Holiday Home Roast Ham

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I remember when I was a young lad that a public holiday would always bring relatives scurrying together from all over the country to gather at my grandparents house. Chief amongst these holidays were Christmas and Easter. I think it had something to do with the double public holiday that meant (as was the case in late 1970s and early 1980s UK) that everything would stop, work, shopping and regular life. The only things that would occur would be cooking, eating, drinking and the playing of games.

The games were my favourite part of the festive season, particularly hours spent playing cards (and watching others playing). Card games would often go on until the early hours and would be sustained by my dear grandmother producing seamlessly endless platters of tasty sandwiches made with home made bread and home cooked meets. Favourite amongst these was the home cooked ham, so different from supermarket bought wet, flabby insipid pink blancmangey stuff that was in vogue at that time. Firm, with a hint of smoke, mustard and honey, it really only needed a smear of chutney to make a great sandwich.

Even though there will only be a few of us together for Easter in Gisborne, New Zealand this year, I still cant resist cooking a holiday ham – I justify that we will get plenty of meals from it, but really it gives me a chance to indulge in some introspective nostalgia and remember the laughter and fun filled holidays of my childhood – Happy Holidays.

Serves: Around a million rounds of late night sandwiches

Ingredients

2.5 – 3kg smoked gammon joint (size is not key here!).
About 20 peppercorns
Around 10 cloves
2 Star Anise
Cinnamon stick
4 Bay leaves
2-3 Tbsp Maple syrup
2-3 Tbsp English mustard

For the glaze

2-3 Tbsp Manuka Honey
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp English mustard
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp oil
Several good grinds of black pepper

Method

  1. Get the biggest pan (cauldron?!) you can lay your hands on.
  2. Open your gammon from its vacuum sealed packaging and rinse under cold running water for a good two minutes, turning it frequently to get a good rinse all over.
  3. Place your gammon in your massive pan and pour enough cold water on to just cover it.
  4. Add all of the ingredients listed above (before glaze listing) to the pan.
  5. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Put lid on pan and leave to simmer for 2 and a half hours
  7. Take off heat and leave to cool
  8. Preheat oven to 180C
  9. Take out your boiled ham and with a small sharp knife remove any string and also the skin on the gammon. The trick here is to remove the skin, but leave as much fat as possible on the ham.
  10. Mix up all the ingredients for the glaze.
  11. Score the fat of the ham, and brush and pour the glaze over the fat of your ham.
  12. Place on a baking tray and straight into your hot oven for around 15 minutes until the glaze has browned/blackened and is bubbling on the fat.

Serve hot with eggs and chips or cold with your favourite salad, cheeses, crusty bread and chutneys.

Classic Kiwi – Blue Cod with Chardonnay Lemon Butter Sauce

We have pretty much finished touring around the South Island (Mainland?!) of New Zealand – a spectacular experience. New Zealand never fails to delight me in so much as you can drive for a couple of hours and find yourself in somewhere very different from where you just left – and you can do it repeatedly.

Whilst driving through the ‘Catlins’ the most southerly part of the South Island between Dunedin and Invercargill) it was getting near lunchtime and we happened across a fantastic cafĂ© – the Niagara Falls cafĂ©. Although the middle of summer, it was freezing and blowing a hoolie of a gale. The menu was brilliant, and I picked the Blue Cod for which the area of the cold southern oceans are famous for. The fish was cooked perfectly and was served quite simply so that you could taste the delicate flavours.

A couple of weeks later when we were in Wellington, I saw Blue Cod at a market and still hankering for the flavours of the Catlins, thought I would recreate what I had been served. The recipe is really easy and even people that (say that they) don’t really like fish will eat it. If you are scared of cooking fish as some people seem to be, then give this one a go


Serves 4

4 x 150g very fresh fillets of Blue Cod (You could use any other delicately flavoured firm white fish, just make sure it is super fresh – always talk to the person serving you the fish and be nice to them!)
50g butter for frying
Zest and juice from 1 large or 2 small lemons
1glass of unoaked Chardonnay
30 – 50g butter (I know, a second lot
)
Salt and pepper

Accompany with buttery mashed potatoes and wilted spinach

Method

In a large, heavy pan melt 50g butter on a medium heat
As butter starts to foam, add your fish fillets.
Leave to fry gently for around 2-3 minutes until flesh is going opaque on top.
Turn fillets over with a palette knife to avoid them breaking up
Fry for a further minute or two
Add lemon zest and juice to pan, then remove fish and place on top of plated spinach and mash
Add glass of wine to pan and reduce down until you have around 100-150ml of fluid.
Add butter to pan and season to taste
Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately

Chicken, Tarragon and Ricotta Slice with Dunedin Salsa

Beginning our three month tour of New Zealand, the first place we landed was Dunedin, in the south of the South Island. The place is a bit of a foodie mecca and my wife was gracious enough to buy me an evening cooking course with one of Dunedin’s best chefs Judith Cullen.

