Spiced Ham

So, here we are in 2014 and a very happy and healthy New Year to you all and thank you for all your good wishes! This is a dish I made over Christmas, but it was so good I’ve just bought another smoked ham joint to make it again.

Spiced Ham (2)

Perfect hot or cold, great as a main course with chips, mashed potatoes or jackets or in sandwiches or as a sneaky midnight feast….

I was inspired by this recipe I found over on the BBC Good Food site, but of course I changed it a little. Well, life would be dull without a few twists and turns! Big Man and I were back to work today at the house renovation and tonight the limbs are aching. A few days off have turned me into a useless Lady Builder. Or maybe it was the food and alcohol…

Is it just me or does my ham look like a grumpy face?!
Is it just me or does my ham look like a grumpy face?!

Ingredients for a 3.5kg ham joint (but they’re flexible)

  • 3.5kg cured ham or gammon (smoked or unsmoked, the choice is yours)
  • 2 litres of ginger ale (plus you may need extra water to cover the meat)
  • The zest and juice of 2 tangerines and one orange
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 dried chili

For the glaze

  • 3 tbsp molasses or treacle
  • 3 tbsp thick cut marmalade

Put the meat into a large pot and add all the first set of ingredients (and extra water if needed to cover the joint). Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum then simmer, partly covered for about 3 ½ hours. Leave to cool in the stock and use the stock to cook lentils with or make soup –  it’s amazing!

Spiced Ham (6)

If you want to glaze your ham (you don’t have to but it’s worth doing), warm the molasses and marmalade together in a small saucepan until melted.  Peel the skin off you ham if it has skin on and score the skin. Pour the glaze over your ham (which you will need to put into a heavy oven tray lined with greaseproof paper to save ruining your oven tray) and bake at about 220 degrees C for 30-40 minutes until the glaze starts to brown. Baste it every 10 minutes while it is cooking.

Serve hot or cold – it will keep for about 10 days (in theory) but I bet you won’t be able to resist scoffing the lot before then.

And if you have any leftovers…well, I’ll tell you what to do with them another day.

Saint Valentine…don´t you mean San Jacobo?

I have a work project on at the moment which is keeping me busy, so at home we´ve got a week or so of quicker to cook dishes coming up, or slow cooked dishes that I can put in the oven and then forget about for a few hours.

This speedy light lunch or supper is often served as a “child friendly” dish here in Spain. Sometimes you just don´t fancy “fancy” food. Something simple and speedy, and just a little naughty is required.  Deep fried ham and cheese coated in breadcrumbs hits the spot.  And if you serve it up with a dollop of ketchup and a fried egg with a runny yolk – well I won´t tell anyone that you´re not 9 years old!

Per person you´ll need

  • 2 large slices of your favourite ham
  • Enough thin slices of cheese to almost cover the ham (choose one that melts like cheddar, mozzarella etc)
  • A beaten egg plus 2 tablespoons of milk (this is enough for 4 slices of ham)
  • Dried breadcrumbs to coat the ham
  • Hot oil for frying

Place the cheese on the ham and either roll it up or fold it over to make a “sandwich”. Use a toothpick if necessary to keep your San Jacobo closed, but don´t forget to remove before eating…!

Dip the ham in the egg then the breadcrumbs and then repeat. This will give you a good seal so that the cheese doesn´t ooze out as it melts when it cooks, and a super crispy coating.

Get your oil very hot and fry (you can deep or shallow fry – your decision). Remove when browned and serve immediately.

I tried to find out why these little fried ham parcels are called “Saint Jacobs” but no one seems to know.  At least it makes the meal sound a little more gourmet than it actually is.  Make sure you have a cold beer to hand as a medical aid in case you burn your tongue on that lovely melted cheese.

PS. Happy Valentine´s Day to you all – young. old, single or happily with someone, it´s all about love…so go on, go out today and hug someone!

Boiled Gammon and Parsley Sauce

Some dishes, to me, are so typically English and bring back memories of food from my past.  Gammon is cured (usually wet cured in a salt brine) pork, from the leg.  It can be bought smoked, as an entire joint or as steaks.  It just can´t be bought in Spain, so I will have to work on a way to make my own.

