Christmas Ham

My parents-in-law always say they don’t want anything for Christmas, so I tend to make them edible treats and this year is no different.

Along with a batch of sausage rolls – without any spice – I whipped up a Christmas ham for them.

I always get my gammon from the butcher, that way I know it has a good rind on it. Do not remove any ‘netting’ around the meat, as this will hold the shape for you. Start by allowing it to soak in moving water for at least 2-3 hours, then pop the meat in a saucepan to slowly boil. You can use water, but I like to use apple juice or cider to give the meat a nice flavour. Cover the ham completely with your chosen liquid and add a few cloves and a cinnamon stick, put the lid on the pot and leave it on the lowest heat for 2-3 hours. Keep checking to make sure you still have enough liquid in there.

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Test the meat with a serving fork and when it’s cooked, transfer the meat to a board and carefully cut off the rind, leaving a good amount of fat. Remember it will be hot, so take extra care.

Now, score the fat to make diamond shapes across the top of the joint and pop in a roasting dish – I line mine with foil for less washing up!

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Pour over some runny honey and stud the diamonds with cloves for a pretty finish. You can do a mix of honey and mustard, a fruit jelly, such as quince or even apricot jam for the glaze – play and have fun.

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Now pop in the oven at 180C for around 20-30 minutes to allow the glaze to get a nice colour on it. I take it out every 10 minutes, just to baste again with any glaze that has melted off and to make sure it doesn’t burn.

You can serve his hot or cold.

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Cheeseburger Wraps

I remember seeing this idea online a few years ago, sorry I cannot remember where, and I have been making my own stance on it ever since – Cheeseburger Wraps!

This is basically all of the elements of a cheeseburger, in non-burger form, served in a wrap.

I start with softening off a chopped onion, before adding minced beef and browning.

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Then, I drain most of the liquid from a tin of tomatoes, before adding in the nice chunks. I guess you could use fresh tomatoes chopped up for this. Allow to bubble together for a bit. Now for the fun! Pour in American-style mustard and ketchup – or any other condiments you like on your burger – and I add a little bit of dried basil too, along with some garlic powder and a good grind of black pepper.

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Now, add a couple of chopped gherkins – or dill pickles as some people call them – and finally, it’s time for the cheese. Personally, if it’s a cheeseburger, it has to be plastic cheese in my view, otherwise known as cheese squares.

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Allow it the cheese to melt and then serve in wraps – you may need a fork or a spoon, as they can get quite messy.

Of course, you could serve this with pasta or rice for an equally yummy dinner.

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Lamb & Apricot Stew With Dumplings

It’s certainly the weather for winter warmers. I’ve seen friends posting that snow has arrived in parts of the UK and where I am, it is freezing today.

With that, I wanted to share a lovely lamb stew, that I cooked up the other day. I must apologise that we were so hungry, I completely forgot to take a photo of it on the plate all served up, but if you make it, you’ll see for yourself!! This is best made the day before you want to eat it.

I found some really lovely looking lamb neck in the butcher, so I started by just browning the meat in the bottom of a deep saucepan, before removing it to a plate and adding some oil to the pan, followed by a couple of small chopped red onions, three cloves of minced garlic and a chopped leek.

In a frying pan, dry roast a cinnamon stick and three cloves for round a minute or so, just to help release the flavour, then add them into the pan with the softening veggies. Stir in a good splodge of tomato puree, before returning the meat and any juices to the pan, along with two bay leaves.

Pour in enough chicken, vegetable or lamb stock to cover the meat and bring the pan to a low simmer, before putting the lid on. Give it a good hour or so, stirring occasionally, before throwing in some chopped mushrooms and covering again. I let mine have a slow cook for around 3-4 hours, stirring every now and then and checking to make sure there was still enough stock in there. To help thicken the sauce, I added a few teaspoons of cornflour and mixing it in well.

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Once the meat is nice and tender and trying to fall off the bone, turn off the heat and leave the stew to cool overnight. The next day, you’ll notice a layer of fat on the top of the stew, which you can skim off quite easily with a spoon.

Add in a tin – yes, a tin! – of apricot halves and the juices and re-heat the stew to a low simmer again and give it another hour or so to heat through properly. At this point, I like to remove the bones, spices and bay leaves. Mum always added the tinned fruit, so I’m sticking with it!

When you have 20minutes left, mix up 250g self raising flour with 140g cold butter, cut into cues and a good handful of mixed dried herbs. You want the mix to resemble breadcrumbs, before adding a splash of water and mixing together with a table knife. Keep adding splashes of water, until you form a sticky dough. Take small pinches and roll them into balls, before popping them in the top of the stew for your dumplings.

