We need to get this out of the way right from the get-go – this party ham pâté looks absolutely disgusting in the recipe book and the fact that the author microwaves it is absolutely beyond me. As you can see from the photo below of the original recipe, it looks like what you’d imagine Satan’s sphincter to be. It reminds one of something you’d use industrial strength Bazuka gel to burn off a limping horse’s foot. It is the kind of party dish you’d wheel out only if you wanted your guests to leave with scowls and for one of them to kick your dog in anger on the way out.
So, of course, we must try it. As you may have guessed by the subtle clue in the title, this recipe comes from ‘The Book of Microwave Cookery’ by none other than our good friend Sonia Allison. I ordered the book because the idea of a book devoted to microwave cookery delighted me and it was only after receipt that I spotted Sonia Allison was behind it. I mean, of course she was, there was seemingly a few years in the eighties where she was a veritable doyenne of hosting parties and writing recipes.
I’m experiencing strong Baader–Meinhof effect with this woman: I’ve seen her name once and now she’s everywhere, filling every conceivable cooking niche. I half expect to go for a crap and pick up some of the bathroom shiterature we have scattered about only to find her face walking me through 100 recipes for entertaining in the Khor Virap Monastery or 87 billion things to do with boiled eggs. She was certainly comprehensive.
Speaking of comprehensive, don’t you agree I make a wonderful Fanny?
The book does promise an awful lot – the cover is awash with interesting looking dishes that I refuse to believe were made in a microwave, including a lovely looking coffee cake and an elegant gateaux, though there’s scant reference to these in the book so I fear it may have been a bit of a bait and switch: stick a microwave in the background of a pre-prepared spread. I’m not saying you can’t trust Sonia but there’s clearly shenanigans afoot. More mysteriously there are five dessert glasses filled with a luminous purple slop that looks like something you’d scrape from your bumper after a drunken drive in the country which are entirely missing from the recipes.
There’s a whole chapter devoting to cooking safely with the microwave where Sonia walks you through exactly what a microwave is with the deft touch of someone who is also scrabbling together 100 Marmite recipes on the side (not even kidding there, I’ve got it in front of me). She does go against all accepted safety knowledge by stating you can put metal skewers in the microwave with no ill-effect, which is a nonsense. I once left a teaspoon in a cup of tea I was reheating and accidentally opened a portal through to 1992 – I could see Past James. Should have shouted through that he’ll end up doing alright and looking fit.
Perhaps my favourite writing touch from the whole book is the way she will start every single chapter with the same schtick: a dramatic declaration that using the microwave really serves no benefit and it does nothing a conventional oven and hob can’t do, before having herself an epiphany by the end of the chapter and crying out that she couldn’t believe she was so foolish. This is endearing at chapter three and vexing by chapter fourteen. She’s the 80s author equivalent of Troy McClure in The Simpsons slapping his cheek and looking shocked.
One thing I do love though: she thanks her scientific husband for his constructive advice and guidance, which I think is beautiful. Those who have read our books may have realised that Paul and I struggle with the romantic love-letters to one another at the back of the book. We are told to be mushy but if we were being honest, Paul’s note to me would be to thank me for staying out of his hair and mine to him would simply be a photograph of my guilty face with ‘WHAT AM I LIKE’ in cerise Mistral underneath.
To be honest, I do feel a bit mean reading these old cookbooks and scoffing because at the time they would have been an invaluable resource I’m sure, and plus, who is to say that in thirty years time someone won’t be reading our recipe books and chortling at our air-frying ways and crazy ingredients? Hell, it’ll probably be me doing it. Hi Future James, glad you made it through the bad weather, you’re looking fit!
The good news with this party ham pâté is that Sonia reassures us it is ‘an excellent recipe for slimmers’, presumably because you’ll spend most of the evening dry-heaving and pulling your lips back like a snarling dog at the thought of eating it. According to Sonia, for added piquancy, half a clove of garlic could be added. To 800g of ham. She was a wild one for sure! Saying that in the hints and tips bit at the very back she does coyly give a guide on how to microwave ‘body lotion or oils’ so maybe those dinner parties were a hotbed of filth after all.
