Cheery Christmas cards full of festive wishes have started arriving at the Hungry household. Although we’re halfway into December, the realisation that Christmas is almost upon us has appeared like a flashing neon sign. We all lead busy lives, with some days seeming to blur into one another & before you know it, you’ve got a glass of fizz in one hand, a saucepan in the other & a houseful of hungry guests. Juggling your many hats is not an easy task – there’s the Work you, the Home you, the you who everyone turns to when things go backside up & then there’s the you who feeds everyone. Having a little time in reserve for yourself is rare & when you do get a bit of spare time, everyone wants a share of it. Sometimes, you have to be a bit selfish because if you don’t look after yourself, you won’t be able to look after anyone else. This time of year can be a real drain on you too, both physically & mentally, so we all need a bit of help every now & then (& a lot of coffee!).
As you probably know by now, I like to prepare meals in advance as much as I can & do a bit of “stealth cooking”. This is where I cook a couple of (or ten) extra portions of everything & freeze them for future meals – there’s very little effort in peeling a few extra potatoes or chopping another couple of carrots (especially if you delegate). It’s like having your own fast food outlet in your freezer & all you’ve got to do is decide what you want for dinner! Trust me, after a long day at work & being tightly packed on a train for an hour, plus having at least a 20 minute drive home, you really don’t want to be faffing around with food when you get there. Be kind to yourself & with a little planning, you can be organised like a cooking ninja (just think of me as your Foodie Godmother).
This glamorous glazed gammon ham is something I learned to cook many years ago & is perfect for creating multiple meals. For those of you who have never heard of gammon before, it is a pork joint made from the haunch or hind legs of a pig. This is cured like bacon, sometimes brined & salted, but always must be cooked before consuming. As with bacon, gammon can be smoked or unsmoked & for this recipe, I have used unsmoked so that the flavour of the fragrant spices can infuse with the meat. The word ‘gammon’ originated from the old French word ‘gambon’ (now ‘jambon’) around the 15th century, which in turn became translated to the English word ‘ham’.
Although it’s great served as a special Sunday dinner, this heavenly ham can also go a lot further than just one meal! Served hot with buttery mashed potatoes, crisp roasted parsnips & a golden-crusted, velvety cauliflower cheese, it really hits the spot! Leftovers are deliciously lovely – slice thinly for nibbling with cheese & crackers, layer with salad in sandwiches & a feisty mustard mayo, or chuck chunks into a creamy, cheese-enveloped pasta bake. I’ve fried it for breakfast, created some fabulous frittatas & it’s even graced a few of my homemade pizzas too!
Over time, I’ve tweaked the recipe but always go back to my favourite way to cook it. The gammon is boiled & then baked, neither of which you have to stand around watching, but the best bit is the wonderfully fragrant spices, with their mulled wine perfume & delicately warm taste. The gorgeously gooey glaze gives it a deep rose tinted finish & the scent will definitely make you feel Christmassy! As it’s the time of year for making mulled wine too, I must confess that I have on occasion added the spices from my homemade version the night before (you can see some of the wine-coloured, slightly sozzled oranges in the photos below), with a few fresh spices thrown in – waste not, want not! This could possibly be the shimmering jewel on your table for Boxing Day & beyond. Ready to get your Glammon? Hands washed, aprons on & here we go!
What you need:
500g – 1kg Gammon joint, unsmoked
5 Star Anise, whole
1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns, whole
1 teaspoon Cloves, whole
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 chunk of fresh Ginger (about the size of your thumb & twice as wide)
2 medium Oranges (room temperature)
Approx 3 pints of cold Water (it should cover the gammon by at least 3 inches, so depending on the size of your joint/pan, use your own judgement here)
For the Glaze:
Half a jar of Apricot Jam
1 tablespoon Stem Ginger Syrup (from a jar of Stem Ginger)
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon Mango Chutney (optional)
What to do:
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C & prepare a dish for the baking part of the process (get this out of the way now & you can just pop it into the oven without trying to find a dish).
Line a casserole dish or lasagne dish with greaseproof paper, making sure it comes right up & over the edges like a little paper dish inside. This will catch all the syrupy sticky glaze & stop it ruining your best baking dishes (I learned the hard way).
Put the gammon into a large, deep saucepan (I’ve got a huge pasta pan that I use for this) – your pan should be big enough to leave about 3-4 inches between the top of the cooking water & the top of the pan. Make sure you’ve removed all the wrapping from the gammon (including that paper circle around the edge), as you want all the lovely spices to impart their fragrant flavours into the meat.
Snap the cinnamon sticks in half & chuck them in the pan.
Add the cloves, star anise & peppercorns to the pan, just scatter them all over the gammon & around it.
Peel the ginger, cut into a few thick stems & chuck them in the pan too.
Because you want the juice from your oranges as well as their skin, they need to be at room temperature & not cold (the warmer they are, the more juice you’ll get). Give them a firm roll on a worktop or chopping board – this will help you get the most juice from them.
Cut the oranges into halves, squeeze the juice all over the meat & pop the skins in the pan next to it.
Carefully pour the water into the pan now, making sure there is about three inches of water above the meat, plus enough room between the water & the top of the pan. Pop the lid almost on the pan, leaving a tiny little gap to allow steam to escape.
Bring to the boil gently, then turn down the heat until it’s just a bubbling simmer. It’s a bit like giving the gammon a spicy bubble bath & you don’t want any spillages.
Simmer for an hour with the lid almost fully on (leave a tiny gap), checking on it after about 20 minutes, just to make sure it’s all going as planned.
Once boiled, carefully lift the gammon into the prepared casserole dish. Sometimes, the joint may have started to “unravel” itself, so get a couple of metal skewers & push through each side across each other to pull everything back together.
Stand the gammon on it’s edge, skewer spikes down, ready to be glazed.
Put all the glaze ingredients into a mixing bowl & mash together. Make sure everything is mixed well into a gooey, gloopy syrup. Pour all over the gammon, making sure you coat it all over the top & sides thoroughly.
Bake in the lower half of the oven for about 30 minutes, checking halfway through cooking & basting with the glaze – just scoop it up from the dish & spoon it over.
Once ready, it should be shiny & the colour will have deepened slightly. Remove from the oven & place the dish on a cooling rack to rest for half an hour (I like to cover mine loosely with foil or greaseproof paper – just make a dome shape over the dish, so it doesn’t touch your glazed gammon).
While it’s resting, get your side dishes cooking (this is where those pre-prepared extras you’ve made come in – pop them into little dishes, whack them in the oven & relax).
Remove the skewers carefully from your gammon joint (they will still be very hot) & place the joint on a chopping board in the centre of the table, ready to serve!
You won’t need to call your guests to the table – once your gammon is ready to dish up, there will be a queue of shiny little faces at the kitchen door waiting to taste it. If you do have any leftovers, try some of the suggestions I’ve made above (especially the pizza one – here’s the link to my pizza dough recipe to give you a bit of help: http://hopeyourehungry.co.uk/a-pizza-cake/).
So there’s my gorgeously gooey & ever so slightly glamorous gammon. When you’re fed up of turkey or just fancy something spicy & special, get your Glam-mon! Stay hungry! Aimee 😉 x