Merry Christmas Ham

First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS!! It’s been a great day filled with lots of cooking, food, carbonated drinks, relaxation and laughter. This year was the first time that I have ever cooked a meal for Christmas and I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep last night! On the Christmas menu was:

  • Fresh carrots and celery with hummus dip
  • Sausages
  • Mince pies
  • Vietnamese vegetarian rice spring rolls with fish sauce and lemon dip
  • Glazed baked pork rump
  • Ginger chilli chicken wings
  • Dill and lemon baked salmon
  • Roast veges

By the way, there’s only 4 of us and yes, there are heaps of left-overs but there is no doubt that all of it will be eaten before I leave for Perth this Saturday.

Of all the things up to be cooked, I was the most worried about the ham, specifically the glaze. Being the first time that I’ve attempted to make glaze for ham, I was apprehensive about it tasting right when paired with the meat. None of the recipes I found online really appealed to me that much so I amalgamated a recipe I found with the one in my cookbook. It went something like this:

Ingredients
1/2 cup honey
1/2 firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
About 1-2 teaspoons or so of mustard powder  – I don’t know if this was enough because I didn’t get any mustard taste or heat but I didn’t want to overdo it
A pinch of cinnamon
A bit of flour (Sorry for the vagueness but it literally was a pinch of this and a bit of that in terms of these latter 3 ingredients)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180˚C/160˚C fan-forced.

2. Mix together the honey, sugar, cinnamon, water and mustard powder in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat.

3. Remove the rind with your fingers, being careful not to take off the layer of fat underneath (I need more practice with this one!). Score the fat diagonally, making sure that you don’t cut past the fat and into the meat.

Ham rump before 1

4. Place about 2 cups of water in a baking tray, set an oiled rack in the tray and sit the rump onto the rack

5. Brush the glaze over the rump (leaving some more additional glazing later) and place in the oven. I also pushed some whole cloves into the fat before placing in the oven.

DSCN0463

6. Keep glazing throughout the whole time it cooks. Cooking time for me was about 90 minutes but I may have had the temperature a bit low. The meat turned out great though; very moist and the sweetness of the glaze went very well with the saltiness of the pork.

Lunch was served around midday today and I think my stomach has only just shrunk back to something that resembles its normal size. It’s terrible, this gluttony, and even more terrible is the fact that I let this day be an excuse to pig out. But when you don’t celebrate Christmas for the religious reasons, what better things are there to celebrate on this day aside from the precious time spent with your loved ones and the fantastic food that you all get to share?

Ham rump after 1

Overrun by Gingerbread People

It was a very humid day and probably not one I would ordinarily choose to spend in a kitchen baking cookies. However, it is Christmas (almost) and I had a lot of German Lebkuchen dough, add to that an invitation from my friend to join her in baking and decorating Christmas cookies and well, that’s essentially how I ended up on a muggy day in a hot kitchen making a couple of dozen little Gingerbread men (plus other shaped cookies).

In terms of taste, I find they’re not bad for my first go at this recipe. I think that not having spent an entire afternoon making the actual dough helps a lot in terms of my desire to eat the end product. I found that yesterday when I baked the other set of cookies I didn’t want to even look at them in the end because I had spent so long creating them.

The recipe is essentially the same one as the Pfeffernüsse recipe that I posted the time before last, minus the pepper but plus slivered almonds. The white cookies in the third picture are sugar cookies and we used royal icing for decorating.

Gingerbread men 1Gingerbread men 2Gingerbread men 3Gingerbread 5

Walnusskipferl

Following on from my previous post, this is another cookie from Germany: Walnusskipferl. I suppose they’re meant to look something like croissants (the kipferl being an ancestor of the croissant and a popular Christmas treat in Austria) but mine definitely looked more like potato wedges than delicious French pastries. In saying that though, I am incredibly pleased with how these turned out; they’re amazingly melt-in-the-mouth and just the right level of sweetness.

Walnusskipferl 1

The recipe I followed made about 30 cookies.

