Boiled and baked gammon
Cooking a gammon in this way is something I do once or twice a year – and it’s nearly always in December. It’s a special treat, so I try to find the best gammon I can, from pigs that have lived happy, natural lives. The combination of dark stout and molasses gives the ham real depth, while the orange, cardamom and coriander make it irresistibly fruity.
Prep 40 min
Cook 2 hr 30 min
Serves 6, with generous leftovers
1 large unsmoked boned gammon, weighing about 2.5kg
For the stock
2 onions, peeled and halved
4 celery sticks, washed and cut in half widthways
4 carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthways
1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
1 orange, zested in wide strips, then juiced
6 bay leaves
For the spice bag
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 star anise
For the glaze
4 tbsp molasses
4 tbsp dijon mustard (you may find you need a little more)
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed
½ bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
Take the gammon out of the fridge ahead of time, so it comes up to room temperature: it will cook more evenly if not stone-cold in the centre.
Put the gammon in a pan large enough to hold it, add cold water to cover and leave to soak for 15-20 minutes. Drain, return the ham to the pot, then pop the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, orange zest and bay leaves into the pan alongside it. Pour over the stout and top up with enough cold water just to cover the meat. Put all the spice bag ingredients in the middle of a small square of muslin or cotton cloth, gather up the edges and tie up with string. Add this to the pot, too.
Set the ham pan over a medium-high heat, bring up to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes per 500g gammon (ie, a 2.5kg joint will need roughly one hour 40 minutes of gentle simmering). Once cooked, carefully lift the ham out of the hot stock and leave to cool slightly (keep the stock for soups, stews, risottos and the like).
While the ham is cooling, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, mix the molasses, mustard, crushed cardamom and coriander seeds, thyme and the orange juice.
Heat the oven to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2. Use a small, sharp knife to lift the skin off the ham: it should peel away quite easily. You can trim back the fat underneath, too, if you prefer, but leave a 1–2cm layer all over the ham. With the tip of the knife, score the fat in a crosshatch pattern just down to the meat. (If you like, stud it with cloves, but I never bother.) Lay the skin in a roasting tray large enough to hold the ham and put the ham on top of the skin. Smother the ham all over with the glaze, then add a couple of ladlefuls of the stock to the base of the tray (this, along with the skin, will help to stop the glaze burning). Bake for 15–20 minutes per kilo, but not for longer than two hours in total.
Leave to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes, then carve and serve warm, ideally with some parsley sauce, or leave to cool completely before carving.
These go very well with ham: they’re sharp and sweet at the same time, and cut the richness of the meat in just the right way. I also like them with soft blue cheese served with runny honey and toasted walnuts.
Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
8-10 pears, peeled and rinsed
300 unrefined granulated sugar
1 litre cider vinegar
4 cardamom pods, bashed
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
½ tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
8 bay leaves
2 long fresh red chillies
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
Put the pears in a medium–large pan, add all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer on a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar Cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook gently for 10–20 minutes, until the pears are tender.
Using a slotted spoon, lift the pears from the liquid and arrange them snugly in a sterilised jar for which you have an airtight lid. Lift the herbs from the pan, tuck them into the jar, too, then pour over the liquor – it should still be near boiling point and cover the pears completely. (Save any excess in a separate jar and use it in salad dressings.)
Seal the jar and store in a cool, dark spot.
Poached leek and blue cheese gratin with a walnut and oat topping
This simple yet substantial gratin is incredibly savoury and super-comforting, making it a perfect supper for a wintery evening.
Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side
100ml medium dry cider, or water
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 large leeks, trimmed, cut into 1cm-thick rounds and washed
40g plain flour
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
300ml hot vegetable stock
150ml double cream
1 tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard
100g blue cheese (whatever your favourite is), crumbled
Salt and black pepper
1 handful coarse white breadcrumbs
20g shelled walnuts, bashed
20g porridge oats
25g cheddar, finely grated
Heat a large, heavy-based pan for which you have a lid over a medium heat. Add half the butter, half the olive oil and the cider and, when it’s bubbling away, add the leeks. Season well, then give the leeks a good shake, pop on the lid, reduce the heat and cook for eight to 10 minutes, until tender. You may need to stir them once or twice as they cook.
Tip the leeks and all their poaching juices into a bowl, then return the pan to a medium heat and add the remaining butter. When it’s bubbling, add the flour, stir well and cook for a minute. Now add the hot stock, thyme, cream and mustard, bring to a simmer, then cook, stirring regularly, until the sauce is nice and thick. Fold in the leeks, their poaching liquid and the blue cheese, season to taste, then turn off the heat.
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Pour the gratin filling into a suitably sized oven-proof dish and level it off. Combine the breadcrumbs, porridge oats, broken walnuts and cheddar in a bowl with the remaining olive oil, then scatter over the top of the leeks.
