Archive for the ‘Meat (Ham/Bacon)’ Category

I made my own version of what we called ‘Cauli-mac’ some years ago but it wasn’t particularly exciting so we had it just once, twice at the most.  Cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese are both popular here but I was attracted to this version as it was just a bit different.  Finding a good recipe to make both at the same time was always going to be a hit and this is proving to be our favourite recipe from the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals series and book.  It is simple comfort food at its best and I have lost count of the number of times I have made this or a variation.  Although it is a fairly standard mixture of cauliflower, macaroni and cheese I have changed the ingredient proportions in the original recipe to give a less stodgy version: more cauli and slightly less mac.  There are two brilliant ideas that lift this Cauli-mac out of the ordinary.  The first is the addition of crème fraîche along with the cheese, saving the need to make a time consuming flour based white sauce: simple but brilliant.  (Of course part of the 30 minute meals brief is the need for speed.)  The second idea was to add a breadcrumb topping which included bacon and rosemary, both delicious flavourings.  There is very little bacon – just enough to add a slight flavour – but if you are vegetarian never fear as I have included some information below, giving my still tasty but meat free version.  Adding chopped parsley to the cauli-mac mixture gives a pretty green flecked sauce and I saved some to scatter one top as well.  Recently I have been making a new variation of my own, which includes tomatoes.  This is still being ‘tested’ by my guinea pig team (aka family) and needs photographing, however it will make an appearance in due course.

As I have already said, this recipe comes from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (by Jamie Oliver).  This is just one dish, part of a menu he suggests can be cooked within the half hour time limit and which also includes a mixed salad and a dessert.  I am afraid I have not cooked the complete menu and probably will not, but I have often served some salad on the side.

Vegetarian Variation: The bacon can, of course, simply be omitted but a similar smoked flavour can be obtained by using grated Applewood Smoked Cheese (or a similar variation – though possibly not the Bavarian Smoked log type cheese).  I replaced about half of the mature cheddar.  For a stronger flavour replace all the cheddar with smoked cheese.  A dusting of smoked paprika before cooking will also add to the smoky flavour and give a little heat as well.

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‘Cauli-mac’ – Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese
(Serves 4)

4-6 rashers of smoked bacon, or a similar quantity of bacon offcuts or leftover smoked ham
1 large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
Olive oil as required
150g mature Cheddar cheese
2/3 thick slices of bread
large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large clove of garlic
150g crème fraîche (about half a tub)
Parmesan cheese, to serve
2tbsp chopped parsley, to divide between mixture & to garnish
Salt & pepper

1.  Fill the kettle with water and bring to the boil. Preheat the oven on to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

2.  Lay the bacon in the dish you will eventually be using for the cauli-mac mixture and put on the top shelf of the oven to pre-cook.

3.  Trim off any very coarse or spoiled outer leaves from the cauliflower and remove the tough end of the stalk.  Quarter the head or break it up into large pieces. Place in a large saucepan, stalks downwards and add the pasta. Chop or crush the garlic well and add to the pan.

4.  Pour over the boiling water to cover the ingredients, season, add a little olive oil and place on a high heat. Stir well, and cook with the lid just askew.  I found it was worth stirring the mixture once or twice to help avoid the pasta sticking to the pan.

5.  Grate the cheddar cheese in the food processor and tip into a bowl.

6.  Remove the bacon from the oven.  Using a mini chopper or food processer, chop or process well with the bread and rosemary leaves.  Add a good drizzle of olive oil to bind the ingredients into a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

7.  When the cauliflower and the macaroni is just cooked (a knife inserted into the cauliflower stalk should slip in easily), reserving the cooking water, drain the cauli-mac through a colander into a large bowl.  Tip the cauli-mac into the dish the bacon was cooked in.

8.  Add about 300ml (about three quarters of a pint) of the reserved cooking water.  Stir in the crème fraîche, grated cheddar and most of the chopped parsley, breaking the cauliflower up with a fork or potato masher until you have bite size, but still recognisable, chunks.

9.  Taste the mixture and if required add more salt, plus a little ground pepper. The sauce should be loose and if necessary, add another splash of the reserved cooking water.

