Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Gammon Joint

For various reasons I need to be more frugal this January than most. Never the most extravagant time of year anyway, this is always the month for making a little go a long way.

Cooking a huge joint of meat is hardly the first thing that springs to mind then, roasting a ham being much more associated with the festivities that have long since concluded. But downgrade a little, from a whole ham to a boned and rolled gammon joint, and you'll get a huge quantity of meat for very little money.

I bought a joint weighing around 1.4 kgs for just eleven quid (on special offer at M & S), and so far it's been at the centre of three main meals, formed a vital component of another, and turned up in at least six rounds of sandwiches. It's longevity is such that, whisper it, I might be getting a bit sick of the stuff. There's still some in the fridge that I can't seem to shift.

The original plan was to boil it and nothing more, but we couldn't resist giving it a roasting to add a bit of caramelised flavour to the fat. I'm not sure it was necessary, but I also gave it a good rinse under the tap before boiling as I'd rather the finished meat be under-salted than over. Here's what to do:

Rinse your gammon under the tap to remove any excess salt, then put it in a big pot full of water with an onion cut in half (you can leave the skin on), two celery sticks, two bay leaves, two cloves and about 8-10 black peppercorns. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 70 minutes.

Remove the gammon from the pot and leave it to cool for ten minutes. Set the oven at about 170 deg C. When the meat has cooled a bit score the fat in a cross hatch pattern, then place it in a roasting tin. Make a marinade from two tablespoons of runny honey mixed with one tablespoon of mustard (any type you fancy) then smear it all over your meat and bake it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Easy peasy. The end result was a fridge full of lovely, versatile, savoury but not salty meat, with a good porky flavour to play with. Here's what I made with mine, bear in mind that these aren't so much proper recipes as descriptions.

Gammon, parsley sauce, mash and peas

What you'll need: potatoes, butter, milk, flour, peas, fresh parsley, fat slices of gammon, salt and pepper

Serve thick slices of gammon with parsley sauce, mash and peas. This meal was why I bought it in the first place, I've never cooked it before and having been meaning to for ages. I was really pleased with it, it's a gentle soothing sort of a meal but very satisfying on a cold night.

For the parsley sauce you need to make a roux with flour and butter, then keep stirring in milk until you have a thick-ish sauce, and finally stir in plenty of seasoning and a big handful of finely chopped parsley. The rest is self explanatory, just make sure you make the soft, fluffy, only moderately buttery sort of mash as the restaurateurs super-rich butterbomb variety would be too much here.

Plaice with gammon and parsley

What you'll need: fillets of white fish, gammon, fresh parsley, a lemon, butter, salt and pepper, bread to serve

This one was a very quick supper, I did have to buy fresh fish so it wasn't quite so frugal but I did make use of both leftover gammon and parsley.

Chop some gammon up into one centimetre chunks and chop a small handful of parsley. Season two small fillets of plaice (or any other comparable white fish) then fry them, skin side down first in a little bit of oil.  Throw the gammon pieces in the pan while the fish is still skin side down. Turn the fillets and cook on the other side until they're just about cooked through, then turn them back over again. Throw in the parsley and a big knob of butter. Shake the pan to mix and melt the butter with the parsley and the pan juices then slide the lot out onto a plate. Squeeze over some lemon juice, then serve immediately with bread, salad, or both.

Ham sandwiches

What you'll need: err..bread, ham, mustard, salad. And butter of course.

Sandwiches had to get a look in didn't they. Very thinly sliced gammon with cream cheese on soft white rolls were pretty good, but thicker slices with a generous smear of mustard with salad on crusty bread had to be the winner.

Gammon and cabbage fry

What you'll need: potatoes, cabbage, oil, salt, pepper, sauce, more GAMMON

Another one pan tea, this one takes a little longer to cook but is really no effort. Cut 4 or 5 medium sized potatoes into small (about one centimetre) cubes then fry them in oil until they're brown and almost tender (mine took around twenty minutes). While the potatoes are frying slice up a couple of handfuls of savoy cabbage and tear a big handful of sliced gammon into smaller pieces. When the potatoes are almost ready stir in the cabbage and fry for another five minutes or so, then add the gammon and fry for five minutes more.

The potatoes should have a good exterior crunch balanced by the soft ham and cabbage, though I still like a bit of bite left in the cabbage, you don't want it mushy. Serve very hot, with a table sauce of some sort (I had Heinz chilli tomato ketchup).

Ham and beans 

What you'll need: loads of gammon, assorted beans (2 or 3 tins), a tin of tomatoes, garlic, an onion, a celery stick, paprika, chilli powder, bay leaves, tomato puree, black treacle. Bread and slaw to serve.

Last but not least, the real store cupboard contender. This is the one to make when you're snowed in. Which is a shame, because that's looking possible over the weekend and I've just eaten it all. For best results you should cook dried beans from scratch, but tins will do if that's what you've got. That's what I had: in went one tin of kidney beans, one tin of tomatoes and a small tin each of borlotti and canellini beans.

Slice the onion and fry it in oil in a heavy based pot (that has a lid) over a medium heat. In the meantime crush 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and cut a good quantity of gammon (100g per person is plenty) into 1-2 inch chunks. Open your tins and drain and rinse the beans. Cut the celery stick in half and add it to the pot with the garlic, and fry for another minute or two. Add the tomatoes, two teaspoons of paprika, one teaspoon of chilli powder, two bay leaves, a dessertspoon of tomato puree and a tablespoon of black treacle. Stir and bring to a simmer, adding a good splash of water to loosen it. Add the drained beans and gammon chunks to the pot, stir then put the lid on and reduce the heat so it gently putters away.

This should be cooked until the meat and beans are just on the verge of disintegrating into the sauce. Not so long that you end up with a single textured sludge, but just long enough to let the meat fall apart in moist, fibrous strands, all the fatty tissue having leached out to enrich your sauce that's already been thickened by the starchy beans. If that's what you end up with it should be a treat. Mine took almost an hour and a half to reach the point of optimum goodness.

Serve with bread and homemade slaw. I made pitta bread using a basic bread recipe with a knob of butter added (always butter, always). When your dough has risen just roll it out into oval shapes and bake them in a hot oven for about 8 minutes. For the slaw slice celeriac and cabbage (I used savoy but white would have been better) very finely and toss it with greek yoghurt, grain mustard and lemon juice. The bite, heat and freshness is a fantastic contrast to the earthy warmth of the beans.


Matt said...

Next time boil it in coca cola....It's ace!

Dave said...

Matt - so I hear, I've yet to try the cola boiled stuff but everyone says it's ace.

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