Bake the gratin for 20 minutes, until the top is golden and deliciously tempting. Leave to stand for five to 10 minutes before serving.
Roast parsnip, red chicory, hazelnut and medjool date salad (pictured above)
This salad stands out from the crowd at Christmas, but it’s not just the colours that keep me coming back for more: it’s full of such interesting flavours and textures that all work together in a new and amazing way.
Prep 30 min
Cook 50 min
Serves 4 as a side
4 parsnips, peeled, cored and quartered lengthways
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
100g blanched hazelnuts, roughly bashed
2 tsp wholegrain or dijon mustard
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
About 200g medjool dates, stoned and roughly chopped
1 firm red chicory, leaves separated
Salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Put the parsnips in large roasting tray. Put the oil, mustard, honey and vinegar in a bowl, add the nuts, season generously, and stir. Pour over the parsnips and toss to coat. Tear in the rosemary leaves, then roast for 40-45 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the parsnips are tender in the middle and crisp and caramelised on the outside.
Remove from the oven, scatter over the dates and chicory leaves and tumble gently together. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then bring to the table.
Roast sprouts with puy lentils and green herb sauce
If you’re looking for a new way to serve sprouts, this might be just the thing. They take on a new dimension when roasted, and pair perfectly with nutty lentils and a punchy, green sauce.
Prep 35 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
150g puy lentils, well rinsed
Ham (see first recipe) or vegetable stock, or water, to cover
500g brussels sprouts, trimmed and any tired outer leaves removed
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
For the green sauce
2 large handfuls flat-leaf parsley, picked and finely chopped
1 small handful chives, finely chopped
2-3 salted anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp capers, drained or rinsed, and chopped
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to loosen, if necessary
Sea salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put the rinsed lentils in a medium pan, cover with stock or water, and bring to a simmer over a high heat. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 18–25 minutes, until the lentils have softened but retain a little bite. Drain, then leave in the colander and let the steam evaporate.
Scatter the sprouts over a large baking tray, halving the larger ones as you go. Trickle over the olive oil, season generously and tumble everything together, then roast for 20–25 minutes, turning everything once or twice along the way. Scatter over the sliced garlic and sunflower seeds, turn again and roast for five to 10 minutes more, until the sprouts start to caramelise around the edges.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the parsley, chives, anchovies (if using), capers, mustard, grated garlic and vinegar in a bowl, stir in the oil, then season to taste. The sauce should have a loose-ish consistency, a bit like a dressing, so add a splash more oil if it’s on the thick side. Fold two spoonfuls of the sauce through the warm lentils, taste and season accordingly.
Arrange the roast sprouts on a large, warmed platter, then spoon the lentils over the top. Finish with the remaining green sauce, a sprinkling of salt and a twist of pepper, and serve at once.
Thyme and caramelised onion mash (pictured above)
Every so often, mash deserves a bit of a makeover, and if you can’t do it at Christmas, when can you? Serve this with baked ham, roast duck, good sausages or grilled sole.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
1 tbsp olive oil
150g unsalted butter
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Sea salt and black pepper
1kg large white potatoes (eg, maris piper or king edward), peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
200ml whole milk
1 medium bunch fresh thyme, leaves stripped
1 medium bunch chives
Set a heavy-based pan over a medium high heat, add the oil and a third of the butter and, once hot and bubbling, add the onions and half the thyme leaves. Season the onions well, then fry, stirring regularly, for five to six minutes. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and leave to cook gently, stirring every so often, for 25-35 minutes – you want the onions to be lovely and soft before you take off the lid. Turn up the heat and cook the onions until caramelised and nicely golden, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into large, equal-sized pieces, put in a big saucepan with the garlic cloves, bay leaves and half a tablespoon of salt, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over a high heat. Turn down the heat, simmer until the potatoes are tender, then drain. Return the potatoes to the pan and leave to steam off for five minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small pan with the remaining butter and thyme until hot and the butter has melted. Start mashing the potatoes and, after a minute or so, gradually add the herby milk and butter. Continue mashing until smooth and light, with no lumps. Fold in the caramelised onions and chopped chives, season to taste and serve.
Fiona Beckett’s drink matches Since you’re already using stout in the ham recipe, you could always drink stout with it, too, though you’d need a rich one, such as Wiper and True’s Milkshake Milk Stout (£2.79 honestbrew.co.uk, 5.6%), to cope with those big flavours. Otherwise I’d go for a shiraz. As for the sprout and lentil dish, it’s the green herb sauce that’s the most significant element here, which suggests a chianti or other Tuscan red. The Campriano Chianti Colli Senesi 2018 I mentioned the other week from Haynes Hanson & Clark (£13.25, 13.5%) would be perfect. The leek gratin, meanwhile, includes cider, which is definitely what I’d drink with it. The smartly bottled Cidentro Cider House Cider 2018 (£7.50 cidentro.co.uk, 6.5%) would look suitably festive, too.