Ham up and give it a try!

This post is for my Brother, his partner and their brand new daughter, my Niece, with love. (See Baking:Recipes and What not Page above for some details on constructing this cake)

Baby in Pram - Vanilla Sponge Cake

Apparently my Mother doesn’t like ham. When she mentioned this in passing during my twenties, it came as quite a surprise. Somehow I had never noticed despite the perpetual complaining about the size of ham my Father wished to buy and bake to help along the Christmas festivities. The general mantra in our house when I was a child on the testy subject of liking food was that ‘you eat what is put in front of you’. Clearly as I had not realised her aversion to ham, she does practice what she preaches, however the genius in this remark is of course that if you are the Senior Buyer and Cook as well, you can serve up what you like. Clever. For the Junior Food Consumers though I remember a couple of battles on this front;

1. The psuedo-chilli.  Something, when I was 8 or 9, resembling some sort of chilli dish (mince-y thing on rice) was served up one evening at tea but tasted utterly alien based on appearance expectations and I have to say, WAS ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. Very rarely in our house did my Mother misjudge these things but even now as an adult I cannot image what ingredients she had used and why she was trying to pass this concoction off as something more familiar. There were a fair few tears about this, mainly of disappointment on the Junior Food Consumers part (we♥chilli) and I have no recollection of the outcome. (Brother now believes this was a tin won at a Tombola).

2. Mac and Cheesegate. Now, an unusual victory for one Junior Food Consumer in particular. I’m fairly sure this wasn’t the first time this dish had been served up. If I remember rightly our Mac and Cheese came with a squirt of tomato ketchup as a kind of garnish. Yummy. Naturally I was munching away quite happily. (This was back in the 70s way before the food revolution and Jamie Oliver was definitely still in nappies). My Brother, I realised after a little while, was picking at his serving and eventually my Mother passed by, noticed and said something along the lines of  ‘eat your tea up’.

‘ I don’t like it’

‘Never mind about that, just eat it up’

‘But I don’t like it’

Well, eat it now I’ve made it’

‘But….’              you get my drift.

I was long finished and in the circumstances had been allowed to leave the table, but not my unfortunate Brother. One could occasionally hear my Mother’s increasingly irate demands and my Brother’s wailing as he sat there contemplating his fate. Eventually the ultimate sanction was issued, ‘if you don’t eat it you will have to go to you room for the rest of the evening’. And, without missing a beat, he hopped down from the table and headed to his room rather than eat up and get on with his day. The stuff seemed to make him heave and as a result this turned into the one exception from the ‘eat what’s put in front of you’ rule.

Anyway, back to my Mother and the ham. The upshot of all this was there were few meals, now I think about it, which included ham in any form (I’m not sure where she is on bacon) and my Father will always have ham, egg and chips if he sees it on a pub menu.

So the discovery of unsmoked gammon ham joints has been an inevitable revelation. I love the endless and often instant options and find the taste and texture far superior to the regular, sliced stuff in a packet. Most recipes to cook these joints seem to include, at least in part, an instruction to roast in the oven at some point, but I really don’t think this necessary so:

  • Having purchased one of those vacuum packed joints from the supermarket, often around 750g, cut open the wrapper and remove making a note of the weight.
  • Place joint in a saucepan and barely cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then discard this just boiled water. Process removes scum and excess curing salt.
  • Start again from cold, filling the saucepan so that it barely covers the ham again and return to the boil. This time round though reduce the heat so you achieve a vigorous simmer and cook for 20 minutes per 500g or per lb, so 750g one needs just 30 mins.
  • Remove from the heat and you can either lift it out with a slotted spoon and serve slices of it immediately or leave it in the water for another 30 mins (keeps it lovely and moist) before draining the water in to a bowl (great stock!) or down the sink and allowing it to cool completely on a plate.

The obvious quick meal here is ham, fried egg and JP’s or potato wedges, more yumminess. It goes without saying, it makes great sarnies, and would be a tasty addition to the above Mac and Cheese! Once completely cold, wrap in foil and fridge where it should keep for up to 5 days.

I shall post more recipes with this ham in due course but for the record, lardons (small diced pieces of ham) can be fried until crispy and dropped into the celeriac soup recipe from the Veg box and unloved vegetables post.

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