Baked Ham with Gratin de Pommes de Terre Dauphinois

Matthew and I met in Geneva in the 70s when I was working for the British Mission to the UN and he was working for the Aussies. We were each there for 3 years and did lots of skiing and eating, but we didn’t meet until he was just about to leave. Somehow we worked things out and here we are decades later!

In Switzerland baked ham is served in many restaurants, invariably accompanied by gratin de pommes de terre dauphinois – or spuds dauphin style in English! Indeed, there’s one place we used to frequent in Geneva which serves nothing else. Ham and potatoes baked with cream, cheese and garlic go so well together – it’s a marriage made in heaven.

A chest freezer in the garage allows me to take advantage of special offers and freeze excess produce from the garden, such as tomatoes and cumquats. Early in the New Year our local supermarket was selling off legs of smoked ham with a good discount, so I bought one and stuck it in the freezer.

We had friends coming to Woodlands for lunch and as we’ve all had time to get over the festive season I decided it was time to get the ham out of the freezer. There are lots of different recipes for glazes and below are three of my favourites. Basically anything sweet and sticky will do. The gratin recipe is one I picked up on a card in a supermarket while living in Geneva, so it’s very authentic. Gruyère is the traditional cheese for this dish. Other hard cheeses such as Emmenthal or Cheddar will work but the flavour will be different. Forgot to take a photo, so you’ll just have to use your imagination!

Glazes for Ham

Glazed ham

Brandied Apricot Glaze:
1 cup apricot jam
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbs vinegar
1 tsp hot English mustard
¼ cup brandy

Citrus Liqueur Glaze:
1 cup concentrated orange juice (or other juice)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Pineapple-Orange Glaze:
¼ cup pineapple juice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbs orange marmalade
1 Tbs honey
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbs brandy

Heat all ingredients for glaze in a saucepan, stirring until dissolved. If chunky, push through a sieve, then cool.

To Glaze the Ham:

Remove rind from ham by running your thumb around edge just under skin, loosening and pulling as you go. When you have pulled it to within 15 cm of the shank end, take a sharp pointed knife and cut through rind around shank end in a zigzag pattern, then pull off the rest of the skin up to this edge.

Make parallel cuts through fat at 2-3 cm intervals, just through the surface, not deeply, first one way and then the other to achieve a diamond effect. If liked stick cloves into each diamond space.

Place ham in a large baking dish. Brush with chosen glaze and bake at 180°C for about 45 minutes, brushing with more glaze every 10 minutes or so. It’s ready when it’s an even amber colour all over. Serve hot or cold.

Store the ham on a large plate or chopping board in the fridge. Place the plate inside a cotton ham bag or substitute an old pillowcase. Every time you use the ham rinse the bag in cold water and wring it out tightly. This will help to keep the ham fresh and moist for up to 4 weeks.

Gratin de Pommes de Terre Dauphinois

1 kg potatoes
200ml milk
100ml cream
50g butter
50g grated Gruyere cheese
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel potatoes and slice thinly. Place in overlapping rows in a greased shallow, oven-proof dish, seasoning as you go with salt, pepper and half the garlic. Mix milk, cream, the rest of the garlic and nutmeg and pour over. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender – test with a knife. Turn oven up to 220°C and remove foil. Sprinkle with the grated cheese, dot with butter, cut into small pieces and bake for 20 mins or until golden brown.

Serves 6-8

Spinach Salad with Red Dressing

When we were living in Pretoria, South Africa, in the late 1980s someone brought a delicious spinach salad to a pot luck BBQ we were hosting. I made a mental note of the ingredients in the salad, but it took me a while to get the sweet and sour red dressing right.

This salad is very popular as part of a buffet or to accompany a BBQ. The ingredients are unusual and the contrast of the spinach and eggs with the red dressing looks good. I used to call it Sweet and Sour Dressing, but as everyone in the family called it Red Dressing, I decided to go with the flow. Serve in a large shallow bowl, so there is only one layer of each ingredient, then spoon the dressing over at the last minute and serve without mixing.

The bowl in the photo is hand made and was bought at the craft market at Los Dominicos in Santiago, Chile. We lived in Santiago for 4 wonderful years and every time I return I end up bringing back a salad bowl for someone who has admired mine and asked for the spinach salad recipe. It’s a perfect size and shape for this salad.

Spinach Salad with Red Dressing

2-3 packets baby spinach leaves or use half spinach and half lettuce leaves
1-2 cups bean sprouts
4-6 hard boiled eggs
4-6 rashers bacon, diced
1 can water chestnuts
Red Dressing (see below)

Wash and dry spinach and remove stalks. Wash and dry bean sprouts and sprinkle over. Drain and slice water chestnuts and sprinkle over. Cut eggs into halves or quarters, lengthwise and arrange over the salad. Can prepare ahead to this stage. Just before serving fry the bacon in a pan without oil until crisp, dry on paper towels and sprinkle over the salad. Vegetarians can leave out the bacon. Just before serving spoon over some Red Dressing.

