Crisp Ham Hock and Pumpkin Salad by Alice Hart

I bought the new cookbook by Alice Hart, sight unseen. The cover was my only glimpse into this fabulous book. Although that’s not totally true, I’ve cooked from Alice’s books before and I knew it would be great, I new I needed to have it (words from a cookbook addict for sure).
And I was right. The book is a beautiful and Alice should be very pleased with this one. Friends At My Table is a collection of recipes you can use individually or as a menu to share with friends. From Vietnamese inspired bridal showers, to Autumn picnics, glamping, and a beach cricket barbeque menu. There is alot of the outdoors in Alice’s books which reflects her love of traveling in her beloved campervan, Myrtle the Hurtle. It’s inspiring.

I was going to share the recipe for these delicious little blueberry, almond and vanilla choux buns with you but then I made the crisp ham and pumpkin salad. Alice describes the recipe as her favourite in the book, and I know why.

OK so the picture doesn’t do it justice. There are a few components to the dish before assembly but it’s simple and you will want to make it again and again. I reduced the serving size by a third to make two perfect portions. The recipe is not exactly the same as printed but pretty much. It is shared with you by the kind permission of Quadrille Publishing.

Crisp Ham Hock and Pumpkin Salad, chilli dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds.


1 small smoked ham hock

300g pumpkins, peeled and diced 5cm

1 tablespoon olive oil

35g pumpkin seeds

2 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves

a small handful of coriander

a small handful of thai basil leaves or more coriander

1 large ripe avocado, cut into segments


2 kaffir lime leaves (I thought I had some in the freezer but no, so I added lime zest when the juice is added)

3 tablespoons mild olive oil

1 shallot, very finely sliced

15g palm sugar or 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1/2-1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

thumbnail size piece of ginger cut into fine matchsticks

half a garlic clove finely chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, outside leaves peeled to the white inner and finely sliced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

juice of half a lime

half a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil


Preheat oven to 140°C fan. Put the hock into a small roasting tin, cover with foil and roast for 2 or so hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Let it cool enough to remove the skin and excess fat. Break into small pieces. This maybe done up to two days in advance. Return meat to room temperature cover with foil and heat in a low oven.

For the pumpkin heat the oven to 220°C fan. Toss the pumpkin in oil, season  and roast in a lined baking tin for 30 mins or until tender and edges golden. This can also be done two days ahead and reheated in the same way as the hock.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan, shaking them about until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the lime leaves, stack them on top of each other, cut out the stalk, roll tightly and slice as thinly as possible. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a moderate frying pan, add shallots and cook gently for 10 minutes but not to colour. Add sugar and cook for two minutes. Then add the chilli, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and lime leaves. Keep the heat very low and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly before adding soy sauce, lime juice (and lime zest if using instead of lime leaves), remaining olive oil and sesame oil.

Combine salad leaves and herbs, scatter the pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, avocado and ham pieces over it, followed by the dressing and cracked black pepper to taste.

Very happily serves 2.

Alice’s Cook Book and Passionfruit Slice

As you know, I don’t usually do brunches, but when there is something special to entice me, I can make the exception.

Brunch with Alice Hart at La Fromagerie is that sort of exception.

Alice seemed a little nervous, in front of this small group, but was sweet, warm, friendly and seemed driven by the thoughts of an environmental, food enthusiast.

Alice’s Cook Book is really not any old ordinary cookbook, but a part of the New Voice In Food series from Quadrille Publishing, supporting new talent in the food world.

I wasn’t sure about the format of the book when I first saw it but the titles of the recipes drew me in. I soon began to enjoy the arrangement of the recipes into picnics, camper vans, seasonal Sunday lunches etc. It began to be a story and I could see that Alice had put alot of herself into this book.

Alice demonstrated a few recipes from the book, discussed her inspiration and enthusiasm for her first cookbook.

The first offering was Blueberry and Granola Muffins. A light muffin made on a wholemeal/plain flour mix, yoghurt, granola and berries. Easy enough and tasty too.

Alice then demonstrated her Roast Courgette and Butternut Agrodolce with Stuffed Courgette Flowers. She really made each dish look easy to do. The courgette and butternut mix was brought together by the agrodolce (sour/sweet), beautifully balanced flavours of sugar and red wine vinegar . La Fromagerie had, of course, supplied an amazing fresh goats cheese with a distinctive citrus flavour. This balanced the dish very well.
Our next brunch treat was something which had caught my eye in her book too. Beetroot-Cured Side of Salmon with Aioli and Shaved Fennel Salad. It is a really beautiful dish. Curing the salmon is an incredibly easy preparation. Aioli, sounds difficult but only requires one strong hand and one gently pouring one (or a food processor!). La Fromagerie had added some borage flowers which had a delicate cucumber taste. A great dish for a party of friends on a summers day.
Our final taste from Alice’s Cook Book was a Mocha Affogato. A complete hit of chocolate icecream, from The Ivy House, with the signature La Fromagerie coffee, Le Piantagioni,  poured hot over the top.

We have a much loved family recipe from my late paternal grandmother for Passionfruit slice. She kept it a secret and all the women were trying to coax it out of my Aunt after her passing. I think my sister now has a copy.

So I was curious to try this version to see how it stands up.

Passionfruit Slice

For the Base:

200g digestive biscuits

60g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

600g cream cheese

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

2 free-range egg yolks

1tbsp cornflour, sifted

250g caster sugar

200ml fresh passionfruit juice (the sieved pulp from about 12 fruits, depending on size)

seeds scraped from a vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Topping:

3 gelatine leaves

200ml freshly squeezed orange juice

25g caster sugar

50ml passionfruit pulp or juice

mango or pineapple to serve.


Preheat oven to 160*C. Line 20x30cm, 6mm deep, tin or dish, with parchment paper.

Place the biscuits in a food processor until finely crushed. Add the melted butter and pulse briefly, then press into the tin. Bake for 10mins and set aside.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. beat in eggs, yolks and cornflour, then the sugar and passionfruit juice and vanilla. Don’t over mix, as too much air will cause the cooked cheesecake to crack.

Pour over biscuit base and smooth the top. bake for about 30 mins, until wobbly in the centre but not brown on top. Turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door open for 15 mins ( to minimise cracking). remove from oven and set aside to cool completely before chilling in the fridge for at least an hr.

To make the topping, soak gelatine in cold water to soften. Heat 4 tblp of the orange juice with the sugar until simmering. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatine sheets. Add the remaining orange juice and passionfruit pulp or juice.

Chill for 20mins, then pour over cheesecake and return to fridge for at least 4 hrs, preferably overnight.

Beautifully creamy and delicate passionfruit, it’s as kitsch as you can get but, of course, it didn’t have a scratch on my Nan’s. 🙂

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for providing Alice’s Cook Book.