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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Chicken Pizza Pasta

So, this was an unusual one, inspired by something the other half had seen online in one of those quick videos that does the rounds on social media, but I strive to please!

I’ve taken to calling this chicken pizza pasta!

Start by taking two chicken breasts – mine were skinless, but it doesn’t matter – and slash it a few times, leaving little pocket openings. Into these slashes, put sliced of red onion, tomato and pepper. Put the chicken onto a foiled baking tray and then add a little chopped bacon – I just used one rasher between the two breasts. Now, go crazy with grated mozzarella and top with some mixed herbs. Pop the tray into the oven on 200C for 25minutes.

Whilst the chicken is doing its thing, cook some pasta. I also whipped a sauce, using the remains of our home-grown tomatoes and aubergine. I chopped up the aubergine and fried it in some good olive oil, whilst the tomatoes softened in a pan with some salt, pepper and a touch of sugar. Once the tomatoes were soft, I squashed them up with a wooden spoon, added some salt, pepper and a splash of Worcestershire sauce, before adding in the aubergine and a few chopped mushrooms.

When the chicken is cooked, hopefully everything else will be ready too. Put some pasta on a plate, top with some of the tomato sauce and then your star, the chicken breast ie the pizza!

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Sausage Rolls

One of the big favourites in my house is sausage rolls. It seems I can’t make enough of them and as fast as I make them, they vanish!

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I use shop-bought puff pastry for my sausages rolls – in my world, life is too short to be making puff pastry. I also, always buy my sausage meat from the butcher, rather than the supermarket, as I find it is far less fatty and much tastier. Personal preference.

I always make a double batch and for this I use two packs of pastry and two packs of sausages meat.

Put the sausage meat in a good-sized bowl and add plenty of Worcestershire Sauce and as much tobacco as you like. Add a pinch of thyme or any other dried herb you like, salt and pepper and two or three rashers of bacon, cut up into small pieces. If I have any to hand, I also chop up a handful of olives and add those too. I’ve also added parmesan cheese in the past. In fact, it’s a bit of a running joke in the house that I never make them the same way twice! Actually, on this occasion, I fried off tiny pieces of chorizo and added that and its released oil into the mix.

I say experiment and just try adding a bit of this and that and see how it turns out!

Once you have all your ingredients in the bowl, it’s time to get your hands dirty and give it a good squish together.

Roll out your ready-to-use pastry and slice into two long rectangles. Place a line of sausage meat mix down the centre of each half and carefully roll into the ‘sausage’ shape. I use milk as a wash to seal the pastry together rather than eggs. Once you have your sausage roll, milk wash the top and then cut into portions – it’s entirely up to you what size you want. Pop a little slash in the top of each sausage roll.

Use the paper the pastry was wrapped in for your baking paper and pop into a pre-heated oven at 200C for around 20mins, or until the sausage rolls are nicely golden. Leave them to cool on a wire rack, or watch them vanish, which may be the preferred option for others in your home!20170816_234736

Sharon’s Parcels

Last night, I made a steak and kidney pie for dinner, thinking – foolishly! – it would last for two nights’ dinner. Wrong! My partner couldn’t help but go back for seconds, meaning there was only enough left for dinner tonight – my dinner! But what was I going to give him??

I opted for pasties, or as they turned out, Sharon’s Parcels! Now, for me, life is just too short to make pastry, well more to the point, it’s the one thing that I’m yet to brave making on my own. But, as I was using puff pastry on this occasion, I think I can get away with shop bought – can’t I?

Starting with some casserole steak, I diced it into bite-sized pieces and browned them in a saucepan, with a little oil, before removing the meat into a bowl and dusting with plain flour – this will help to thicken the gravy later.

Then I put a finely chopped onion and two cloves of minced garlic in the same pan and softened them for a few minutes, before adding a finely chopped carrot, finely sliced leek and a good knob of butter, along with a beef stock pot and a red wine stock pot. Allow the stock pots to melt down and keep everything moving in the pan.

Return the steak to the pan, along with any juices that have seeped out, whilst it’s been resting and give it a good stir. Add in enough water to just cover everything in the pan and turn the heat down low, add some salt, pepper, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch or oregano, stir it in and let the meat mix simmer for a good hour, stirring occasionally.

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After an hour, add a potato, cut up small and add that into the mix. I had baking potatoes to hand, so that’s what went in. I added it later, so it didn’t turn to mush. Check too at this point whether the gravy is thick enough for you – remember, it’s going in pastry, so you want a fairly thick one. If it’s not thick enough, make a slurry out of cornflour and add that in, giving it a good stir. Leave to simmer for another hour, again stirring occasionally, then take the pan off the heat and allow to cool.

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Once cool, take your pastry and roll it out – or unroll if you’re like me, using shop bought – and cut your shapes. I had two rectangles. Put a generous, but not too generous amount of filling in, put a little milk – it’s cheaper than egg wash – around the edges and make your parcels, or if you’re super neat, pasties. Brush the top with milk and put in the oven at 180C for around half an hour. Again, I’m a so-and-so for timings, I go by look and feel, so just keep checking! When the pastry is golden brown and possibly serving.

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A sturdy baking tray is a kitchen staple in my opinion.