As a child living in North Wales, I occasionally went to stay with my grandmother, who lived in a cold angular 1960’s house, overlooking the Conway estuary. It was an awkward relationship made all the more difficult by my dreading mealtimes when I would find myself seated at a pale blue formica table with its cold steel rim, in stilted conversation.
As a very young girl, I made an innocent mistake on one of these visits. One of those that you play along with because you feel its too embarassing to admit to your stupidity. It was all about ‘my favourite meal’. In my defence I was still quite young and I hadn’t quite sorted out in my head what were crisps and what were chips - often confusing the two. Chips, as I was to learn, were the real rarity and when served with sliced ham, had to be part of the best meal in the world. Hot, crispy yet fluffy potato served with cold juicy ham – just the best. However, this was one of those confused moments and I told her my favourite meal was ham and ‘crisps’. She checked with me that this was what I really wanted and I, salivating at the possibilities of what I was later to realise were ‘chips’, said “yes, yes please, ham and crisps”. So, right into my teens, everytime she ‘cooked’ for me, she would proudly serve me a couple of slices of cold ham, a handful of Smiths plain crisps and a few quarters of tomatoes. I cringe to this day as I remember always eating with a smile and over played enthusiasm, whilst flushed with embarrassment.
Serving ham now always reminds me of those days. This still, topped with an organic poached egg, gets pretty close to my favourite meal, (of course with chips!). Try the Grove Arms if I have rekindled your wish for such comfort food, as theirs is excellent, or cook your own ham, as described this month and serve with a couple of organic eggs, poached or fried and of course with home cut, double fried chips.
Whole hams or gammon joints are often at the centre of the table at Christmas. Although they make great joints anytime enough folk gather together with their feet planted firmly under the table. No wastage; easy to cook and good value. You need to soak dry cured hams in water for several hours before cooking. Some prefer to boil their hams first and then finish in the oven with a glaze. The recipe here includes creating a blackened crackling - so certainly not for boiling first. To ensure a great crackling, thoroughly dry it by removing the gammon from its plastic wrapping, wipe with paper towel and score well with a sharp knife. Store in the bottom of the fridge, uncovered for a couple of days to dry it out.
If boiling first, place the ham in a large saucepan and cover well with water. Add an onion studded with cloves, a couple of carrots, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns. Simmer for 20 mins per 500g. When cooked, lift from the pan and allow to cool enough so that you can handle it. Remove the skin, trim the fat to an even layer, score in a neat design and glaze. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, basting occasionally.
Alternative glazes (suitable for average 2kg joint):- Honey & orange - blend grated zest of 2 oranges, 1 tbsp orange juice, 3 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp demerara sugar; 1 tbsp plain flour Treacle & Ginger - blend 2 tbsp treacle, 3 tbsp soft brown sugar, 1-2 tbsp ground ginger, 2 tbsp finely diced preserved stem giner with 1 tbsp syrup from the jar Pineapple & Lemon - blend 1tsp grated lemon zest, 175g light brown sugar, 3 tbsp pineapple juice, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp plain flour and ½ tsp cayenne pepper. aif
‘Black Gammon’ with Rum and Raisin Sauce (with a grateful nod to Delia).
Serves 8 in quantities given, however easily amended up or down to suit
£1.75 per person when all ingredients purchased in Ludwell.
2.25kg Gammon Joint, smoked or un-smoked (known as green) 1tbsp
Salt - sea salt preferably – used sparingly
For the sauce
1 Large juicy orange
1 Zest and juice of a lime
75ml Dark Rum
110g Soft brown sugar
1. Prepare the gammon for cooking 2-3 days in advance as described overleaf and start making the sauce, again at least one day in advance.
2. Remove the zest from the orange in strips, avoiding the white bitter pith. Slice into very fine strips - thin as a needle if you can.
3. Grate the zest from the lime and squeeze the juice.
4. Place all the sauce ingredients (other than the arrowroot) in a pan, and mix well, then sprinkle on the arrowroot, whisking in before gently heating and it starts to simmer.
5. When the sauce looks clear remove it from the heat, stirring well. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 240°C / Gas mark 8 / AGA grid shelf centre of top oven
6. To cook the gammon, warm the treacle slightly and lightly cover the skin of the gammon with the warm mix. (It will just slide off if too cold)
7. Sprinkle with sea salt crystals, pressing them in well (this is a messy business)
8. Place the gammon in a foil lined roasting tin, and place in the hot oven for 25 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C / Gas Mark 4 / AGA grid bottom of top oven with cooling shelf above.
9. Continue to cook the gammon for just under 2 hours, depending on the size of the gammon (estimate for 20 mins per 500g plus 20 minutes extra.) It should feel tender when tested with a skewer. Remove from the oven.
10. Cover with foil and rest well in a warm place for up to 30 minutes.
11. Serve sliced with the blackened crackling, celeriac or Jerusalem artichoke mash, greens and the warm spiced rum and raisin sauce.
For a quick potted ham, put a handful of curly parsley with a clove of garlic, a couple of gherkins or capers (optional) and a couple of spring onions into a food processor. Whizz, and then add a couple of thick slices, (left over chunks) of cooked gammon. Whizz again until it is a spreadable consistency. Then, with the machine still running, add about 50g melted unsalted butter. Season with black pepper, put in a suitable pot - e.g. ramekin, cover with a further 15g melted butter to seal and store in the fridge until set. Serve spread on warm toast with spicy chutney. A truly, truly scrumptious dish.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.