This is the first of two sponsored summer recipes that I developed with Parma Ham.
A ham sangwich (correct spelling!) was the frequent snack of many an Irish childhood. Especially at my Grandmothers when we would visit on St Stephen’s Day (aka Boxing Day). I knew that I would have to eat that ham in order to access some biscuits. As with most things, it was beautiful in its simplicity. Thick sliced bread, butter, home cooked ham, done.
My rural Irish childhood involved only Irish ham (which is of course very good). It was often home-cooked, thickly sliced, and sometimes pulled directly from the ham by my tiny enthusiastic hands. When I moved from rural Ireland to Cork city, I discovered a wonderful Italian deli (Iago’s), where I would become a regular. It was there that I discovered the joys of Parma Ham. I went through a phase of wrapping everything in it, and I still do sometimes today. I especially love it as a satisfying meaty snack for moments requiring instant gratification.
Parma Ham, from the Belly of Italy
Parma, the home of Parma Ham (and Parmiggiano Reggiano), is a small city in Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy. Emilia Romagna has a sublime food culture. Described as the belly of Italy (which gives some clue as to just how well you will eat there), Emilia Romagna is one of my most visited places (along with Rome). It is the home of many things, including my favourite Tagliatelle with Ragu and that gorgeous and very underrated wine, Lambrusco. Parma itself is a joy of a place to walk around with its winding streets lined by tall brightly painted old buildings.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
Parma Ham is just pork + salt + time + artisanal recipes and standards that have been handed down through the generations. Of course, the terroir too. There are no curing salts or any chemicals, just natural salt. Parma Ham is also one of Italy’s PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) products and as such it can only be made there and in a very specific way. A champagne of ham, if you like.
I have been lucky enough to visit Parma several times. The smell as you walk through those Parma Ham ageing rooms in extraordinary. Walls of ageing Parma Ham legs, towering above your head and by your side. They could sell time in there as a glorious meditative experience. These cathedrals of ham are lined with windows to allow the prevailing winds to breeze through. These winds dry the hams naturally and slowly as they do.
Parma Ham is perfect on its own and it gifts instant flavour to anything it accompanies. I wanted to make something different and bright for summer. This simple and delicious recipe brings the gentle intensity of Parma Ham to a bright and summery Bream and Nectarine Ceviche. It is simple and speedy and would be wonderful as a solo lunch or made in multiple portions to serve on a big platter for friends and family. This would serve two as a starter or light lunch.