Wham bam thank you ham: Skye Gyngell gets creative with cured meat

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Last week I attended a congress on fusion food in Madrid. It was my first time in the city, so I was thrilled to be asked along. I had always heard that Madrid is full of great restaurants and soon found this to be true. In the four days I was there I ate like a queen. As well as lots of tapas, I had suckling pig from a wood-fired oven in the oldest restaurant in the world, and I also ate in a "Museo del Jamón" (literally, "museum of ham"), of which there are several in Madrid, where hundreds of hams hang overhead and you are served delicious cured meats with salads .

This is something the Spanish do so well that this week I am inspired to write recipes for you that feature some of the different cured hams. These meats are an integral part of Mediterranean culture, from France and Italy to Spain. Traditionally they were preserved so they could be eaten any time throughout the year. In all these dishes, the meat is pretty much interchangeable – use whichever you fancy or whatever's in the fridge – with the exception of Iberican ham, which can be too rich to work with some ingredients. So if you can't find the meat I've specified, go ahead and experiment.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com

Celeriac remoulade with speck

Serves 4

200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium celeriac
12 slices of speck, very finely sliced
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Start by making the remoulade dressing. Mix the crème fraîche and mustard together in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste; it should be creamy with a soft undertone of warmth from the mustard. Now top and tail the celeriac and slice away the skin. Cut it in half, lay each half flat-side down and slice very finely into matchsticks. Place the slices in a bowl. Spoon over the dressing and mix. Add a little more seasoning if necessary.

To serve, divide the remoulade between four plates. Place three slices of speck on top and sprinkle over the parsley.

Prosciutto with warm wilted greens

Serves 4

50g/2oz unsalted butter
1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 large bunch of mixed green leaves, such as baby spinach, rocket or escarole
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (or red-wine vinegar)
Sea salt and plenty of ground black pepper
12 slices of prosciutto, finely sliced

Place a small, non-stick pan over a low heat. When warm, add the butter and let it melt. Add the shallots and sweat until translucent. Tear up the greens and add until they begin to wilt – this will not take long. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper. When the leaves are soft but still vibrant in colour, add the prosciutto. Toss and divide between four plates. Serve with thick slices of bread to mop up the juices.

Iberican ham on toasted bruschetta

Serves 4

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 jar of good-quality tomatoes
Salt and pepper
2 fresh bay leaves
1 small bunch of thyme
4 thick slices of peasant-style bread
1 clove of garlic, peeled
8 slices of Iberican ham

Place a pan over a medium heat. Add two tablespoons of oil and the tomatoes. Season, add the bay and thyme. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Grill the bread on both sides until golden. Rub each piece with the garlic clove. Spoon over a little of the tomatoes and spread as if it was jam. Drizzle the remaining oil over and lay the ham on top. Serve at once.

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