Pork, potato, pastry – the holy trinity
So how’s all that ham going? I basically lose interest with it the minute Christmas lunch is over so much of my time is occupied with recipes using the leftover ham. To, you know, use the remaining SIX kilos of it.
Christmas was wonderful. A relaxed day here feeding family with lots of laughter, delicious food and plenty of sparkling shiraz.
It was followed by my MIL’s birthday celebration, also here. It will go down in history as the Festival of Ham. With cheesecake. Divine divine cheesecake.
The boys have all been rather delicious – I believe I will look back on this next little episode of our lives with a full heart. My boys are not babies anymore and who they will be is slowly revealing itself – a process I feel absolutely blessed to witness. Even if at times my head wants to explode from the less pleasant aspects of it.
Oscar loves his basketball hoop for the trampoline – possibly the finest example of highway robbery by a company I’ve ever been party to. Felix is smitten with his cruiser skateboard and ZOMG he will be 13 this year and that makes my chest tighten. Jasper got his long-pined-for Halo rocket ship. A Megabloks hellzone. There were three lots of tears on Christmas Day at being so overwhelmed by it. I ended up building most of it. Ask my chiropractor how that worked out for everyone. Grover was conflicted, apparently Santa “got it wrong” with his Lego but all was forgiven with a Dr Who sonic screwdriver.
Mum’s left knee has totally packed it in – she’s basically incapacitated so between the two of us we cut quite a pair.
What better way to counter chronic pain and, in mum’s case, now unavoidable joint replacement surgery in 2013 than eating ham. A lot of ham.
It’s a pie of promise (with a quiche in the background for good measure)
Ham and potato pie
- Shortcrust pastry – you can NOT go past Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry, it has revolutionised my fear of working with pastry – it’s hugely forgiving, ridiculously easy to work with and tastes DIVINE.
- 5-6 waxy potatoes – cooked, peeled and cut into 1/2-1cm slices
- 700g ham, sliced thinly off the bone
- handful fresh basil, finely chopped
- handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup milk
layer upon layer upon layer
- Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 24cm springform tin
- Roll out 2/3 of the pastry to about 3mm thick and line the tin – try and do it in one whole piece but don’t stress if it breaks – just smoosh the broken edges together
- Place a layer of the potatoes in the bottom, top with ham, then scatter over herbs and seasoning – go light on the salt depending on how salty your ham is
- Keep layering and end with ham and herbs then press the filling down firmly
- Mix the eggs with the milk and cream, pour over the layers then pop a pastry lid on the top, cut some slits in it and glaze if you feel so inclined
- Let it sit for 1/2 hour and then bake for 1-1.5hrs. I always bake it for 1.5 and it comes out a treat – just stick a knife in it and if it’s piping hot it’s good to go.
- Leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes once it’s done and then serve with a simple green salad.
Tasty AND pretty.
Thursday’s radio spot saw me veer away from the sweets (quelle horror!) to show a steady course to one of my go-to one pan roasts. The big tip here is to have a rare moment of organisation when you buy your chicken pieces. Throw them in a snap-lock bag with the marinade before poping them in the freezer. It means on the night you’re going to have it all you need do is defrost the chicken, toss with the potatoes and roast. As my friend Beth says, BANG.
One pot wonder
- 1kg chicken pieces (drumsticks, wings, pieces that are on the bone)
- one lemon, cut into chunks
- few lugs olive oil
- a handful mix of fresh herbs (eg tarragon, sage, parsley, thyme)
- 4 garlic cloves, slightly crushed but skins still on
- one onion, cut into chunks
- heaped dessert spoon of dijon mustard
- good pinch of salt and a healthy grind of pepper
- 6 potatoes, cut into wedges
- Combine the chicken with the marinade in a bowl or large snap-lock back and combine thoroughly
- Marinate for a long as you’ve got – ideally a couple of hours at least
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Tip the chicken pieces and potatoes into a baking dish and toss together, add a few more lugs of olive oil if everything’s not getting nicely coated with the marinade. You could probably sprinkle over some more salt and pepper here as well.
- Bake for about an hour or until everything is nice and golden with some crispy bits and charred bits and basically a pan of ridiculous goodness.
When I was little Shepherd’s Pie was for dinner the night after we’d had a roast leg of lamb as sure as the sun would rise. Mum had a mincer that attached to her Sunbeam mixer and the lamb, onion and carrot would all go through it.
I can’t say that I remember it that fondly but I do remember the ritual of it – the fascination with this scary looking mincer, the mash on top peaked by the prongs of a fork and the slathering the whole thing with tomato sauce.
I don’t have a mincer and finely chopping it by hand is not the same. And I was never able to bring myself to make it with mince until I saw this Terry Durack recipe for it in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine a few months back (It was part of his spread for an Easter lunch or something like that.) Terry’s had 200g of mixed mushrooms in it but I have a boy and a mother who don’t eat mushrooms so I just ditch those and cook it a little longer so the sauce isn’t too runny. Also, I have a mother (the same one in fact) who doesn’t like tomatoes, so while Terry’s calls for a 400g can of chopped tomatoes I just put a couple of cherry tomatoes or baby Roma tomatoes or two normal toms diced.