Talking with Judith, she told me all about a great Farmer’s market held down by the (disused) railway station every Saturday morning. I of course went and was amazed by the great selection of fresh produce available. We visited in mid February (late summer) and there was an impressive selection of local vegetables. The stars emongst these organic gems seemed to be the avocadoes, corn cobs and fantastic tomatoes. They were all abundant and at great prices.

As often happens, I buy what is in season, good and cheap. Much to my wifes frustration, I rarely shop with a meal in mind, or if I do, I will end up changing it halfway through my shop. I create meals from what is available (sometimes I have great diasters, sometimes amazing successes).

Having returned to our holiday rental in Dunedin’s Mornington suburb pleased with my haul of vegetables and some great fresh herbs, my wife reminds me that we need something to go with all the veg – your daughter needs protein! (I had intended to get some great New Zealand lamb, but got carried away with the green stuff).

Quick as a flash I had a brainwave “I thought we would use up the rest of the roast chicken in the fridge”. I had got away with it.

Picking the meat off the carcass of last night’s chicken is a particular pleasure, finding all the delicious juicy bits that seem to have grown overnight.

So here is my recipe for a delicious summer meal that can be cooked quick as a flash


Serves: 4

Ingrediants

Around 2 cups of cooked chicken
Small bunch of taragon
Salt & Pepper
Around 200g ricotta cheese
A little chicken stock or water (30-60ml)
2 sheets puff pastry (make your own if you have a spare 9 hours or so, otherwise use ready made)
Optional – a handful of chopped mushrooms

For the Dunedin Salsa

About 15-20 dried cherry tomatoes (very easy to make your self or use sun dried tomatoes)
2 ripe avocadoes
Small bunch coriander
2-3 Tbsp Caramelised balsamic vinegar
3-5 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 pickled ‘pepperdew’ peppers
1 tsp smoked paprika
Corn from 2-3 cooked cobs of corn (or one large can)
Salt & pepper
Method

Set oven to 185c
Combine cooked chicken, tarragon, ricotta (and mushrooms if using).
Add sufficient stock/water to loosen up the mixture a little without making it too runny. Exact quantity depends on how runny your ricotta is, how dry your chicken is, which way the wind is blowing etc, etc.
Taste mixture and season to your preference.
Divide ready made pastry sheets into two equal sized rectangles.
Add a good dollop of your filling into the lower half of each rectangle.
Wet the edge of the pastry all around and fold over the rest of the rectangle to make a square with the filling in the middle of it.
Press the moistened edges of the pastry together firmly with your fingers tips. Once pressed all round, fold over 5mm or so of the pastry on the 3 press together sides to make a neat edge.
Brush the filled pastry square with water all over and make a couple of holes or slits in the top.
Transfer your pastry slices onto a baking paper lined tray and place in oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Whilst cooking, prepare the salsa

Chop avocado.pepperdew peppers and cherry tomatoes into smallish pieces.
Chop coriander roughly
Combine the rest of the ingridents together in a large bowl and then add the stuff you chopped up.
Taste and season

Serve the slices warm with a good portion of the salsa – have salsa spare as everyone always seems to want seconds


First post of 2012! (better late than never…)

As you may have noticed, there has been a bit of a gap (to say the least!) between blog posts. There have been many reasons (read excuses here): Christmas, New Years, Goodbyes, Hellos, travelling around Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The truth is I have been swept along in the moment and lost my blogging mojo. I really want to post, but somehow it keeps dropping down my to do list.

As I have alluded to above, we have been doing a lot of travelling around in 2012 – a fantastic experience and one that has allowed us to experience so many amazing things in such a short space of time. My wife is an avid blogger and has made a pretty good job of recording our adventures.

Anyway, I resolve afresh to blog my recipes more often

Please stick with me!

