It is never too early to get excited about Christmas, and so I leaped at the opportunity to participate in a festive Parma Ham cookery course at the state-of-the-art kitchen at The Good Housekeeping Institute in Central London.

Parma ham – Prosciutto di Parma – is a PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) product, which means that it can only be produced and cured in the traditional production area near Parma, a small northern town in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. The Parma pigs are specially bred Large White, Landrance and Duroc breeds, born and raised by authorised breeding farms, and the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce the highest quality hams, appreciated sine Roman times. ‘Prosciutto’ is from the Latin ‘perexsuctum’ meaning ‘dried’ – an indication of the purity of Parma Ham production and its ancient roots. It is still produced in the same way with just four natural ingredients – Italian pigs, salt, air and time. The quality and authenticity of Parma Ham is now protected by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, and is guaranteed by the Ducal Crown. No Crown = No Parma Ham (!)

We were welcomed with glasses of prosecco alongside more-ish canapes of Parma Ham, Parmesan and tapenade palmiers, and mini rolls of Parma Ham, griddled pear, Pecorino and rocket leaves.

We then donned our chef aprons and moved on to our work stations in pairs where we created delicious dishes featuring Parma Ham with Bridget Colvin, an accomplished chef and recipe developer who works with Michel Roux Jr at Cactus Kitchens and regularly works with Jimmy Doherty, Gennaro Contaldo and Jamie Oliver. She had specially created some amazing dishes that would be perfect for Christmas entertaining, using Parma Ham as the main ingredient, which she demonstrated to us thoughout the evening.

The first dish was a vanilla and clementine panacotta dessert. After making our own individual mixes and dividing them into large wine glasses, we placed them in the fridge to set before finishing them off with roasted figs, clementines and honey glazed Parma Ham crisps. The panacotta had a smooth and creamy texture, and there was a nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours. I never really make dessert at home but I’ve definitely eaten a lot of it in restaurants. The recipe was much more simple and straight-forward than I thought it was (they had also kindly weighed and arranged the ingredients ready for us!) and I will surely considering whipping this up in the kitchen one day. 

For the next dish, we were shown how to make our own soda bread, which was another quick and simple recipe that only took about 20 minutes to prepare before baking it for around 30 minutes. This was my first time baking bread and I was pretty please with how it turned out (although my kneading skills are still in need of improvement …) – that wholesome loaf sorted out my breakfast for the next few days! Bridget then showed us how to serve the sliced and toasted soda bread, on which she rubbed the surface with a garlic clove before topping it with a generous amount of rocket, roasted butternut squash, chestnuts, fig wedges, Roquefort and the all-important Parma Ham. We each had a go at being creative with our own slices of toast – I may have gone a bit wild with mine … who needs cutlery when you can just eat with your hands … delicious.

For the final dish, we watched and observed Bridget as she skillfully showed a few of the steps in making the pork tenderloin Wellington, wrapped in Parma Ham, which were later served with spiced cranberry, orange red cabbage, rosemary roasted potatoes and red wine jus. A tasty alternative option to the standard Christmas turkey. A much more intricate and time-consuming dish, with impressive results – the pastry which was brushed with eggs came out really shiny and golden, and within it was the tender and well-marinated pork tenderloin meat. With the right skills and technique, this would be a truly grand Christmas dinner showpiece to present to the family.

A huge word of thanks to Parma Ham, Bridget Colvin and all our hosts/organizers for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I am definitely inspired and looking forward to stocking up on more Parma Ham, and testing out the recipes back in my new kitchen. Only 36 more sleeps until Christmas …

The Cheekster, signing out x

* I was invited as a guest.


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