Ham hock and leek quiche

I first made this back in the summer, where it works well served with a light salad. In late autumn / early winter, it’d go well with a jacket potato, I reckon, and some steamed green beans. I had eggs, pastry, and cream at home, and wanted to make a quiche (or flan as me ma used to call it), and was browsing Waitrose for inspiration (I’m not a ponce, honest; it’s just closest). I picked up some leeks, because I love leeks, dismissed bacon because that’s my default quiche filling, and headed for cooked meats, where I spotted a packet of pulled ham hock which had that day’s date and was thus reduced to barely any money at all. So I bought it.

I’d not had ham hock until the other Christmas, when Jamie Oliver did something fancy with one and some jerk seasoning. We picked one up from the local butcher’s for a pittance, and did the same – it was delicious. There’s not masses of meat on them (they’re practically all bone and fat), but what’s there is tender and delicious, and they cost barely anything at all – ours weighed a kilo and a half and cost £3.50.

Ingredients

• 1 packet of pulled ham hock (from Waitrose) or a good handful of ham hock that you’ve cooked and pulled yourself
• 1 pre-made shortcrust pastry pie case (or a pre-rolled sheet, or half a pre-made block rolled out, or make some yourself if you’re insane – and a pie dish to put it in)
• 200mls extra thick double cream
• 2 eggs
• 1 good handful of grated mature cheddar cheese
• 2 leeks, diced
• A knob of butter and a splash of olive oil
• Salt and pepper to season

What you do with them

Start by sweating the leeks, with a good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil in a large pan, over a low heat with the lid on. Stir occasionally, until they start going sweet and soft. They should basically turn to mush – how long this takes will depend on how finely you chop them, how big your pan is, etcetera, etcetera. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up, though – you don’t want them to catch and burn.

Once they’re translucent and mushy, add the ham hock and season, and keep stirring, now with the lid off, until all the whole mixture is a delicious-smelling mush, and with no excess liquid. If you’re feeling fancy, you could add some thyme when you season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt, as the ham will probably be quite salty itself.

Meanwhile, sort out your pastry case, however you’re doing it, and pre-bake it at about 200 degrees centigrade for ten to fifteen minutes or so to keep Mary Berry happy. I used to use the pre-made cases, but can never find them these days. I honestly cannot see the point in faffing around making pastry when a premade block is both very reasonably priced and very good; it’s one of the few things where I’ll err to convenience – curry pastes, pasta sauces, sage and onion stuffing, and various other things I’ll do myself from scratch, but pastry is fiddly and makes a mess. Or it does when I try and do it. Not that I’ve tried it in a very long time.

Now mix the cream and eggs together in a bowl, season them well and whisk them thoroughly to combine; you’re basically making a savoury custard mix.

Once everything’s ready, put the leek and ham hock mix in the pastry case, add the cheese on top, and pour the custard mix over the top so it seeps through into all the gaps and fills the case. Don’t be tempted to overfill the case – if you’ve got some left over, freeze it or use it for something else.

Now stick it in a hot oven (about 180) and bake for approx 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and set firm. Serve however you fancy, but I’d recommend allowing it to cool for about 15 minutes before you tuck in; there’s something about a quiche that’s approaching lukewarm which I find irresistible. Leftover slices will keep for a day in the fridge and make you a good packed lunch.

You can, of course, substitute bacon or some other type of ham for the ham hock if you can’t get it. If you use bacon, cut it into small pieces and fry it separately until crispy for the best flavour.

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