10. Spread the mixture out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumb topping. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for around 8-10 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the mixture bubbling.

11.  To serve grate over some Parmesan and scatter the top of the dish with the remaining parsley.  Serve with a simple side salad.  Crusty bread or garlic bread can be served alongside if required.


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A few years ago we visited the Basque region which straddles the South Western French and Spanish borders but although we went into Spain we spent most of our time in France.  One French place we visited was Espelette, home of the famous pepper Piment d’Espelette (Espelette pepper), some of which I brought back from holiday.  I am always looking for ways to use some of this mild dried pepper mixture.  Not long ago I was directed to another post about Piment d’Espelette by London Eats, when it was used as an ingredient in a Spicy Mixed Bean Stew.  I now know I am not the only person (in London too) with a jar of this delicious pepper looking for suitable recipes!

Back in November I came across a quick and easy recipe called Spanish Gammon Hotpot from The Vicar’s Wife.  (Just a few weeks ago I re-posted her wonderful recipe for Whole Orange Cake.)  The word hotpot, however, is a bit too English for me and reminiscent of Lancashire Hotpot, which is something entirely different, so I have renamed it.  Amanda (the Vicar’s Wife) suggested that it was an adaptable recipe, so that is just what I did.  I am not a great fan of baked beans, though I admit they have their uses, instead using a chick peas plus some mushrooms and garlic. (Amanda suggests haricot or cannellini beans as alternatives.)  For the meat content I used a thick bacon steak, but it could just as well be diced bacon or the leftovers from a piece of gammon, or even chunks of lean belly pork, plus some Chorizo sausage added for extra Spanish authenticity.   As well as the smoked paprika I included a small amount of the piment d’Espelette for a little extra heat.  I liked the idea of adding olives – rather sadly I am the only person in our house who likes them – and had intended to do so, but forgot.  There will, however, be a next time.  The meal was served with crusty bread and green salad.  This speedy supper is definitely a meal for my ‘make in 30 minutes max’ category.

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Spanish Style Gammon Stew
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
8ozs chopped bacon or leftover ham/gammon
25g/1oz piece chorizo sausage
50g/2ozs button mushrooms
1 x 400g tin tomatoes, slightly chopped
1 x 400g tin chick peas (originally baked beans)
½-1tsp piment d’Espelette or dried chilli to taste (optional)
1tsp smoked paprika
12-15 stoned halved black or green olives (optional)
Salt/black pepper to taste

1.  Gently fry the onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent.  Stir in the garlic and mushrooms.

2.   If using cooked meat reserve it until later, but uncooked bacon should be added now.  Mix in well and cook for 5 minutes.

3.  Add the chopped pepper, tomatoes and chick peas (or other beans) along with the piment d’espelette and smoked paprika.  Cover with a little water.

4.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until the peppers have softened.

5.  Serve with rice or crusty bread and a green salad.

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Liver is often connected with jokes about shoe leather, mainly because it can be so tough when poorly cooked.   Like badly cooked green vegetables, poor cooking of liver has added to its unpopularity, however cooked well it can be extremely tasty.  Its strong flavour can take some getting used to and it is often difficult to get children to eat it, which is a pity because it has good nutritional value, with a high iron and Vitamin A content.  I found two solutions to this problem with my children.  Firstly, I made sure that I cooked bacon & liver (as opposed to liver & bacon) using a higher proportion of bacon, reasoning that getting my family to eat some liver was better than none.  Secondly, the biggest objection was to eating lumps of liver so I chopped it so finely that when it was cooked it disappeared virtually completely into the tomatoey sauce, giving flavour without texture.  I never lied about what I was serving, but gradually I cut the pieces larger.  I really recommend this method to any family who find liver difficult to serve.  Cooking it in a well flavoured sauce, such as a rich tomato, along with plenty of flavourful vegetables is also a great help.  This dish has now become a family favourite and the news that it is on the menu is always well received:  result, I think!