Ingredients

100g crushed walnuts – the recipe I brought back with me used ground walnuts but I have heaps of whole walnuts at home so I put 100g of that in a plastic bag and crushed them with a potato masher and a rolling pin. I’m sure any heavy/solid implement would do.
275g all purpose flour
70g confectioners’ sugar
A pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
200g unsalted butter, cut into cubes – this is best if it’s been left out of the fridge for a bit so it’s nice and soft

Method

  1. Mix together flour, sugar, walnuts, salt, egg and butter into a dough. Note that this dough is quite sticky.
  2. Roll into logs, wrap with cling film and place in fridge for about 2 hours
  3. Preheat oven to 180°C
  4. Cut dough into slices and form into a croissant shape (or if you’re like me, any shape that vaguely resembles a croissant)
  5. Place onto an oven tray lined with baking paper and bake in oven until it turns a light yellow colour. This batch took me about 20 minutes to cook.
  6. Once the cookies are done, brush some melted unsalted butter over the top and sift over icing sugar. This must be done when the cookies are hot. If you can find it, you can also mix together vanilla sugar with the icing sugar.

If you like, the ends of this can also be dipped in melted chocolate and left to cool.

Learning

I feel these cookies turned out really well and the only thing I would change for next time would be the amount of walnut I put in; I don’t really get the walnut taste coming through so I would definitely add more in.

Recreating memories of Germany: Pfeffernüsse

Way back in 2004 I went on a 2-month exchange to Germany over December/January and it was the best Christmas I have ever had. All thanks to my amazing exchange partner and her family, I got to experience all the traditions, beliefs, practices and thrills of a true German Christmas, including the unmissable opportunity to learn how to make a huge range of German Christmas cookies. One of my favorites was the Pfeffernüsse (“pepper” + “nuts”).

Pfeffernuesse 1

The recipe I followed was a mix between the recipe I brought back from Germany and a recipe I found online. This made 30-odd cookies:

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 ground cloves
Roughly 25 grams of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
Icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C (not fan-forced)
  2. Sift together flour, salt, pepper, cinnamon, baking soda, all spice, nutmeg and cloves
  3. Crack in the egg and put in the cubes of butter
  4. Pour in the honey, sugar and molasses. Mix together and knead to form dough
  5. Roll out the dough about 1 cm thick
  6. Slice into pieces about 3 or 4 cm wide (this depends on how big you want your cookies to be)
  7. Roll each piece into a ball and place on an oven tray lined with baking paper
  8. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. This also depends on the size of the cookies. The larger ones I rolled took about 15-20 minutes.

Once they were done, I took the cookies straight from the oven and placed a couple in a plastic bag with icing sugar. Making sure that the opening was closed tightly, I shook the cookies in the bag until there was a nice coating of icing sugar on each of them. I repeated this until I had all the cookies dusted in sugar.

My exchange partner’s dad, who makes these cookies for them, makes a simple glaze out of icing sugar mixed with a bit of water. This must be brushed over the cookies when they are hot.

Learning

If I made these again, I would definitely not add as much sugar/honey/molasses/all of the above because these turned out a bit too sweet for my liking, especially since I covered them with sugar afterwards as well. I would probably go for about 3/4 of what the above recipe allows for.

Pear isn’t just a fruit…

Pear, blue cheese and honey crostini

It’s a fruit that I’ve recently discovered goes really well with certain things that I would never have thought would work. I was at my boyfriend’s work social club Christmas function and there was a pear, rocket and parmesan salad, which tasted really good. Then on Saturday at the girls Christmas dinner, one of my friends made pear, blue cheese and honey crostini, which also tasted good, despite the seemingly odd pairing of mouldy cheese with the delicious sweetness of honey and pear.

Pear, blue cheese and honey crostini topped with almonds pictured above.

Losing count of Christmas celebrations…

Roasted Christmas veges

It’s been a wee while since I last posted anything and I currently feel like passing out from food coma-ness/fatigue but I had to post this up: my first attempt at roast veges.

That might seem a bit strange for some people but roast veges are wholly non-existent in my house because we almost always choose to stir fry our greens. Today, however, was my annual Christmas dinner with my girl friends and I was tasked with roasting the veges. I chose:

  • Kumara i.e. sweet potato (1 really large one cubed)
  • Potatoes (2x cubed)
  • Courgette (1x halved lengthways and then cubed)
  • 1x red bell pepper
  • 1x green bell pepper

I tossed this with some dried thyme (better to use fresh but I was running late so couldn’t stop by the supermarket), salt, pepper and olive oil. I placed 4 cloves of garlic, each crushed once with the flat side of the knife with the skin on, on top right before it went into the oven.