I confess though: I did try following her recipe to the letter – which was difficult as I only have a normal microwave whereas she seems to be cooking in something you could climb inside for safety in the event of a nuclear war – and it was awful. When a recipe warns you that the edges will brown but this will have ‘no effect on taste or texture’ a warning sign should shoot up. Sonia also suggests using cling film in the microwave, which I did to no real ill effect, though it meant posting myself outside the microwave door lest it burst into flames.
With one ham entirely wasted, I tinkered with the recipe to bring it in line with a more ‘doable’ option at home. I have kept the ingredients largely the same, adding only a couple of modern touches to up the flavour a little. Finally, you can bore off if you think I’m spending time cutting a boiled egg just so for decoration like she did – slicing those pimento olives you see in the picture almost finished me off. To the recipe then!
As you can, the original party ham pâté wasn’t a looker!
But with a few tweaks, the party ham pâté can be made delicious!
And when served with piccalilli and decent bread, the party ham pâté is really quite good
You want chives with your party ham pâté? Then you’ll smoke a whole PACKET of dried chives
party ham pâté
Yield 4 big portions
As discussed at length above, Sonia Allison's microwave party ham pâté is a surefire winner at the dinner table, as long as you change the ingredients, method of cooking and presentation style. But if you follow a recipe and change all the ingredients, method and delivery, is it the original recipe? Or your own? Either way, if you stick to the original method you'll be left with a Ship of Faeces, I guarantee.
This makes enough for four giant portions and if you do as we did, it goes really well with bread and piccalilli. As ever, calorie counts are approximate.
Oh: although Sonia feels the need to decorate the top with eighty-seven keels of dried chives, you absolutely shouldn't. I sneezed bringing this to the table (it's OK, we're among friends) and thought I was at a leprechaun's wedding. If you must adorn it, try just a sprinkling of fresh chives.
- 800g unsmoked gammon joint
- two large white onions
- two cloves of garlic
- three large eggs
- thirty olives stuffed with pimento
- salt and pepper for days
- 25g parsley (fresh is better)
- one teaspoon of dried sage
You will need a food processor / blender for this recipe - see notes if you don't have one
- cook the ham as per the instructions - we use our Instant Pot - about twenty five minutes on high pressure and the whole thing is cooked and ready to shred
- blitz the cooled ham in a food processor until very fine indeed
- do the same with the onion and garlic and combine with the ham
- stir the eggs into the mixture with a really good pinch or two of pepper and one of salt (don't add too much salt, the ham is already salty) together with the pepper and sage
- grease a loaf tin - and really go for it mind you - and then press the mixture in and cook for around an hour on 170 degrees or until the egg has cooked through
- allow to cool and adorn with the sliced pimento olives and whatever else you want
- slice and serve
- you could do so much with this - add curry powder for a bit of spice, chopped egg rather than beaten, different herbs and spices and all that
- not got a food processor - shred the ham with two forks as much as you can instead - it'll be coarser, but so am I
- our new cookbook - Dinner Time - is now available to pre-order and we quite honestly believe it is the best one yet - you can pre-order here!
- our second cookbook Fast & Filling is all about saving time and eating well: order yours here!
- our original cookbook will also tickle your pickle with 100 slimming recipes: click here to order
- and if you're looking to track your dieting successes, then we have a gorgeous little planner: here
- we have silicone loaf tins and they work superbly as you can just plop the food straight out - the ones we use are cheap on Amazon nearly all the time and can be found here
Disclosure: the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Which is handy, as I just wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody, and frankly with energy prices the way they are we need all the money we can get.
Got some leftover ham? Chuck it in our cheese and ham quiche from 2016 – click the picture to be taken straight there!
There ain’t no way that I’ll make do with anything less than I’m used to!