This warming stew recipe is my own invention and has lots of cheerful sunshine colours.  I have also included some home dried orange peel, which adds a faint but enjoyable orangey tang, however this can be omitted (see information about orange peel in the ingredients section.)  The root vegetables can be varied and the lentils replaced with a can of chick peas, red kidney or other beans.  In the past I have substituted a can of baked beans in tomato sauce, but their distinctive flavour is very obvious – which is fine if you like baked beans (I’m not especially keen) but could be useful when introducing liver to children.  The cooking time should be shortened if substituting tinned already cooked tinned peas or beans which simply need re-heating.  Serve with boiled or buttery mashed potato.

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Liver & Bacon Winter Vegetable Stew
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4ozs/125g button mushrooms, quartered
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1lb mixed root vegetables: I used carrot, parsnip & swede (not potato), diced
1x400g/14oz tin of peeled plum tomatoes, chopped
½pint water, plus a little more if needed
1tbsp tomato puree
½tsp sugar
1tsp dried orange peel (optional)
2ozs/55g red lentils (alternatively add beans, see notes above)
175g-250g/6-8ozs smoked or unsmoked bacon – mixed bacon pieces are ideal
175g-250g/6-8ozs lambs or chicken livers (avoid strong flavoured pigs liver)
2 peppers (red,yellow or orange) single colour or mixed, diced
1tsp paprika plus a little to garnish
Salt & black pepper
Parsley (if available) to garnish

1.  Chop onions and garlic and gently fry in the olive oil for about 5minutes or until soft.

2.  Dice the bacon and add to the pan with the mushrooms and mixed herbs. Cook for a further 5minutes.

3.  Remove any connecting tissues from the liver and either cut into bite sized pieces or chop extremely finely, to allow it to virtually disappear and just flavour the sauce.  Stir the chopped liver into the pan and cook until it starts to change colour.

4.  Dice the root vegetables into equally sized pieces and stir in along with the lentils (if using), the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, orange peel, sugar and water.  Season and flavour with the paprika. Cook over a low heat for around 45 minutes until the lentils are cooked. If the mixture starts to go dry as the lentils soak up the liquid it may be necessary to add a little more water.  If use a tin of beans in place of lentils then the cooking time will be about 20 minutes.  Around 10minutes before the end of the cooking time stir in the chopped peppers, which do not take long to cook.

5.  Check seasoning and serve with simply boiled or buttery mashed potatoes to soak up the tomato gravy.  If you have some parsley, you can scatter a few green sprigs for added colour along with a dusting of paprika.

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Cabbage, along with Spring Greens and Brussels Sprouts, gets a really bad press.  Its not surprising really – I am sure we have all eaten really awfully cooked cabbage, greens or sprouts at one time or another … overcooked, watery, tasteless, colourless…  It’s no wonder that generations of children rebel!  However, cooked properly, these green vegetables can be really tasty.  The secret is a short cooking time to retain crispness and colour: about 7 minutes for sprouts should be ample.  If  you wish, extra flavours can be added as in this recipe. I used a round winter Savoy Cabbage, which has a wonderfully ‘ruched’ texture.  Substitute a different type of cabbage, shredded or quartered Brussels Sprouts or even Broccoli for variety.

This recipe comes from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, originally simple called Fried Cabbage with Bacon.  It is quick and simple and can be ready in about 20 minutes, an ideal accompaniment for sausages or simply grilled meat.  Be careful not to cook the cabbage over too high a heat or it could could burn: add a little water (two or three teaspoons at most) and lower the heat if this does start to happen.

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Cabbage with Bacon & Onion
(Serves 3-4)

1lb shredded cabbage (or substitute Brussels Sprouts or Broccoli)
4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped – more if you wish
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1tbsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper

1.  Using a large frying pan, gently fry the diced onion and chopped bacon in the olive oil for about 5 minutes until soft.

2.  Stir in the crushed garlic.

3.  Add the shredded cabbage to the pan.  It will seem to be rather a lot, but will cook down.  Stir from time to time so it cooks evenly.   Season to taste.  After 10 minutes the cabbage should be cooked, but will still be crisp.  For softer cabbage put a lid on the frying pan so that it will cook in the steam, but beware overcooking.

