Ham Hock & Egg Salad,
with griddled baby gem and a buttermilk & blue cheese dressing
This is definitely an in-a-rush-to-eat-midweek sort of salad. Boiling and peeling the eggs is the most labour intensive part! For speed I buy the ham hock pre-cooked and shredded from Marks & Spencer, and although I prefer home-made croutons, you can always buy them instead - or just toast a slice of sourdough.
The dressing uses buttermilk, instead of mayo or sour cream, and it's big bold flavour finishes the salad off perfectly. I've used a local blue cheese called "Sperrin Blue", a Dart Mountain Cheese which is a semi soft, creamy, pasteurised blue cheese which is only lightly veined. I don't like it too funky!
If you're making this for the first time it might take 30 minutes to pull together, but if you make it often you're only looking at 20 minutes tops! Perfect...
2 slices of thick cut sourdough bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
sprinkle of maldon sea salt
handful of broad beans
10 asparagus spears
2 baby gem lettuce
100g shredded ham hock
50g blue cheese
pinch of sugar
1 clove of garlic, crushed
freshly ground pepper
1½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chives, sliced finely
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F.
Cook the Eggs:
Put the eggs into cold water and bring to the boil. Once at boiling point, turn the heat to simmer and further cook to your liking - 2-3 minutes for soft & runny, 5 minutes for hard.
When the eggs are cooking prepare a large bowl of iced water. Once the eggs are cooked plunge them straight in the water to stop the cooking process. When cold, peel them and leave whole until ready to cut and put on the salad.
Whilst the eggs are cooking - Make the Croutons:
Cut the bread into bite-sized chunks. Put into a baking tray with the olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with maldon sea salt and place in the oven and bake until browned around the edges. I set a timer for 5 minutes, then every two minutes to check on them, tossing them each time.
When golden brown, take them out of the oven and leave to cool in the tray.
Cook and blanch the other Vegetables: Put the broad beans in salted boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Blanch the asparagus in the same pan of boiling water during the last minute of cooking the beans. Drain and dry on kitchen roll.
Griddle the Baby Gem Lettuce:
Put a griddle pan [or a frying pan] over a medium heat until extremely hot. Meanwhile cut the baby gem in half and brush all over with olive oil. When the pan is smoking hot griddle the lettuce until it has charred on both sides. Remove from the pan and leave to cool.
Make the Dressing:
Crumble the blue cheese into a bowl and crush with a fork or rubber spatula until it is paste like. Whisk in the buttermilk, sugar and garlic, then stir in the white wine vinegar and chives. Leave to sit for a minute then taste and season with the pepper and salt if required.
Arrange the Salad:
Either serve the salad on one big platter or on individual plates.
Lay the baby gem down first, next sprinkle the shredded ham hock and then add the halved eggs.Arrange the asparagus and beans evenly over the plates.
Dribble the dressing over the salad then top with a handful of croutons.