Now I'll be the first to admit that I perhaps underestimated the versatility of Parma ham, and what it can bring to a meal. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love the stuff, we always have it in the fridge and I will happily snack on it. I was simply just clueless to what else you could do with it. Guilty of simply sticking to what I know and using Parma ham with cheese boards or cold entrees, I was naturally intrigued to see how it could feature in three courses; canapes I could understand, main course I was intrigued and, well, dessert I just didn’t think it could be done.

Parma Ham invited us down to Cactus Studios in Clapham for an evening of learning all about parma ham, how to cook it, how to work with it – and of course prosecco. Wine Wednesdays, anyone?

We started off the evening with a demonstration from Bridgette and Millie, the two chefs who had curated the menu, and were shown how to make the canapes alongside trying their previous creations. Bridgette, who was lovely, was keen to show us just exactly how many flavours you can combine when using parma ham. Sweet, savoury, cheese, fruit – anything seemed to work. We were given a demonstration of two canapes; they were simple to make, delicious and worked really well flavour wise. If you’re looking for something to serve for a dinner party it’s a pretty safe bet these would go down well. 

Once we had made the canapes we moved onto the main. A butternut squash risotto. I’m am an avid risotto fan, and was surprised to find out the correct way of making on was completely different to how I’d attempted to make one. 

Apparently, the optimum cooking time for a risotto is 18-20 minutes from the moment the first bit of liquid goes into the dish. Take note! 

I mean I won’t lie, I am a horrendous cook. Completely useless. So I was glad when Phoebe, representing the brand, came over to help me with the cooking. The risotto didn’t have many ingredients, and in all honesty it didn’t need them. We started by making the pesto(which unbeknownst to me is ridiculously easy to make) and once we had mixed the basil, pine nuts and oil it was done. Yes it really is that easy.

We moved onto the main pain. Dicing the shallots, because apparently shallots have more flavour than onions, and frying them with garlic, butter and oil. Once they had become translucent we added the rice and cooked in the butter/oil/shallot mixture…we then added the white wine, and in Bridgets words if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it – there is no such thing as cooking wine. From the moment the liquid hits the rice, it’s 18-20 minutes from there and you will have hit the optimum time. We continued to add stock to the mixture and stirred, as you would with any risotto, trying to keep the same consistency we’d seem demonstrated. As it approached the 20 minute mark we added the mashed butternut squash, parmesan and let it all mix in. 

Once it was completed we topped with the pesto, roasted butternut squash and parma ham which had been grilled. Grilled parma ham sounds weird – but it gives the most perfect texture for a dish which is already relatively mushy. 

Without a shadow of a doubt, this was one of the best risottos I have had. I am not saying that purely because I was invited to attend the event. If you read my blog, I am sure you know I am anything but dishonest…if anything too honest. Beside the point – wow.

We were all invited to sit round a large table which was nice. I’m quite a shy person, but everyone was chatting away (mostly about food, but what do you expect with a room full of lifestyle bloggers/writers/personalities – and hell, I am not complaining seeing as it’s my favourite topic of conversation). I think I speak for everyone – it was great. 

Once we had finished we were told about dessert. Ironically I was full, and had posted an inspirational quote previously in the day which spurred me on:

“No matter how much I eat, there is always room for dessert. Dessert doesn’t go to the stomach, dessert goes the heart”

Hell who am I to argue with that?

Dessert was a cherry based, pastry with vanilla cream – and, of course, candied parma ham. I have a weird complex with sweet and savoury. Something I conquered at this event both with dessert and canapes. Despite your reservations, and apprehension, about parma ham on a dessert – I can tell you it works. Believe it or not, it tasted insanely good. 

A huge thank you to Parma Ham for hosting – with an undoubtable mention to Phoebe and Lydia who were fantastic, and completely saved me when I knew no-one. #AwkwardDatingStories 

Bridgette and Millie were also fantastic – and created such a brilliant, yet realistic, menu you could easily try at home…and given the parma ham I’m now in possession of I have no doubt I will be created them once again. 

With the champagne and canape season, by that I mean Christmas, approaching it’s well worth trying a couple of these out for yourself. They’re the perfect dishes to serve to guests.

Visit their website here: www.prosciuttodiparma.com/

Photo Credit to John Holdship (www.johnholdship.com) who got these incredible shots of the event – thank you! 

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