4.  Serve with sausages or grilled meat and a jacket potato.

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Ever since eating this recipe in our home last winter we had been looking forward to trying it at its home this summer in the mountains of France.  We found it on the menu of a pavement cafe just opposite the door of the church at Briançon, a fortified town high in the alps.  Briançon is actually the highest city in the European union, according to French statistics – about the same height as Ben Nevis in Scotland.  The Tartiflette did not disappoint and it was certainly authentic, containing the Reblochon cheese which is a regional speciality, with a slice actually melted on top.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch in a lovely location.  When making my own version some months beforehand I had been unable to find Reblochon (or Taleggio which was suggested as an alternative) so I used grated Mozzarella.  I would look around a little harder though if I was making it for a special occasion (I have seen it since so now know where to go).  Although I used a recipe from a book, I did some research to find out about alternative cheeses.  Waitrose have two recipes.  The first is for a Tartiflette very similar to the one I made, where they suggest substituting Crémier de Chaumes, Epoisses or even mature Irish Ardrahan (unknown to me).  The second recipe is a variation on the basic recipe which uses ripe Brie: Tartiflette with Brie & Bacon.  I have read elsewhere that you can use Pont-l’Évêque.  Sounds as if anything goes, though preferably not too mild a flavour: most importantly, the cheese must melt well…!

My recipe comes from One Step Ahead by Mary Berry, a book from the library with so many lovely recipes that I am loth to return it.  She writes that the mixture can be prepared in advance – up to 12 hours if necessary – and kept in the fridge (though bring it to room temperature before cooking to avoid cracking the dish) but is not suitable for freezing. In the dish we ate on holiday a slice of Reblochon was laid on top of each individual portion dish, so reserve slices of cheese before you grate if you are going to do this.   Although we ate Tartiflette in the Alps during the summer months, it is perfect as a quick and simple winter TV supper eaten round the fire.  Be warned, though: it is not a dish for calorie counters!  Serve with green salad or green vegetable.

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(Serves 4)

Butter for the dish
1lb/500g small potatoes, preferably new
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4-5ozs/125-150g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
4-5ozs/125-150g button mushrooms, halved or quartered
4ozs/125g Reblochon or Taleggio cheese, rind removed
substitute a similar melting cheese (see above) but the result will not be as authentic
¼pint/150ml single pouring cream (original used double) – I used Elmlea half fat
a little paprika
2tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1.  Butter a shallow ovenproof dish.  Preheat the oven to  200oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  Boil the potatoes in salted ater until they are tender.  Drain well and, once they have cooled enough to handle, slice them thickly. 

3.  Arrange them in the base of the buttered dish.

4.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes over a high heat.  Add the bacon and fry for a few minutes more.  Turn down the heat, cover the pan and cook for around 20 minutes until it is tender, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the mushrooms to the mixture in the pan, raise the temperature and cook over a high heat for 3 minutes.

6.  Tip the mixture over the potatoes and stir in.

7.   Coarsely grate the cheese – or remaining cheese – over the top of the bacon and potato mixture.

8.  Pour the seasoned cream over the top of the potato mixture, sprinkle with paprika.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until crisp on top and piping hot.

9.  Serve hot sprinkled with parsley and with a green salad on the side.

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On our visit to Amsterdam in October 2009 I was very keen to try Erwtensoep, or Dutch Pea Soup.  This is a traditional dish which I had read was widely available, especially in the colder months: in fact I was sure I remembered enjoying it on a previous visit.  One lunchtime we managed to find a restaurant with Pea Soup on the menu and we were not disappointed.  It was very warming and so filling we ended up having a snack rather than a main evening meal.  I decided I simply had to hunt down a good recipe once I was back in London so I could make it myself to keep out the British winter chill.

There was nothing in my recipe books or the library, but I found several versions online and this recipe is my own interpretation with ideas taken from three recipes.  The versions used for inspiration, along with some of the online comments, were: gourmettraveller, BBC Good Food & recipezaar.  The resulting soup was a substantial lunch style soup, but you could easily add more meat for a soup suitable for a evening meal (such as ham and/or smoked sausage and/or pieces of fried belly pork strip, all of which should be added after the soup is liquidised).  One recipe used leaves from the Lovage plant.  I had some seed, which I added as an experiment and I felt gave a distinctive flavour that I felt enhanced the soup. The potato is traditionally added, I understand, helping to thicken the soup and also reducing any scum from cooking the peas.

