This year something happened: I’ve been immersing myself in the Christmas spirit way ahead of time. This isn’t normal. Usually I say to myself that October (or even November) is really too early to start thinking about Christmas. This time round I’ve been trying out recipes and shopping for Christmas ingredients from last month (so not *too* early) and I’ve been really enjoying every minute of it. So I have ditched the idea of overcomplicating things so I’m going with manageable cooking this year. It will still be somewhat tiring, but I need not stress about the food because I will either prepare it beforehand, or it will be easy peasy stuff on the day itself. I will cook and still enjoy the festivites. Yay! I’ve also sorted out quick meals for the run-up; uncomplicated food which can be prepared days ahead and heated for lunch or supper. Weatherwise they’re saying that it’s not going to be that cold either, so we will manage a nice afternoon walk too. What more can I ever wish for?
So for an easy take on Christmas lunch, I used Nigella as my muse and tried a recipe for ham. One thing is true here: there are no frills but it will still be a lovely sight on your table and it will stretch for extra guests. The size of the joint will depend on how many people you want to feed, but I will give you what I used for 6 people as a rough guide. With this recipe you will be able to roast your potatoes* (preferably par boiled beforehand) in the same roasting pan. I also added some sliced apples about which I will tell you later. (In between helpings it is important not to let the gammon dry out. All you need to do is to immerse it again in the stock once you have carved some of it.) So without further ado, here we go.
- 1.5 kg joint of gammon, unsmoked & boneless
- 1 large onion, cut in half or quartered
- 2 carrots, whole or cut in half
- 1 stick celery, cut in half
- 1 leek, cut in half
- a handful of whole peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- around 2 litres of chicken stock or enough to cover the ham and vegetables
For the glaze you need:
- either 250g ginger preserve or marmalade
- 2 tablespoons hot English mustard
- 100g soft dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves (you can use whole cloves here too)
For roasting together with the ham you will need:
- Par boiled potatoes, around 16 small ones or 8 large ones cut into quarters
- 6-8 apples, sliced not too thinly
Put the gammon in a large pan with the vegetables, peppercorns and dried herbs and pour enough stock to cover everything. Don’t be afraid to use some extra if you have some left. It won’t do any harm. Turn on the hob and leave it to boil. Turn the gas to a medium/low heat and leave it to simmer away; for how long depends on the size of the gammon. Calculate 30 minutes for every 500g. (If you have a thermometer, the temperature should read 71ºC.)
In the meantime line a roasting pan with kitchen foil, even if it is non-stick. Believe me, you”ll thank your lucky stars later, because you’ll have less cleaning! Also preheat your oven to 180ºC/370ºF/Gas mark 7.
Prepare the glaze by placing the ginger preserve or marmalade, mustard, sugar and cloves in a measuring jug and mix well. Leave it to stand and give it another mix before covering the ham.
When the ham has cooked completely in the stock, carefully lift it out of the liquid and place it in the roasting pan, together with some par boiled potatoes cut into quarters and around 6 raw apples sliced into not-so-thick slices. Everything has to fit snuggly into the pan to avoid burning.
Cover the ham with all the glaze and use any extra to cover the potatoes and apples. Bake for around 20 minutes until the ham turns golden. Carve around 150g per person and serve with the apples and potatoes, and with some festive couscous. (The recipe is coming right up!)