** STOP PRESS ** There is an updated version of this post available – 35 tried and tested Christmas recipes from my archives, from cocktails & canapés to desserts!
If your past few weeks have been anything as hectic as mine, I can imagine there are a few of you who are going to wake up this morning, check the calendar, and suddenly feel chest pains and shortness of breath. No, not a heart attack brought on by the consumption of too many mince pies, but a panic attack brought on by the proximity of Christmas dinner/lunch!!
I’ve seen a recent spike in people arriving here looking for advice on how to cook a Christmas gammon, so I figured it would not hurt to remind you by reposting the recipe, and to point out some other Cooksister recipes you may want to use for tomorrow’s Big Eat. If you don’t see anything that takes your fancy (or if you need starters, desserts or side dishes, you can always check out the full Cooksister recipe index.)
Back to the gammon. The two most important tops for a great gammon are as follows: 1) don’t be in a rush – cook it low and slow; and 2) take steps to make sure the meat cannot dry out. In other words, all you really have to do to a gammon is stick it in the oven with some liquid, for a long time at a relatively low temperature, make sure it is covered, and wait! What could be easier – or more rewarding?
GLAZED GAMMON WITH A WHISKY SAUCE
1 large gammon (bone in or out – it’s your choice)
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
Rinse the gammon and pat dry. Place it in a large roasting dish (preferably deep with a lid). Slice/chop the carrots, celery and onion and place them in the roasting pan together with the gammon. Add 1 to 1.5l water to the pan, depending on how deep your pan is. The liquid should not cover more than 1/4 of the meat – we are roasting not poaching!
If your roasting pan has a lid, cover it (alternatively cover the gammon with aluminium foil) and place in a 160C oven. Cooking time is 30 mins for every 500g, plus an extra 30 mins. I removed the gammon from the oven and allowed it to rest for 5-10 mintes while I made the glaze. For the glaze you will need:
3/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1-2 tsp wholegrain mustard
pinch of ground cloves
Heat all the ingredients together in a pan until the sugar has completely dissolved (the quantities are kind of variable – I add more sugar if the glaze is too watery) I usually allow my glaze to boil for a minute or two, but as long as the sugar is dissolved, this isn’t necessary. In the meanwhile, carefully peel the skin off the gammon. Lift a corner and tug gently – you will see it comes off surprisingly easily. I then score the fat to create a diamond pattern – the pattern is a matter of personal choice, but the scoring helps the glaze to stay on the fat instead of just sliding off. Baste the fat liberally with the glaze and return the gammon to the oven, uncovered. Baste frequently until the glazed fat has browned nicely (it should take about 15-20 mins)- I use the grill to finish it off.
Back home, this would be as far as the gammon cooking went, apart from the decorative cherries and pineapple rings – it was served cold so gravy was never really an issue. However, in the cold English weather, you somehow feel that some sort of gravy would be appropriate. This sweetish, whisky based gravy is just the ticket. You will need:
4 Tbsp finely chopped shallots
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I used light Muscovado)
1 tot whisky
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 to 1/2 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable)
salt & pepper to taste
Gently fry the shallots in the butter until soft. Remove from the heat and stir in flour gradually. Stir in the stock and return to heat. Add the sugar and bring the sauce to boil, simmering for about 2 minutes and adding water/stock sauce is too thick. Add the whisky, season to taste with salt and pepper (I sometimes find that I add more sugar at this point too) and serve. The sweetness of this sauce works really well with the roast gammon and the whisky adds a grown-up bite.
But if gammon does not float your boat, why not try…
Roast duck with pancetta and potatoes
Nigel Slater’s spicy slow-roast leg of lamb
And let’s not forget the all-important Brussels sprouts…
As for dessert, nobody said you had to have Christmas pudding… here are some alternatives. Why not stay with festive flavours but go for self-saucing cranberry ginger pudding? Or go South African and have a traditional Cape brandy pudding? Or go with your chocolate-loving heart and have individual chocolate fondant puddings?
Feeling inspired? Then off you go – have fun!