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Erwtensoep – Dutch Pea Soup
(Serves 3-4 depending on thickness of soup)

250g/8ozs green split peas (soaked overnight)
125g/4ozs streaky bacon, diced
½oz/15g butter
1 stick celery, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled & chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled & chopped
1 medium leek, cleaned & finely sliced
½tsp lovage/ajwan seed (available in ethnic supermarkets) or chopped celery leaf
Large pinch each of ground spices: coriander, chilli, nutmeg, clove & ginger, more if you wish
1 medium potato, grated
2pints/40fl ozs/900ml stock, ham if possible but watch it is not too salty, or vegetable stock
2-3 frankfurter sausages, grilled and cut into 4-6 pieces each.
Salt & black pepper, to taste, if required

1.  Soak the peas overnight in cold water.  If there is not enough time for a long soak this can be speeded up by putting the peas into a saucepan, covering with boiling water and leaving  to soak for 1hour.  Bringing the peas back to the boil once or twice speeds up the softening process. Do not add salt until the peas are completely cooked as it toughens them and can slow down the cooking time.

2.  In a large saucepan, fry the diced bacon in the butter until it is cooked through but not crisped. Remove and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

3.  Use the fat remaining in the pan to fry the celery, onion, carrot and leek over a gentle heat until soft. Stir in the lovage/ajwan seed along with the ground coriander, chilli, nutmeg, clove & ginger (these can be adjusted more or less to personal taste). 

4. Drain the peas and stir into the cooked vegetable mixture. Stir the grated potato. Add the stock, bring to the boil, turn down heat and simmer until the peas have softened. Stir occasionally to make sure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add a little water if necessary if the soup starts to get too thick. 

5.  Blend the mixture until smooth.  Adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Stir in most of the smoked cooked bacon and sausage, leaving a little to garnish the finished soup.  Return the soup to the pan to reheat.  (The reserved frankfurter and bacon can be reheated if necessary by a short burst of heat in the microwave or in a sieve placed over the steam of the reheating soup.)

6.  Serve soup garnished with reserved frankfurter sausage and bacon, plus parsley or celery leaf if you wish, along with crusty bread.

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Cassoulet is a hearty mixture of meat, beans and vegetables cooked for an extended period until the meat is meltingly tender, its home being the Languedoc region of France.  The town of Castelnaudary styles itself as the ‘Capital of Cassoulet’ with Toulouse and Carcassonne also having their own variations.  Every chef and restaurant in the region would claim to have the authentic recipe.  Depending on which recipe you read, the beans are either white haricot, also known as cannellini, or a mixture of haricot and butter beans.  It is usual to use more than one type of meat or meat product.  The original versions are usually based around a piece of duck, if possible confit of duck or even goose, cooked with some of the following: smoked bacon, smoked sausage and/or belly pork.  Occasionally lamb is included and in Toulouse the famous local Toulouse sausage is used. 

In the end I decided to invent my own version of Cassoulet, which I have named Cassoulet ‘Franglais’: my English version of the French dish. Consulting my recipe collection I found several versions from which I collectively took my list of basic ingredients and method. I found one recipe which substituted chicken for duck, which is a very good and less expensive substitute for day-to-day cooking. If I was making the dish for a special occasion I would be tempted to buy a duck leg or two depending on the number of diners. I found Toulouse style sausages in both Sainsburys ‘Taste the Difference’ and Morrison’s ‘The Best’ ranges, but one recipe suggested that Cumberland sausage could be substituted. Another recipe used a combination of both haricot and butter beans so either would be suitable: if the recipe is being doubled one can of each could be added. I understand that some French chefs would shudder at the breadcrumb topping whilst others include it. I put it in my version as it made a lovely crispy topping. The one instruction that all my books were in agreement over was the long cooking time. Ideally this should be cooked the day before to give the flavours a chance to mature before reheating and serving. It should certainly have at least two hours in the oven. If you have a slow cooker this would be an ideal dish to come home to at the end of a cold winter day: it could even be started the previous evening, I suppose.  Just add the breadcrumb topping towards the end and finish under the grill or scatter over a layer of freshly toasted breadcrumbs before serving.