The temperature of the oven was probably around 200 degrees celsius on fan bake and it took around an hour or so. The main thing for me was to keep checking it and tossing it throughout the time that it was cooking. It was all pretty straightforward and it turned out just fine. Next time I would probably forgo the peppers as they did go a bit soggy and I wasn’t a huge fan. Also, not enough flavour!!

Ah well, more Christmas cooking to come – only 9 days to go!

Winning best wedding cake so far

I was at the wedding of one of my friends from primary school this weekend and boy, there was a lot of food. All up, I think there were 13 dishes if you counted the cake as a dish. Speaking of the cake, I was very happy, but not surprised, to see that it was “Asian” cake: light, fluffy sponge decorated beautifully with some sort of cream(?) and other cake stuff that I don’t understand. I think wedding cake has a pretty average reputation for it being more about the aesthetics than the taste i.e. too much fondant or icing of some sort, generally chocolate flavoured cake and generally pretty average tasting/dry/too heavy/too rich.

Out of the small handful of weddings that I’ve been to so far, this wedding cake comes out on top because it not only looked pretty but was actually entirely edible as well. Even after all that food, I still managed to eat a slice of cake, fit in two other desserts AND walk quite comfortably out of the restaurant at the end of the night. I was definitely at the gym the next morning though!

Mouth-watering Malaysian Curry

Vegetarian but not curry

If I was to write a list of my favourite things to eat, curry would generally not make it into the Top 10, simply because there are plenty of other foods I would prefer to eat for various reasons. There’s always an exception though and mine would be this Malaysian curry that’s probably not nearly as authentic as the real thing but still tastes fantastic.

The specific brand of paste used here is “Tean’s Gourmet” authentic Malaysian vegetarian curry paste but honestly, most Malaysian curry pastes bought from any decent Asian supermarket will do, bearing in mind they do come in varying degrees of spiciness. Note also that we have never made curry according to “type” (massaman, panang, etc); we pretty much just buy the sauce and throw in any ingredients we want.

Because it’s something my mum is especially good at cooking, here are the ingredients she uses and her instructions on how she cooks this curry:

You need:

  • A packet of a Malaysian curry paste of your choice – depending on how many people you’re cooking for, you generally don’t need to use the whole packet. About 100g is enough for about 4-5 people.
  • A whole onion – chopped, diced, whatever, it doesn’t matter
  • Coconut milk – depends on how creamy you want it
  • Vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Any ingredients you want with the curry, so meat, potatoes, etc. In the one in this picture, there is a large potato cut into chunks, an egg plant also cut into chunks and some chicken wings
  • Thin rice noodles, otherwise known as rice vermicelli
  • Fish sauce, for seasoning
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh mint leaves

Using those ingredients, do something along the lines of:

  1. Place oil in the saucepan/pot that you’ll be cooking the curry in
  2. Fry the onions on a low-ish heat in the saucepan/pot until they’re soft
  3. Add the paste in with the onions and cook on a medium heat until it “starts to smell nice” (her words, not mine)
  4. Drop in all the other ingredients into the saucepan/pot i.e. chicken, egg plant, etc
  5. Add some salt to taste (Note that you generally add in fish oil when you go to eat this and that’s really salty so be careful here)
  6. Continue stirring the curry while slowly adding in a little bit of water until the sauce covers about half the ingredients in the saucepan/pot (You can replace the water with some sort of stock if you wanted more flavour/saltiness). Be careful not to put too much liquid in as you don’t want it really runny
  7. When all ingredients are cooked, add as much or as little coconut milk as you want. For 4 people, about 165ml (a small can) is enough
  8. Leave that on a low heat and cook the rice noodles until they’re semi-soft to soft but definitely not soggy. Drain the noodles through a colander
  9. Serve the curry on top of a bed of noodles, squeeze over the juice of a lemon wedge, splash on some fish sauce depending on how salty you want it and top it all off with fresh mint leaves. My mum also likes to add some sliced cucumber as well but this is more for texture than taste. Bean sprouts also work to get that crunchy texture.

Hopefully that all made some sort of sense! It’s really straightforward and as I said, it’s probably not what you would find in Malaysia but that doesn’t matter so much for me in this case, especially when my mouth waters profusely every single time I smell this wafting through the house.