Ho, Ho, Ho – A Little Girl’s First Christmas Cookies

So, we are now back in the UK and merrily entering into the fray of the festive season.  A christmas cake is baked, menus planned for the various family and friend celebrations and excess is being happily anticipated.

My little girl frequently likes to help me out in the kitchen, what she lacks in technical ability, she makes up for in abundance with enthusiasm.

A lot of friends and neighbours have given her some great gifts, so we thought we would return the favour with something crisp and festive that goes well with the seasonal fare, whether that be a schooner of sherry, cup of coffee or pitcher of egg-nog.

These Christmas Cookies are easy to make and great fun for kids to get involved with – a very useful way to use up half a day or so if you are faced with bored kids and wet weather over the holiday season.

They taste buttery, sweet and crisp and can be decorated in an understated way with a dusting of icing sugar, but I’m sure the kids will be able to create some altogether more dazzling creations with access to food colourings, icing and edible decorations.

Happy Christmas…

Makes: around 80-90 small cookies

Ingredients

300g White Sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract (or 3 tsp ground giner)

500g dairy free margarine (butter is ok for those that are not baking dairy free!)

750g plain flour

2 egg yolks

Icing

1 cup of icing sugar

3 Tbsp water

Food colouring

Edible food decorations – stars, balls, hearts, flowers, whatever you like and can find!s

Method

1. Place sugar, vanilla/ginger, egg yolks and margarine/butter in a large bowl and mix until pale and creamy – you may want to use an electric mixer (or if you need to use up time, get the kids to mix using a whisk or fork!).

2. Sift in flour

3. Using your hands as sparingly as possible, combine into a slightly dry dough and divide into two or three large discs of dough.

4. Wrap discs in clingfilm and place in fridge for 30-40 minutes

5. Take discs out of fridge and roll to the thickness of a pound (or euro) coin.

6. Turn on oven to 170C.

7. Cut out shapes using a small cutter and place on a lightly floured baking tray (or 3!).

8. Bake for around 8 minutes until just golden – all ovens are different so adjust if necessary.

9. Leave cookies to cool on wire rack.

10. Mix together icing sugar and water until you have a thickish paste.

11. Divide icing into several small pots and colour as apopropriate.

12. With a teaspoon, place small amount on each cookie and spread around until thinly dispersed.

13. Place sprinkles and edible decorations on the icing whilst it is still tacky so they will stick.

14. leave cookies to dry for an hour or so.

15.  Divide up into small batches, wrap in cellophane sealed with a bow and make your friends and neighbours smile.

Tarka Dhal – so good on a cold blustery night

So, our time in France is coming to an end and my mind is drifting to the other side of the channel and what I can cook tomorrow night after a long day of travelling. I want to cook something that is tasty, healthy, quick and easy and most importantly requires little if no shopping. Finally, after eating bland meals on a ferry, I want something that has a kick and brings my palate back to life – tarka dhal is just the ticket.

I love spicy food and curry is something I crave when I am away fro uk for any length of time. I am always amazed just how good this tastes and how quick it comes together – it tastes like it has taken days to cook. My brother introduced me to this a few years ago, and I think I have improved on his version with a few touches.

This was my version put together from what I always have in my cupboards and fridge – so quick and easy to make, but good enough to get people asking for seconds and the recipe!

Serves: 4 people easily, can stretch to 6 with more water.

Ingredients

around 25 grammes butter and a little oil
1 brown onion
2 good cloves garlic
1 inch chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
good grind of black pepper
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 regular size can of plum tomatoes
1 can (med size – smaller than the toms) coconut milk
up to 1 pint chicken stock
1 cup lentils
fresh coriander (cilantro to my American chums)

Method

1 Chop onions finely, crush garlic and grate ginger.
2 Melt butter in oil until just sizzling.
3 Add garlic, onion and ginger to sizzling butter and fry until transparent.
4 Add spices to onion mix and fry for less than 1 minute (if mixture begins to burn add some water to stop this.
5 Add toms, coconut milk and chicken stock to mixture and stir
6 Add lentils (be warned at this stage the whole thing looks like a hideous mess, but trust me, you won’t believe what a difference time makes!).
7 cook for around 20 mins or until lentils are tender. You will need to stir hard every now and again as this loves to try sticking to your pan.
7 Just before serving, add juice of lemon and plenty of coriander to taste
9 Taste and add some more salt or pepper if required