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Cassoulet ‘Franglais’
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 medium sized carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 large tomatoes, cut into 8 pieces
1 leek, washed thoroughly and sliced into rings
2tbsp tomato puree
1tsp herbes de Provence
1tsp dried orange peel (see My Kitchen>New & Unusual Ingredients>Dried Orange Peel)
1 bay leaf
4ozs/125g button mushrooms
4ozs/125g smoked streaky bacon or bacon pieces if available, diced
4ozs/125g rindless belly pork strip, diced
2 or 3 thick Toulouse sausages or thick Cumberland sausage
2 chicken thigh pieces or 1 chicken leg
1 small glass of white wine (optional, but very French!)
½pint/10fl ozs/225ml chicken stock or water & ½stock cube/½tsp stock powder
400ml/14oz can of white haricot/cannellini beans or butter beans
Black pepper to taste
4ozs/125g white breadcrumbs

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 350oF/180oC/170oC Fan oven/Gas 4

2.  Fry the diced onion, celery, carrot and garlic gently in the oil for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the diced bacon, leek and mushroom and cook for 5 minutes more. 

3.  Add the mixed herbs, orange peel and chopped belly pork.  Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. 

4.  Skin the chicken.  Briefly brown the sausages under the grill.  It does not matter if they are not thoroughly cooked.  Put the whole sausages and the chicken into the pan.  Add the bay leaf, tomato puree and tomato pieces.

5.  Stir in the wine and then the chicken stock or water and chicken stock cube (a small amount of stock cube goes a long way so I use just half a cube or spoonful).

6.  Transfer the mixture to a deep lidded casserole dish and put in the oven. Cook for at least two hours. 

7.  At this stage the Cassoulet can be returned, uncovered, to the oven for the final 30 minutes cooking time or stored overnight ready for reheating the next day.   

8.  Thirty minutes before serving remove the chicken pieces and sausages from the casserole.  Strip the meat from the chicken bones and slice the sausages into about six pieces, depending on size.  Stir the meat into the casserole with the drained and rinsed white beans.  If you are reheating the dish, then this step can be done while the mixture is cold, but make sure that the Cassoulet is thoroughly heated through before serving.

9.  Ten minutes before serving the Cassoulet stir once more and cover with a thick layer of breadcrumbs, which will turn golden brown. 

10.  Serve with a jacket potato, if required.

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Ham is a traditional meat for the Christmas table, alongside the usual turkey.  We particularly enjoy them together at tea time as cold cuts with salad, pickles and chutneys. Cooking the ham completely or partially in ginger ale, rather than conventionally in water, gives a lovely sweet flavour which penetrates the whole joint of meat. Adding a glaze followed by a quick second cooking adds a further gingery spicy/sweet outer crust. I have served gammon in this way at a special Sunday lunch for family, accompanied by vegetables or ratatouille. It is very easy to make as the joint can be cooked the night before for a Sunday lunch and covered in the marinade for an hour or so before the short final cooking. I substituted canned ginger beer for the ginger ale of the original recipe (I used Old Jamaica brand, but any can be substituted.) The original recipe was for a large (12lb) joint of meat which was cooked in 7 litres (12 pints) of ginger ale, which at 1 pint per lb seemed rather a lot. For a very small ham joint of about 2lbs I used just one can, which still gave a good flavour but probably two, or at most three, cans would be ample for a larger joint. I am sure it does not matter if the ham is cooked in a mixture of ginger ale and a little water. It is important that the joint is pre-soaked to remove some of the salt used in the curing process.  The original recipe uses Ginger Marmalade: the combination of Orange Marmalade and ground ginger that I use was suggested as an alternative.

This recipe originally came from Nigella Lawson’s Christmas 2008 television programme, from her book Nigella Express. I scribbled the details, which were simple, on some scrap paper but was glad to find Nigella’s recipe for Ginger Glazed Ham online as well. The quantities given below are my adaptations of the original which have worked well for me. 