Serves 8-10 or more as part of a buffet

Red Dressing

¼ cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 small onion or ½ medium
½ cup cider or white wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
½ cup tomato ketchup

Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Keep in the fridge in a jar with a lid. Shake well before using. Goes well with any salad but especially with Spinach Salad.

Curried Chicken Salad

Over the years I’ve stopped making some of the recipes I collected in my teens because my taste has changed, or maybe they were never that special to begin with and new ones have taken over as favourites. Others have evolved over the years with slight modifications and improvements – cutting down on fat or sugar, or smartening up the presentation.

This curried chicken salad, which I’ve been making for decades, falls into the latter category. When I’m asked to bring a plate and take this dish I am always asked for the recipe, so I can’t imagine I will ever cross it off my repertoire. The original version used canned pineapple, which was very popular in the UK when I was growing up.  I don’t think I ate a fresh pineapple until I was well into my 20s, but everyone had a few cans in the pantry to add to coleslaw, serve with grilled ham steaks or add to fruit salads.  Nobody needs to buy canned fruit these days with such a wide selection of fresh fruit available.

This dish makes a perfect addition to a cold buffet and is a great way to make one roast chicken serve a crowd. It’s easy to double, triple or quadruple, any leftovers go down well the following day and I’ve also made it using leftover roast Turkey from Christmas lunch. The dressing and all the ingredients can be prepared the day before. It looks nice in individual servings, piled onto a large lettuce leaf or in a whisky tumbler lined with lettuce.  If you want to be really swish, serve the salad in hollowed out fresh pineapple halves, with the green tufty bits left on and of course use what you’ve dug out in the salad. Garnishing with red chilli brings this dish into the 21st century.

Curried Chicken Salad

Meat from one large roast chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1½ cups thinly sliced celery (sliced on the diagonal looks nice)
2 cups seedless grapes
1 cup fresh pineapple cubes
¾ cup flaked almonds or unsalted cashew nuts, roughly chopped
To garnish: Thin slivers of red chilli or red capsicum
Dressing:
1½ cups mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs chutney or relish
1 Tbs curry powder or paste
1 Tbs grated onion

Dressing: Chop chutney if it’s very chunky. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Toast almonds or cashews in a dry frying pan, stirring frequently, until golden, then remove from pan and cool. Prepare the chicken, grapes, celery and pineapple and refrigerate each separately. Recipe can be prepared to this stage up to 24 hours before serving.
If you have time, mix chicken with dressing and refrigerate for a couple of hours for flavours to blend. Mix in celery, grapes and pineapple just before serving.

To serve, mound the salad onto a flat serving platter with lettuce leaves around the edge.  Or omit the lettuce and pile the salad into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted nuts and garnish with the chilli.

Serves 6 as a main course or at least 12 as part of a buffet.

Apple Strudel

Peek celebrations are all about the food and those in the know rarely turn down an invitation to one of our gatherings.  A Dutch friend once told me that when Dutch people have guests coming they clean the windows.  My mother arranges flowers everywhere, while others spend hours cleaning and dusting.  I cook and so do our three offspring.  If it’s a choice between doing a quick gallop round with the vacuum cleaner before people arrive, or whipping up some mayonnaise to go with the prawns, the mayo will win every time.

Last Saturday our son James organised an afternoon tea party to celebrate his wife Karen’s 40th and their second son Luke’s 3rd birthday.  There were about 20 adults and umpteen kids coming, so I offered to make a couple of apple strudels and some egg, mayonnaise and chive sandwiches which always go down well with kids of all ages. Home-made mayonnaise is the secret.  James made some delicious morsels, including sausage rolls and mini yorkshire puddings with smoked trout pate.

When I was growing up in England my mother only had two cookbooks.  One was published by the makers of Stork margarine and contained basic recipes for the cakes and pies a British housewife needed in her repertoire.  It was my Mum’s bible in the early days of her marriage and she gave me an updated version when I got married and moved to Australia.  I still have it somewhere amongst my many cookbooks.

The other was called International Cooking and it had a chapter from several European countries. When I was about twelve I made the Austrian Apple Strudel.  It was a huge success and I’ve been making it ever since.  You can use fillo pastry instead of making your own dough, but it’s not really hard to make.  When I get time I will make a video showing how to roll and stretch the dough until you can almost read a newspaper through it.

Apple Strudel

Dough: (or 10 sheets fillo pastry)

250g plain flour

2 egg yolks

pinch salt

2 Tbs oil

About 150ml tepid water

Filling:

750g peeled, cored and sliced apples (I like Granny Smiths)

50g currants

50g raisins

80g fresh breadcrumbs (just wizz some bread in processor)

1 tsp cinnamon

100g unsalted butter, melted

125g sugar

60g melted butter, extra, for frying crumbs

50g melted butter, extra, for brushing

Dough: Place all ingredients except water in food processor and mix, then add enough tepid water slowly through the top with the motor running, until it forms a ball. It should be soft but not sticky. Stop the motor when it has started to form a ball.  Gather all the bits together and knead for a few seconds to make a smooth ball then place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a tea towel.

