In a previous post I talked about the super honesty system in Churton that enables local people to buy free range Churton eggs from a barrow by the side of the road. On that post I showed photos of how I used one of the eggs in a Middle Eastern lamb baharat, and another two to make a lovage and lime mayonnaise. On this occasion it is all about ham horns.
This is the weather for al-fresco dining, and I love to eat outdoors so today I made a ham horn with salad for lunch. The ham horn was an invention of my Mum’s and quite apart from the fact that I like to use Mum’s inventions, it is very easy to make and amazingly filling. So filling, in fact, that I had to change my plans for my evening meal to something significantly smaller than originally planned.
A ham horn is quite simply a tube of ham stuffed with chopped eggs (and herbs if you fancy them) in mayonnaise. Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious. The ham horn is supposed to be wider at one end than the other to give it the horn shape, and Mum’s were always proper horns, but mine always come out uncompromisingly pancake-shaped.
You can make ham horns with mayo from a jar, of course, but there is nothing that you can purchase in a supermarket that looks or tastes remotely like home-made mayonnaise, especially when additional flavours are added to give it an extra hit of something special. Unlike the supermarket white mayo, a home made one based on eggs yolks, which are of course deep yellow, transforms the ingredients into a lovely primrose colour. Mayonnaise is so quick and easy to make that it is well worth taking out five minutes to do it. If you want a herb mayonnaise, the herbs have to be fresh; dried ones simply don’t work. The only exception I have found is dried tarragon, which can be soaked in vinegar to release the flavour, and then both the vinegar and the dried tarragon can be used as part of the base for the mayonnaise. Another way of adding flavour is to used flavoured oil, which can be home made.
I do my mayonnaise in a mini food processor. Most mini processors have a hole in the lid for precisely this purpose, but mine is ancient and I had to drill a hole into it. I know that some people use plastic blades for mayo, but I’ve never had any trouble with a metal blade. I start with a good dollop of Dijon, Senf (German mustard) or tarragon mustard, with a good squeeze of lemon or lime juice or white wine vinegar (depending on what it is to accompany). On this occasion it was Dijon mustard and lemon juice, with a good turn of black pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt.
The eggs are separated and the whites retained for a future use (and can be frozen). I have the whites earmarked for a tempura dish, but they are also great for souffles and meringues. I then chuck the eggs into the bottom of the food processor with the mustard, lemon juice and seasoning and give it a quick spin. The trick, and it’s the only serious trick, is to add the oil terribly, terribly slowly. I was using a Filippo Berio “mild and lighter in colour” oil into which a few weeks ago I had added some sliced lemon, chilli, garlic and lovage, and was a gorgeous shade of sunshine yellow. If you are new to making mayonnaise, I would suggest that you use olive oil (any) or sunflower oil rather than rapeseed, as the latter is much more difficult to emulsify (thicken).
When you begin to add the oil, the mix in the bottom of the food processor is a dark yellow (thanks to the yolks and mustard). As you add the oil, in a very slow, very thin stream, the oil and egg yolks gradually emulsify and the dark yellow starts to lighten as the mayonnaise thickens. This lightening process is the emulsification taking place. The more oil you add, the thicker it gets. I have occasionally become so engrossed in adding the oil that I’ve forgotten to stop now and again to check it for thickness, and have ended up with something that can be carved like butter! On this occasion I stopped on time, with a nice, soft texture to which I added chopped herbs to the food processor and gave it a good pulse.
If, after tasting, you find that you want to add more lemon juice or wine vinegar to add a bit more acidity, just be aware (the second trick) that this will loosen the emulsion, so unless it was already very stiff, you may have to add more oil. You can also add salt to help thicken it up (the third and final trick). Do this incrementally so that it is not over-salty, and keep tasting as you do it, but it works.
You can use any herbs that you like, of course (parsley, spring onions, chives and dill are all good options, and tarragon is terrific), but I have recently discovered that lovage and coriander, both strong, highly aromatic herbs, go superbly together in some contexts. I’ve always been a fan of coriander in egg mayonnaise, ever since buying a gourmet sandwich in a Turkish café on Leather Lane, near where I worked in Clerkenwell (London), but the idea of lobbing in some lovage was new, and I was so pleased when it worked so well. Lovage is very powerful so be a bit careful with it. In the mayonnaise, the flavour of the herbs is brought out by the lemon juice (or vinegar if using that instead) in the mayo.
To prevent the top forming a skin, I store my mayo in the fridge with the clingfilm actually resting on the surface until it is needed. An hour before I am ready to assemble the ham horn, I take the mayonnaise out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. This is because it becomes more solid in the fridge, and at room temperature it loosens back to the original texture that it had when scooped out of the mini processor. Just before assembly I peel the egg, chop it up and stir it into the mayo.
The ham I had to hand was thinly-sliced Italian porchetta, which has a lovely flavour but is ultra-thin and very difficult to extract in one piece from the wrapping. A thicker ham would have been better, but I didn’t have one. So instead of a smooth, elegant horn, I ended up with a battered and patched flattened tube. Still, it tasted delicious.
I made a salad from three types of lettuce that I grow in pots on the patio, and lots of herbs, again from patio pots, chosen with care because I didn’t want an unholy clash with the lovage and coriander in the mayo. Parsley, oregano, sorrel, and mint accompanied the lettuce and were joined by some delicious little oval yellow tomatoes that Dad gets for me (brand name Natoora), that are tart instead of sickly sweet, and full of amazing flavour. I like them straight from the fridge, ultra cold. A dampened piece of kitchen roll laid over the top keeps everything fresh. I always have a jar of home made French-style vinaigrette in the cupboard (mustard, white wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic clove, freshly ground black pepper, all given a seriously good shake), and I served that on the side to be stirred in at the last minute to prevent the salad going soggy.
When I had finished, and took it all out into the garden on a tray, I had a ham horn, a herb salad and chilled yellow baby tomatoes on a plate with the vinaigrette in a little dish on the side and a tall glass of lovely still lemonade, very cold (not home made but divine). It was all rather delightful.
The Churton egg continues to rock.
If you want to check out more of my Churton egg adventures, click on
the Churton Eggs label in the right hand margin.
More will be added soon 🙂