For a plain boiled ham, without using ginger beer, use all water plus 6-8 black peppercorns and a small bay leaf.

100_7739 Honey Glazed Ham

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Gingered Glazed Ham
(Serves 4-6)

1.5-2kg/3-4lb joint unsmoked boneless ham (as little rind as possible)
2 x 330ml cans of ginger beer (original recipe uses dry ginger ale)
A little water if needed (optional)

For glaze:
125g/4ozs orange marmalade
½tsp ground ginger
1 tablespoon hot English mustard (or ½tbsp mustard powder)
50g/2ozs soft dark brown sugar
¼tsp ground cloves

Slow Cooker method:
1. Place unwrapped gammon piece in a heatproof blow and pour over boiling water.  Pre-heat the slow cooker on high for 30minutes. 

2.  Remove gammon from bowl and throw away water.  Place gammon in slow cooker, cover with ginger beer (one can may be enough) and top up with boiling water.  Turn cooker to low and leave to cook: up to 2lb (up to 1kg) ham for 4-hrs, 3-4lb (1.5-2kg) for 5-6hrs.

To finish ham, continue from stage 3 below…

Stove top method:
1. Place the joint a good sized pan and cover with boiling water. Depending on size, leave it to soak for at least 20 minutes but longer if you wish a to remove more salt. If you are short of time, make sure you remove the most salty juices by pouring over the boiling water and leave for at least five minutes. Strain away the salty water.

2. Return the joint to the pan and pour over the ginger beer, topping it up with water so the liquid comes about half way up the pan and a good portion of the ham is covered. Bring the pan to the boil and then lower the heat slightly simmer for 1½hours.

3. Mix together the glaze ingredients a bowl.

4. Towards the end of the cooking time pre-heat the oven to 220oC/425o, unless you are going to finish the joint from cold (see 6 below).

Same day finish:
5. Gently lift the ham out of the pan and place on a foil-lined baking tray. Carefully remove any skin, leaving a thin layer of fat. There is no need to score the surface, just cover liberally with the glaze and place the tray with the ham into the hot oven for 20 minutes.

Next day finish:
6.  Leave the joint to cool and finish the procedure the next day. Cover with the glaze at least 1hour before cooking as the flavours will take longer to penetrate the cold meat. Pre-heat the oven to 220oC/425oF and place the tray with the ham into the hot oven for 20 minutes.

7. The sugars  in the glaze will blacken a little while cooking but be careful not to overcook the joint at this stage. 

8.  Serve hot or cold.  Any meat juices from the oven cooking plus a little of the liquid from the stovetop cooking can be thickened with a little cornflour to make a gingery sauce, although taste it well as adding too much cooking liquid could make it salty.

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Ever since I removed this recipe from a magazine it has proved to be one of our most popular family pasta dishes. I have lost count of the number of times I have made it, or variations of it, including on holiday last year in France. It is truly quick and easy – as the family know, my motto for holiday cooking is, in theory: ‘If I cannot get food on the table within 30minutes (less if possible) I am not interested’!

The original recipe from chef Jamie Oliver was published on a 2008 Sainsbury’s ‘Feed your family for a fiver’ (ie. £5) free instore recipe card and in various magazines alongside shop advertising. The basic recipe was pasta, bacon, garlic, crème fraîche, courgettes and cheddar cheese, which tastes good, but I have varied it a little in the ensuing months. In the version below I have included items I add regularly, especially as we like a few more vegetables – and somehow it just cries out for the grated Parmesan cheese topping.  Some supermarkets sell packs of mixed bacon pieces which are fine to use for this dish and economical too.

Rather than spoil a whole meal as I once did, be warned that occasionally courgettes are bitter and it is best to try a small piece of each one before adding to a recipe. 

