Glazed Ham and yummy vegetables on the side

I don’t know about you, but November is the time of the year when I realise the festive season is fast approaching, but somehow I am still convinced there is lots of time to get ready. Besides we have just recovered from Halloween sugar-laden feasts and Australian spring festival celebrations, so I like to sit back and enjoy a quiet week or two before the Christmas frenzy takes hold.

Last week started as usual with a trip to the supermarket, looking among other things, for cold meats to make sandwiches for lunch. All I had to do was to head to the deli counter and ask for shaved ham. But of course, no sooner had I stepped thru the door I was reminded that Christmas is indeed coming very soon, and when I normally try my best to ignore the tempting offerings of puddings, chocolate, and condiments to grace our festive table, I caved in and decided to buy a ham instead. Not a whole ham mind you, just half of one. Enough to feed 4 people for dinner, and have plenty of leftovers to make sandwiches for a week!

By the time I arrived home, my casual dinner plan had morphed into a Christmas dinner rehearsal, as I realised that every ham I have ever eaten at Christmas has been cooked by someone else. Yes you heard it right, nearly 30 years in Australia, and I have never baked a ham for Christmas or any other time. To be fair, Christmas Eve dinner has always been my thing, with a traditional menu of seafood, duck and chocolate log. Christmas day feast I leave to my aussie family and friends to deal with, I usually rock up with a couple of Champagne bottles and offering to help with the dishes!

Terry and the kids got really excited at the idea of a Christmas ham, and asked next what glaze I was going to use. The look on my face must have given me away, as I was told in no uncertain terms, that there was no such things as an unglazed ham. It’s not that I didn’t want to glaze the thing, I just couldn’t decide between cola bourbon glaze, honey soy glaze, apricot liqueur glaze….I finally settled on a maple syrup and dijon mustard version, inspired by French chef Guillaume Brahimi who now calls Australia home.

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Choosing the side dishes was easy. We spent a few months cruising in the USA 4 years ago, and even though it is spring season in Australia, I always associate November with autumn flavours: sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cabbages, apples,…One of my favourite vegetable dishes is braised cabbage and I decided to experiment with the red variety. For crunchiness, you can’t go past a mixed salad of broccoli, wild rice and walnuts ( an updated version of the brussel sprouts, bacon and pecans I used to cook on the boat while in the US). And for a different take on potato bake, I cooked a cheesy sweet potato gratin, to keep with the fall theme.

 

As you’ve probably noticed, there was a lot of baking involved. This was intentional. You see, I have just purchased a new cooking range and am very much in a testing mode. So far the stove and grill plate have been used daily, the oven not so much beside reheating party pies and bread rolls. This was the opportunity to put the “beast” thru its paces, filling its massive cavity with a 5 kilo ham, a large baking dish of sweet potatoes, and a small casserole of cabbage.

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It turns out, we cooked way too much food, and even after I invited Craig and family to share our rehearsal Christmas fare, we still had ham and vegetables left for another 3 days. Which was a good thing, because now I could practise on ways to accomodate Christmas leftovers!

Anyone else rehearsing Christmas dinner? And what is your favourite glaze for ham?

Ham with Maple Syrup and Mustard Glaze

Adapted from a recipe by Guillaume Brahimi

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This recipe will make enough glaze for a 7kg ham, I used a smaller ham (5kg) but I didn’t want to waste the excess glaze so I basted the ham with a double layer of glaze every time.

Ingredients:

7kg ham
200g brown sugar
40g Dijon mustard
40g maple syrup
20ml sherry vinegar ( I used apple cider vinegar )
1 tbsp cloves

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C
  2. Take the skin off the ham, using a sharp thin knife, making sure to leave a good layer of fat.
  3. In a large bowl, mix sugar, mustard, maple syrup and vinegar until blended.
  4. Score the fat of the ham in diamond pattern. Place the ham on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Brush with the glaze and spike a clove in each diamond.
  5. Place in the oven. Bake for 90 minutes, basting with the glaze every 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
  6. Serve with side vegetables (recipes follow), mustard and pickles.

Braised Red Cabbage

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This is a photo of left over red cabbage served with roast chicken the next day. Very versatile dish!

Serves 6 as a side

Ingredients:

500g red cabbage, finely shredded (use a food processor!)
1 tsp salt flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds
4 cloves
1/2 tbsp juniper berries, bruised
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup apple juice (water is fine too)
1/2 tbsp honey
20g butter, chopped

  1. Toss cabbage and salt in a bowl until combined. Stand for 1 hour to soften, then rinse under cold water and drain well.
  2. Heat the oil in a dutch oven or casserole over medium heat. Add onion, bad leaves, caraway seeds, cloves and juniper berries, cook stirring for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add cabbage, wine, apple juice and honey. Stir to combine, cover with baking paper and the lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Remove from heat, add butter and stir vigorously until the cabbage is creamy and glossy. Keep warm until serving time.

Sweet potato Gratin

This is a very simple recipe which both adults and children love. I use a mixture of buttermilk and full cream milk because that is what I had on hand, but thickened cream would do very nicely too (actually would make the sauce richer, yumm!!)

Saves 6-8 as a side

Ingredients:

800g small sweet potatoes, thinly sliced using a food processor or mandoline
600ml mix of buttermilk and full cream milk ( or thickened cream)
1 tsp salt flakes
2 cups of grated tasty cheese
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
  2. Grease an oven proof with butter, Layer the sweet potato slices across the base of the dish. Pour slowly the buttermilk mix, making sure it covers all of the vegetables. Top with the grated cheese and nutmeg (if using). Set aside for 10 minutes to soak and bake for 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a skewer and the top is golden.
  3. Serve the gratin warm.

Broccoli and wild rice salad

When visiting Disney World a few years ago, I promised myself to buy one souvenir, on the condition it wouldn’t be a toy or a shirt. I found a cookbook (what else!) called Chef Mickey which features old and recent recipes from Disney Chefs, with some of the dishes on offer in the various Disney resorts and onboard Disney Cruise Line ships. One of my favourite is Broccoli Slaw, which is still on the menu at the Disney Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, as part of the dinner buffet. I have tweaked the original recipe a little, to allow for local produce availability, swapping walnuts for cashews, wild rice for bacon, raisins for cranberries, and lightening the dressing with the addition of buttermilk while leaving the sugar out completely. It is pretty tasty and healthy to boot!!!

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Serves 6-8 as a side

Ingredients:

3 heads of broccoli, trimmed in bite size florets (keep the stalks for another use)
1/2 cup walnut haves
1 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, Add broccoli and cook for 1 mn, drain and immediately put into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. let cool and drain well.
  2. Combine broccoli, wild rice, walnuts, red onion, raisins in a large bowl.
  3. Mix mayonnaise and buttermilk in a small bowl, stir into broccoli mix. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Chill before serving.
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