks like you didn't over-peach the mix like I did.

    I feel your pain about the parma ham. Reminds me of trying to keep a smile on my face at Booths when they told me the price of bone-in rib of beef.

    It's winter here now, but with summer on the way Ling and I have discussed maybe getting a bottle of reg'lar balsamic vinegar and reducing the lot in one go to save us having to use sub-par sugary glazes. What do you reckon?