Wednesday, December 28, 2011
So, Christmas came and went, the big feasts cooked and downed and Boxing Day's excuses to spend more money made peace with. You're probably sitting in a cozy corner with a book in one hand and a mug of hot chocolate in the other, planning to do next to nothing and fix the next few dinners out of leftovers from the fridge till the next year arrives. Well, I had such grand plans, not to go into the kitchen will New Years Eve, except our leftovers are running out, even the cake and what-I-thought-was-a-ot-of cookies. Even when I cooked this caveman-sized leg of ham and 2 kilograms of potatoes for dinner on Christmas Eve.
As I hummed to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby's sappy carols while portioning cookies and wrapping presents the two nights before Christmas, Vijay commented that this year I'm quite Christmassy. I think that was a fair observation, as were all his various notes of me (nothing escapes him) and I blame Nigella's Christmas Kitchen for it. Having watched the entire series while away for work in Shanghai months before, I was already planning on roasting either poussins, a ham or duck this year. The visiting in-laws also bumped up my festive mood - this would be the first time I cook a full dinner for Vijay's parents. So I settled on the ham, figuring it takes the least effort, judging from how Ms Lawson simply dumped the whole thing into a huge pot with some herbs and proceeded to leave it alone for 3 hours. It doesn't requiring too much space, the fuss of brining (after which I'd spend nights worrying about the Ziploc bag bursting in the fridge) or the work of stuffing.
Except, I managed to somehow order a cooked smoked ham instead of mildly cured gammon. Then the 4.5 kilo piece of Fred-Flintstone-worthy meat broke the bottom shelf of my tiny fridge and had to be housed in the fresh produce bin while all the vegetables and fruits migrate upstairs. After a panicky phone call to my butcher and scoring the Net for some answers, I mellowed down a little and forced myself into a Zen mode. I even made a to-do list like Ms Lawson advised. After the presents went under the tree, I prepared a pot of her cranberry apple chutney and canned a few jars of her much raved about chili jam. I even piped funky flakes onto the cake and added a last minute item into the dinner menu.
Come dinner prep day, with my mother-in-law padding around the kitchen entertaining me with queries while Vijay manages his dad with some pear cider and talks on Malaysian politics, I poached the cooked ham slowly for an hour before prepping it for the glaze. Pioneer Woman's duchess potatoes took me for a short ride though - I managed to miss a few lumps even after passing them through a drum sieve, not fun when you have to pipe them out. As I assigned my photographer to shoot the meat, the potato drama had to be managed out of the kitchen but all ended well as we sat down to eat before anyone passed out from hunger. Even the onion and pomegranate relish made it to the table. As Ma and Pa asked for seconds over their glasses of Glögg and a Tamil movie on the tele, the day's work was done and I sank onto the couch, feet up with content. Ma even went on the plane with a bottle of chutney, cuts of ham for Vijay's brother and a good bit of fruit cake alongside her two huge bags of heist from Mustafa.
We hope your Christmas was a blast too, go easy on those leftovers now, although I'm in no way implying you should resign yourself to 'healthy' eating anytime soon. That, as Shirley wisely pointed out, starts for me only after the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Aromatic Christmas Ham [Printer Friendly Version]
Ham and chili jam recipes adapted barely from Nigella Lawson's Christmas Kitchen.
Note: The Christmas ham recipe is somehow not included in Nigella's official site. I found the source in Lifestyle Food AU very similar to her video so I referred to that (I don't have her book). Raw gammon is not readily available in all countries and although available in Singapore, I accidentally ordered a fully smoked ham. If you're using raw gammon, do follow the original recipe and boil the meat for at least 3 hours. I doubled the glaze recipe, finding the original portion insufficient to fully cover the ham.
- 1 (4.5-6.5 kilograms) smoked gammon, with knuckle bone
- 250 milliliters red wine
- enough water to cover the meat (depending on size of ham and pot)
- 1 large onion, halved
- 2 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
- 1 head fennel, halved
- 2 star anise
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns (I used a mixture of pink and black)
For the glaze:
- 20 whole cloves (depending on size of ham)
- 8 heaped tablespoons cranberry or redcurrant jelly
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Put all the ingredients, except those for the glaze, into a large pot, on the stove but off the heat, adding water until the ham is covered. Turn on the heat and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a very slow simmer and partially cover the pan. Cook for about 1 hour. (If using raw gammon, cook for about 3 1/2 hours as per the original recipe.)
Preheat the oven to 200°C (if using convection, turn fan on)/gas mark 6 with a wire rack at the lower third. Lift the ham gently out of the hot liquid, sit it on a board and let it cool slightly but not too much. You should be able to touch it without burning yourself. With a sharp paring knife, strip off the rind and a little of the fat layer if it’s very thick, but make sure to leave a thin layer of fat (you don't want a dry ham). Use the same knife to score a diamond pattern on the remaining fat on the ham, in lines about 2 centimeters apart. Stud the points of each diamond with a clove.
Put the cranberry or redcurrant jelly, cinnamon, paprika and red wine vinegar into a small saucepan and whisk together over a high heat, bringing it to the boil. Let the pan bubble away, for about 5 minutes, so that the glaze reduces to a thick syrupy consistency that will coat the fat on the ham. (Be sure to let the glaze thicken, another it will not stick to the surface of the ham.) Place the ham in a roasting tin lined with foil, as the sugar in the glaze will burn in the oven as it drips off. Pour the glaze over the diamond-studded ham, then put it in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the glazed fat has caught and burnished. Take the ham out of the oven and sit it on a wooden board to cool for about 2–3 hours before carving.
Note: I couldn't find jam sugar so I used pectin mixed with regular castor sugar. In Singapore, pectin is available from Phoon Huat and I'm sure most other baking supply stores. If using jam sugar, the original recipe calls for 1 kilogram. Be sure to use either that or pectin in this recipe else your jam will not set.
Yield: About 1.5 liters
- 150 grams long fresh red chilies, each deseeded and cut into about 4 pieces
- 150g red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into rough chunks
- 1 kilograms castor sugar
- 15 grams pectin (this is ideal for me, for a runnier jam use 10 grams and up to 20 grams for a sturdier consistency)
- 600 milliliters cider vinegar
- sealable canning jars, with vinegar-proof lid, such as Kilner jar or re-usable pickle jar
Sterilize your canning jars and leave to cool. Put the chilies into a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the chunks of red pepper and pulse again until you have a vibrantly red-flecked processor bowl.
In a wide medium pot, mix the sugar with the pectin well. Pour over vinegar. Turn on heat to low and dissolve the sugar in the vinegar without stirring. Once the sugar has dissolved, scrape the chili pepper mixture out of the processor bowl and add to the pot. Bring mixture to the boil, then lower heat to leave it at a rollicking boil for 10 minutes or until mixture reaches at least 105°C/220°F on a sugar/candy thermometer. (Be careful not to let the jam boil over.)
Take the pan off the heat and allow it cool. The mixture will become more syrupy, then from syrup to viscous and from viscous to jelly-like as it cools completely. After about 40 minutes, or once the red flecks are more or less have evenly dispersed in the jelly (as the liquid firms up, the hints of chili and pepper start being suspended in it rather than floating on it), ladle the jam into your prepared jars. You can stir it gently at this stage. Seal jars tightly.
Do ahead: Chili jam will keep for up to 1 year at room temperature as long as you have sterilized the jars properly and sealed them firmly.
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