Just because a dish is a pub classic doesn’t mean it can’t be a show stopper – as long as you use the very best ingredients says Russell Brown…
British pub food has undergone huge changes over the last 20 years. Who would have imagined a pub with two Michelin stars back in the 90’s? Not only do we have a two Michelin starred pub, Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers, but we have numerous pubs with one star and a huge number that are serving excellent seasonal food.
Dorset is well served with top quality pubs that are delivering innovative food that retains the essence of the comfort dishes we think of as pub classics. The biggest changes have been in better seasonality, higher quality ingredients and greater prevalence of food made by talented chefs on the premises. Bought-in desserts, frozen food and the ping of the microwave have thankfully diminished.
The list of dishes that can be described as British pub classics is extensive and we all have our own ideas as to what would feature – ploughman’s, steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, and sausage and mash would be on most people’s list. All are dishes that, when they are cooked with care using great ingredients, make for a superb meal. Lots of pubs take it one step further and bring a modern twist to the classics. Ham, egg and chips is a personal favourite; the marriage of cool salty ham with a nice layer of sweet melting fat, a free range egg with a warm runny yolk and crisp hot chips is just beautiful, but this is also a dish that can be given a twist. This recipe turns the dish into an elegant starter using ham hocks, fried quails eggs and straw potatoes.
1 ham hock approximately 1.5 kilos
1 carrot, peeled
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
Maldon sea salt
Rinse the ham hock and place in saucepan with carrot, onion, bay and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, skim any froth from the pan and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the hock is tender, topping up the water when needed, for around two and a half to three hours. When the hock is cooked, the smaller of the two bones should pull out easily and cleanly. Remove hock and cool. Strain one litre of the cooking liquid into a clean pan and reduce to around 75ml. Pick the ham off the bone, discarding any excess fat, skin and gristle. Place into a bowl and mix in the reduced cooking liquid, the mustard and season with pepper.
Lay a sheet of clingfilm on a bench and form the ham hock into a cylinder 6cm by 20cm. Lift onto a sheet of foil, roll up and twist the ends tightly to compress the cylinder. Chill overnight.
50g crème fraîche
1tbs wholegrain mustard
Maldon salt and fresh black pepper
Combine the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and mustard in a small bowl. Season to taste.
2 large Maris Piper potatoes
Oil for deep frying
Peel the potatoes, trim into a block and then cut into thin chips around 2-3mm square.
Rinse in cold water and then cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain, dry thoroughly on paper towel and deep fry at 165°C until golden and crispy. Drain well on paper towel, seasoning with Maldon salt.
12 quails eggs
60g rocket leaves
1tbsp salad dressing
Unwrap the terrine, trim the ends and slice into 12 even slices. Allow to come to room temperature. Fry the quails eggs in a large nonstick pan over a gentle heat. Dress the salad, divide between 6 plates and top with straw potatoes.
Add the ham hock, quails eggs and dots of the mustard mayonnaise. Finish by seasoning the eggs.