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.

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The Best Roast Potatoes

Normally I like quick and simple to prepare dishes that look really difficult.

I find that the best roast potatoes tend to be almost the opposite of this; they need some careful and time-consuming prep to produce in essence something simple.

However the results are well worth it – nothing goes better with a British Sunday lunch than great roasties, soft and fluffy in the middle and oh so crisp on the outside. The treat of stealing one fresh from the oven whilst waiting for the rest of the lunch to come together is a guilty pleasure indeed…

The secret to this dish is to use a large enough baking tray so that you can get a good layer of fat and that the potatoes have enough space to move around.

Make plenty as if any are left (unlikely) they are not bad cold, sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper and dipped in mayonnaise.

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

12-14 medium potatoes (marfona or other floury variety)
Goose fat or beef dripping sufficient to give around 3-5mm depth in your chosen roasting tin.
Sea salt

Method

1. Peel potatoes and cut them into decent size chunks. (tip: this is a great job to get someone else to do!)
2. Preheat oven to around 200c.
3. Parboil potatoes in a large pan of salted water for around 4 or 5 minutes.
4. In the meantime, place the goose fat or beef dripping in the roasting tin and place in the hot oven.
5. Drain potatoes and return them to pan away from the hob. Keep the hob on high as you will need it again in a second
6. Place lid on pan of drained potatoes and shake them vigorously for 5 seconds to rough them up a bit. Place to one side. Take great care and use tea towels with this as everything is very hot and if your grasps not good and firm, it is easy to end up covered in hotter than he’ll potatoes.
7. Take roasting tin from oven and place on your hot hob.
8. The oil will be smoking so you need to work quickly (but carefully as everything is hideously hot) and place the roughed up potatoes into the roasting tin on the hob. The potatoes should sizzle.
9. Whilst the potatoes are still sizzling on the hob, turn them around so they are well covered in the hot oil.
10. Return the tin to the hot oven and roast for around 40 minutes. Halfway through cooking, turn the potatoes again.
11. Take out from oven and drain the roasties on absorbent paper, sprinkle with salt and serve.

Sticky Toffee Pudding With Brandy Caramel Sauce

The weather in Hampshire has taken a sudden cooler turn this week. My wife tells me one cannot pretend it is shorts weather here any longer and I must wear longer attire. It will reduce the puzzled looks from other shoppers on the plus side.

Anyway, as the shorter days and longer nights descend on the northern half of the world, seasonal fresh soft fruit for dessert begin to disappear from our menu.

Fear not, one of the absolute delights is the ability to justify the treat of an old fashioned English Pudding.

I have eaten this many times, but always thought it would be complicated and time consuming to reproduce an inferior imitation of what is served in restaurants – surely you need some specialized equipment or ingredient to make something so good. All you need is around an hour, a cold evening and a few hungry friends..

Serves 4

Ingredients

150g dates
200ml of Earl grey tea (English breakfast is ok too)
60g butter
90g caster sugar
2 small eggs
120g self raising flour (or 1 extra large)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp good vanilla essence
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp of horlicks or malted milk drink powder (don’t worry too much if you don’t have it)

Brandy caramel sauce

120g white sugar
40ml water
200ml double cream
40ml of brandy (or whiskey)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 165c
2. Soak dates in hot tea for at least 30 mins, overnight is fine.
3. Chop soaked dates finely
4. Oil a loaf tin well (it is called sticky for a reason…
5. Cream butter and sugar together until pale in colour. Add egg little by little, beating well between each addition to avoid curdling.
6. Fold in all remaining ingredients (not the sauce ones!) until just combined.
7. Place in loaf tin and bake for 40 mins or until inserted knife comes out clean.
8. Now for the sauce, put sugar and water in small pan and heat on a high heat.
9. Do not walk away from the pan and do not stir. Just watch it bubble until it begins to turn from golden to light brown. Remember do not stir AT ALL!
10. Once it goes from golden to light brown you have a window of around 10 seconds otherwise it will burn and you need to start again.
11. Take off heat and immediately add cream – it will froth right up and look really angry. be careful as it is hotter than hell! Once it begins to calm down you may stir this quite hard, but carefully.
12. The sauce is great at that point, try it if you like (carefully) as it is sensational.  The sauce is great just served with vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
13. Add brandy to sauce and stir well.
14. Pour a third sauce over pudding in loaf tin. Cut pudding into thick slices served with rest of sauce and a swirl of cold cream.
15. Undo your belt a little and enjoy the happy pudding induced bliss like state.