You can either serve just with the dumplings, or boil up some rice and have the stew with that – or even some mashed potatoes.

Chicken Stock

My Christmas preparations are continuing, as the days seem to fly by. Today, it was time to get the stock ready for a wonderful gravy.

We had a roast chicken on Sunday, so after all the meat was used up in a leftovers’ meal last night, I was able to use the carcass to make my stock. I put all of the bones, along with any unwanted skin, into a big saucepan, along with two red onions, just peeled and quartered – I used two as they were very small – and a carrot, peeled and chopped into quarters.

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To this, I added a bay leaf and then covered everything with water and brought it to the boil. Then I turned the heat down to a low simmer, put the lid on the pot and allowed it all to cook slowly for around 4-5hours.

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Then I strained out all the bits, to leave just the liquid and returned the stock to the pan for another half an hour to really help to concentrate it a touch.

Then, pour into a jug and allow to cool, removing any excess fat that floats to the top, before transferring to a freezer bag and freezing. I’ll get it out on Christmas Eve, ready to add a real level of depth to my turkey gravy for the Big Day.

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Christmas Cake

It’s that time of year to start your Christmas cooking. This week, I have baked my Christmas cake. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her Christmas book.

First up, was to soak the fruit in brandy – all 400ml of it! After bringing it to the boil, it was left to steep overnight and it smelt absolutely heavenly.

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The next day, I prepared the rest of the mixture and was just about to start adding in the fruit and dry ingredients to the sugar, butter and eggs, when I found out I didn’t have enough nuts. Mad dash to the shop to get the missing ingredient and it was on with the mixing. Mixing together the finished batter is pretty tough going, but stick with it and think of the good it’s doing for your bingo wings!

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Lining the tin is always fun, but after some adjustments, it was ready and full of cake mix, which was then popped in the oven on 150C.

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Nigella said it would take between 2.75-3.25hours, but I checked mine after 2.5hrs and it was done.

 

 

After getting it out of the oven, I brushed the top with more brandy and wrapped in tin foil twice. It cracked!! But this was because I didn’t allow it to cool enough, so make sure you really allow yours to cool before taking it out of the tin. However, checking the cake again today and it has survived, hurrah!

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For the next five weeks now,  I shall feed the cake brandy every day, through until Christmas Eve, when I shall ice it, ready for the big day.

Sausage Casserole

With the clocks now turned back and the official end of British Summer Time, I figured it was time to think comfort food. For me, that means a good casserole. So, for dinner tonight, I knocked us up a tasty sausage casserole and it’s so simple to do.

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Start with any sausages you fancy or have in and brown them off in a frying pan, before transferring to a casserole dish. Then sweat off a chopped onion, a minced clove of garlic and two diced carrots and add those to the casserole.

For the stock, I used a beef stock pot and a red wine one, which I dissolved in around a pint and a half of boiling water and added a cornflour slurry (two teaspoons of cornflour dissolved in cold water), which helps to thicken the gravy whilst cooking. Add the liquid to the casserole, along with two bay leaves and a handful of chopped mushrooms, a spoonful of English mustard, a squeeze of tomato puree, some mixed herbs and salt and pepper and give everything a good mix together.

Next, add sliced, raw potatoes to the top of the casserole and sprinkle with oil and rosemary, before putting the lid on and popping in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 40minutes. After that time, take the lid off and return the pot to the oven for another 20minutes.

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Make sure the potatoes have a nice crisp top and then serve.

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 A casserole dish like this is perfect.

Chicken & Mushroom Pilaf

I was inspired to have a go at this after watching the Pioneer Woman on the Food Network this morning. If you haven’t discovered her yet, do check her out!

Ree was serving up a mushroom pilaf with a fillet steak, however, we don’t often stretch to the luxury of a fillet steak! I figured, instead of a side dish, I’d just serve it up as a main course with some chicken.

I didn’t follow Ree’s recipe, mainly because I couldn’t remember it! However, this is what I did:

I started by melting some butter in a large saucepan and added a finely chopped onion and three cloves of garlic. After allowing them to soften for a few minutes, I added six or seven chopped mushrooms – I had white mushrooms in the fridge, but you could use any you fancy. Allow them to soften a bit too and then add rice to the pan, give it a stir and pour in around a pint and a half of stock. I opted to use those stock pot things and used a chicken and a white wine one for added flavour.

Whilst the rice was cooking, I cooked two diced chicken breasts in a separate pan, before adding that into the rice along with some mixed herbs and a good grinding of black pepper. Then it was ready and time to dish up.

The feedback I got from Himself was ‘very tasty’ and he ‘really enjoyed’ it. It was ready in minutes, so if you need something quick and tasty this could help. And a big thank you to the Pioneer Woman for the inspiration!

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