Variation – see below:  
Creamy Pasta with Bacon & Butternut Squash

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Creamy Pasta with Bacon & Courgettes
(Serves 4)

400g Penne or similar sized pasta shapes
250g  Ham/Gammon or streaky bacon (preferably smoked)
2 medium sized courgettes
200ml low fat crème fraîche
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, fine chopped or crushed
40g mature cheddar cheese (or Mozarella)
1 medium white onion (as well as or in place of garlic – optional)
1tbsp olive oil (if using onion)
100g button mushrooms, quartered (optional)
1 medium red pepper, in small chunks (optional)
20g finely grated Parmesan cheese, I use Grana Padano (optional)

1.  Cook the onion, garlic, bacon and mushroom (if using) gently in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, until the onion is transparent and the bacon/ham cooked through.  If you are not using the onion then omit the olive oil.

2.  Meanwhile, put cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water, stirring occasionally and adding a small dash of oil to stop it from sticking together. 

3.  Slice each courgette lengthways into four pieces and the chop into ½”/1cm lengths.  De-seed and dice the pepper (if using).

4.  Stir into the bacon mixture and cook for no more than 10 minutes until the courgette is soft.

5.  Drain the pasta and stir through the bacon & courgette mixture.

6.  Gently stir in the crème fraîche and heat through very gently making sure it does not boil as it will split.

7.  Grate the Cheddar cheese and stir through the mixture just before serving but do not cook over the heat or it will spoil.  Alternatively sprinkle the Cheddar over the top if not using Parmesan.

8.  Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan (or the Cheddar)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Creamy Pasta with Bacon & Butternut Squash 
Exchange the courgette for butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced.  I also added quartered button mushrooms and a red pepper cut into strips.  Otherwise the method is the same as above. 
My family have started to request this in preference to the original!

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This recipe is rather rich, but very tasty – a useful dish that can be made in advance and cooked just before you are ready to eat. I was a bit nervous about what seemed like a large quantity of fennel required (500g/1lb) when I made it first time, so substituted half the fennel with onion.  The dish still has a strong fennel flavour but the onion, along with 6-8 sliced mushrooms, both give additional flavours which complement the ham. (I used a gammon steak, which I pre-cooked in the same pot as the pasta!) I also augmented the recipe with a mozzarella cheese ball cut into pieces. The taste testers in my family said they would definitely like to eat this dish again! (I might even risk the whole quantity of fennel next time.)

The original recipe came from More Great Pasta Dishes by Diane Seed which contains a number of straightforward pasta recipes. The book is very attractive with colourful illustrations by Sarah Holcombe.

100_3505 Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham
Penne al forno con salsa di finocchi e prosciutto cotto
(Serves 4)

500g/1lb Fennel bulb & Onion (proportions according to taste, I used 50/50)
100ml/3½fl ozs single cream (Elmlea gives a lower fat alternative)
Black pepper
1tbsp olive oil
7g/¼oz butter
150g/5ozs diced cooked ham
6-8 sliced button mushrooms (optional)
1 x 125g ball of Mozzarella cheese, liquid drained away (optional)
12ozs pasta (I used Penne – original recipe calls for Rigatoni)
50g/1½ozs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
50g/1½ozs breadcrumbs

1.  Remove the feathery tubes and any tough fibres from the fennel. Roughly chop the fennel and cook in lightly salted water until tender. Drain and puree. Cool slightly, mix with the cream and season to taste. (If, as in the original recipe, you use all fennel and omit the onion then cook and puree two-thirds at this stage and reserve the remaining third to cook in place of the onion at
Stage 2.)

2.  Chop the onion and fry gently in the butter and oil for about 10minutes until translucent but not brown. Add the sliced mushrooms and diced ham and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste.

3.  Pre-heat oven to 200oC/400oF.

4.  Half cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain and stir through the fennel cream sauce.

(The mozzarella is not in the original recipe. If you are omitting it then combine the pasta and ham mixtures and pour directly into the ovenproof dish.) Otherwise…

5.  Place half the pasta in sauce in the base of an ovenproof dish. Place the ham mixture on top and then evenly cover with pieces of sliced mozzarella. Finally add the remaining pasta in sauce.

6.  Sprinkle over the grated parmesan and breadcrumbs. Add some freshly ground black pepper

7.  Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.

8.  Serve with a green salad or a lightly cooked green vegetable. It would be best to follow this dish with a light and refreshing dessert.

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