Meanwhile, I picked up a few small joints of gammon on a pre Christmas shopping trip to the strange place that is Gibraltar.  A couple of hours´ drive from Malaga, it is a British Overseas Territory on the southern Iberian Peninsula.  I have to confess it´s not my favourite place as it seems to contain all that is bad about Britain packed into a very small area…but I don´t wish to offend and I am sure there is much more to it than I have ever seen on two brief shopping trips.

A trip to Gib, as it´s known to the Brits, allows us ex pats to stock up on things (particularly food) that we miss and either can´t get hold of or can´t be transported over easily by our visitors.  So, amongst many other food goodies, gammon it was.  I thought that Big Man would enjoy it as he loves pork and ham, but I knew it would be a new and interesting taste for him.

Gammon can be roasted or boiled and served hot or cold.  I decided to do a hot dish, boiled gammon with parsley sauce, which is a typical dish of comfort food from my homeland.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • One small brined gammon (about 750g)
  • About 6 carrots peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 2 medium onions peeled and halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • Water to cover
  • 6-8 medium potatoes boiled in their skins and peeled and halved to serve

For the parsely sauce you will need half a litre of home made béchamel sauce (infuse the parsley stalks in your milk before making it) and two tablespoons of parsley stirred in at the end. For extra flavour, use half milk and half stock (from boiling your gammon).

Simply put the gammon, onion, carrots, bay leaves and cloves into a deep saucepan and cover with water.  Don´t use salt – it will be fairly salty from the brine. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum that rises to the surface, cover and simmer gently for about an hour until the gammon is tender.

When the gammon is cooked, leave it to sit in the hot stock while you cook your potatoes and make the parsley sauce.  I used one cup each of milk and stock (which should both be cooled) , 2 tablespoons of plain flour, 1 tablespoon of oil and whisked everything together over a low heat until it started to boil and thicken.  This is my cheat´s way of making white sauce.  Finally I stirred in my chopped parsley and let it sit for a few minutes.

Remove the gammon from the stock and slice or chop (it will not slice easily when it´s warm, but I don´t mind chunks!).  I put some runner beans into the stock with the carrots and onions, bought them up to the boil and then strained the vegetables, reserving the stock for soup. Serve with the boiled, peeled potatoes and vegetables and enjoy the lovely steamy smells of gammon and parsley that will float up and fill you with a sense of comfort.

Fabada – Asturian Sausage and Beans

When we travelled to the distant north of Spain, we bought back some foodie memories with us. Well, a little more than memories, we bought back beans and smoked meats to make the famous Fabada.

It´s one of those dishes which needs the authentic smoked blood sausage (morcilla), chorizo and pork to achieve the “real” taste, but it also lends itself to “making do” depending on the ingredients you have to hand.

The ingredients given below can be interpreted fairly loosely to make a lovely bean, ham and sausage stew if you can´t get hold of the Asturian versions.  I also like to be lighter with the meat than some people, so feel free to add more. This recipe will serve six as a main course, but it does keep well for about 5 days in the fridge.

You´ll need

  • 1kg of Fabes (or any large dried white beans)
  • 1 small blood sausage
  • 1 or 2 chorizo (depending on the size)
  • About 100g piece of smoked or unsmoked or salted pancetta or pork belly (or use chunky lardons)
  • ½ teaspoon of saffron or add a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika or pimentón instead
  • 2 bay leaves

This dish really improves by making it the day before you want to eat it, although it´s not essential, and if you have an earthenware bowl to cook it in, even better!  The day before making the dish put your beans into soak in plenty of water.  In a separate bowl of water soak any smoked or salted meats.

Using the water you soaked the beans in, put them in your cooking pot with about a depth of  3cm of water above them.  Bring to the boil then skim off the froth which will appear. Dissolve the saffron in a little water and add to the beans (or add your pimentón or paprika directly to the water).  Now add the pork belly or pancetta, bring to the boil and skim and then repeat with the chorizo and morcilla.

Add the bay leaves, make sure all the meat is pushed to the bottom and then cook very slowly for about 2 or 3 hours.  Try not to stir as this will break the beans, shake the pot if necessary and top up with boiling water if needed.

You should be left with thick creamy beans which still hold their shape.  I like to thinly slice the meats and sausages so they can easily be eaten with a spoon.  This is a “plato de cuchara” or a “spoon dish” as they call it here.

Serve with a good robust red wine, plenty of bread and I like a tomato and garlic salad on the side. ¡Buen Provecho!