All that considered, it’s an absolute winner.
Adapted from Terry Durack, Good Weekend magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped (I never have celery in the house so have made this more times w/out than with)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 500-600g lamb mince
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 125ml red wine
- 300ml stock
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tomatoes, diced (or about 1/2 dozen cherry toms)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme (which I hate so I use parsley instead)
- 2 bay leaves
- 800g potatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 100ml milk
- 3 tbsp parmesan
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Heat a little oil in a large pan and fry the onion, carrot and celery until nice and soft
- Add the garlic and cook off a little
- Add the lamb and cook for a few minutes, breaking up the meat so you don’t get any of those manky big lumps of mince (gag)
- Sprinkle over the flour and cook, stirring, for a minute or two
- Add the wine, bring to the boil (whenever I add it it kinda gets absorbed straight away so I just cook it out for a little)
- Then add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs
- Season and simmer for about 40 minutes until nice and thick
- While that’s simmering boil the potatoes until soft, about 15 mintues
- Drain and mash, then beat in the butter, egg yolk, milk, parmesan and the green onions
- Preheat oven to 180C
- Pour the meat into a baking dish, top with the potato, rake over with a fork and scatter over some more knobs of butter
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the meat is bubbling and the potato topping is nice and golden.
- Spread potato on top of the meat
So my mum used to cook. Then she got divorced, had to go back to work and basically raise two kids on her own so she stopped. It all happened around the time I discovered that I liked to cook, which was fortuitous. Even so, my mum doesn’t eat much – like pasta, tomatoes, chilli, anything with spices and so on and so forth.
That said, she makes a vegetable barley soup and a chop casserole I can never match.
But with a recent pocket of cooler weather I desperately needed a casserole, so attempt it I did. And lo, it came to pass that it was delicious.
Now the amounts below are, I confess, a bit of a guess. Casseroles are a moveable feast as far as I’m concerned, sometimes featuring a tin of tomatoes, sometimes some beer of some sort, sometimes mushrooms, you get the picture. So use the following as a lose guide rather than some ‘to be followed to the letter’. I’m just saying is all.
Lamb chop casserole
- 6 – 8 lamb loin chops
- a piled heap of plain flour
- olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 heaped tblsp tomato paste
- glass of red (or white) wine
- 1.5 litres of water or stock
- 4 potatoes (depending on size) halved or quartered depending on size
- 2 carrots, cut into chunks or thick fingers
- handful or two of fresh herbs of choice, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Season the plain flour with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Heat the oil in a large frypan
- Dust the chops in the flour and sear in the frypan until you get good colour on them. Do this is batches and place the browned chops in a deep casserole dish as you go, throwing in some of the potatoes and carrots as you go
- Once all the chops are done, add a splash more oil and brown off the onion and garlic
- Pour the wine into the frypan and let it come to a rapid boil as you scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan into the winey oniony garlicky juices
- Scatter over a good heaped tablespoon or two of the flour that you were using to coat the chops and cook off for a minute or two
- Then add the stock in batches, stirring madly as you do so it doesn’t go lumpy. Never fear if it does, I’ve been known to take the whole lumpy mess and dump it into a jug and then blitz with the stick blender, then pour back into the pan as if nothing ever happened.
- Somewhere in here add the tomato paste – sometimes I add it to the onions to cook it off a bit, sometimes I forget completely and just stir it in once I’ve got the gravy well underway
- Add the herbs and cook for a little while – the trick here is that you don’t want it too thick nor too runny. But you know what? So long as it tastes good, it doesn’t really matter.
- So, put the lid on, bang the whole thing in the oven and leave it there for at least two hours. The other day the one pictured above had almost four and the meat was just dissolving, which I find absolutely divine. In this instance I’d made a cartouche (sp?) of a piece of baking paper I had wet and scrunched up and then placed over the top of the casserole before putting the lid on. No idea if it made a difference but I felt fancy pants doing so.
- Serve with peas.
- This makes enough to feed an army.
The gratin dauphinois I normally make has been in my repertoire for almost 20 years. Parting with it to try something new, even if it was a Nigella recipe, was a big tall order. But I did it. To be honest, the extra steps in this (in terms of the onion, cloves etc) did not really change the flavour that dramatically, so my original will stand this test of time.
Bread-sauce-flavoured Potato Gratin
- 500ml full-fat milk
- 500ml pouring cream
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves
- 1tsp blade mace (or 1/2 tsp ground mace)
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1tbs Maldon sea salt
- 2kg floury potatoes
- Preheat the oven to 220c and lightly grease a large baking dish
- Put the milk and cream in a large saucepan
- Peel the onion, cut in half and stick one of the cloves in each half
- Add onion to the milk and bring nearly to the boil
- Turn off heat and leave to infuse
- Peel the potatoes and cut into 1cm slices
- Put potatoes into the milk, return to the heat and bring to the boil with the lid on
- Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender but not disintegrating
- Fish out the onions and blades of mace
- Pour the potatoes into the baking dish with the liquid and cook for about 15 minutes until the potato is bubbling and browned
- Let it stand out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving (lets the sauce settle down and thicken).
Delicious with any roast meat whatsoever.