Filling: fry breadcrumbs until golden brown in 60g butter, turning, till they look like toasted muesli. Mix with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle a little extra flour over a clean tea towel and roll dough out as large as possible without tearing using a rolling pin. Then continue to stretch gently with your hands until you have an oblong about the size of the tea towel and the length of your baking tray.  Spread with apple filling, leaving about 2.5 cm all round. If you like you can cut the slightly thicker edges off, but I like to fold them in onto the apples.  It makes the ends of the strudel a bit thick and doughy, but it ends up crunchy and for some people that’s their favourite bit!

Roll up using the tea towel to assist, with the long end underneath. Tuck the short ends under and pinch to seal. Place on a buttered baking sheet and brush with some of the extra butter. Bake 20 minutes at 220°C, then 30 minutes or so at 180°C, brushing from time to time with melted butter. When golden brown remove and cool for 10 mins, then carefully remove with spatulas to a cake rack. You will need two people with a spatula in each hand.  Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with sifted icing sugar and accompanied by whipped cream.

Note: It’s nicer and more authentic using home made pastry. If using fillo pastry, stack 10 sheets, brushing each one liberally with melted, unsalted butter. Place filling along one long edge rather than spreading it all over. Roll up and proceed as above.

Dill with everything

I learned how to make this Finnish Salmon Pie at a cooking demonstration given by a Finnish diplomat’s wife over 20 years ago.  Back then fresh salmon was not so readily available and everyone used tins.  In fact I don’t think I tasted fresh salmon until I was in my twenties!

The original recipe used two large tins of salmon.  I now make it using a combination of fresh and tinned, which I think gives a good result.  The butter and dill sauce is an optional addition.  Not on the agenda if you’re watching cholesterol levels, but quite delicious.  The cucumber salad is a perfect accompaniment.

If you’re not sure what a Swiss roll tin looks like have a look at these images on Google.  Mine is about 25x30cm.  If your tin is bigger just roll out the pastry to about this size.

Finnish Salmon Pie

Cottage Cheese Pastry:

150g self-raising flour
125g butter
125g cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1-2 Tbs cold water
Filling:
500g fresh salmon
1 x 415g can pink salmon, drained
2 Tbs chopped fresh dill
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
50g long grain rice, almost cooked
3 Tbs cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten

Sauce:
100g butter, melted
2-3 Tbs chopped dill

Pastry: Place flour and butter in food processor and process until it forms crumbs.  Add cottage cheese and process.  As soon as the pastry starts to stick together add just enough water so that it forms into a ball.  Stop motor immediately, tip out, wrap in plastic wrap and chill while you prepare the filling.

Filling: Cook rice and eggs together in boiling water to cover for 10 minutes. Tip into a sieve and allow the rice to drain.  Put the eggs back in the pan, cover with cold water and leave until cool enough to handle, then peel.  Remove skin and any bones from fresh salmon, then cut into 1-2cm dice.  Place in a bowl with the canned salmon (discard skin and bones), the rice, dill and hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped.  Mix well and season to taste.

Place a piece of baking paper on a Swiss roll tin – not essential but makes washing up easier.  On a floured surface roll out pastry to the size of the Swiss roll tin, then place on the baking paper, folding it to make it easier to move.  It doesn’t matter if the edges are ragged, you won’t see them once the pie is finished. Place salmon filling down centre in the shape of a log or loaf and covering about a third of the pastry surface.  Cut diagonal slits in pastry every 2cm down each side, from the edge of the pastry as far as the filling. Fold in the two ends, then bring up strips from alternate sides, overlapping them slightly, to form a pseudo-plait. Use your hands to push everything firmly into place.  Can be refrigerated at this stage if you like.   Paint with beaten egg and bake for 30-40 minutes at 200°C. Serve warm, cut into slices and drizzled with the sauce.

Sauce: Melt butter and mix with chopped dill.

Variations: use white fish and canned tuna instead of the salmon.

Cucumber Salad with Dill

4-5 Lebanese cucumbers (about 15cm long) or 2 longer telegraph cucumbers
1 medium brown onion
1/3 cup vinegar (cider or white wine)P1060250 - Copy
¼ cup water
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
¼ cup sugar
½ cup thick sour cream
½ tsp hot English-style mustard
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, firmly packed

Peel onion, cut in half and slice thinly. Slice unpeeled cucumbers thinly and mix with onions. The quickest way to do this is with the slicing blade of a food processor.

Mix vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Pour over onions and cucumbers, mix well and leave for 1-2 hours at room temperature, mixing from time to time. Drain cucumbers and onion in a colander or large sieve. Discard the juices. Put the colander in a bowl, so it continues to drain, then put it in the fridge, covered and leave it there draining till serving time. In a small bowl, mix sour cream, mustard, fresh dill and pepper to taste and refrigerate till serving time.

To serve, mix well-drained cucumbers and onions with the sour cream dressing. Garnish with sprigs of dill.

This salad goes well with most fish dishes, especially salmon. It’s also a good addition to a buffet or BBQ.

Roast Fillet of Beef with Fresh Herb Dressing

Last week my friend Ferne asked me what we were having for Christmas lunch.  I said we were having a cold buffet and mentioned a recipe for roast beef with a fresh herb dressing that I was thinking of doing from an old Women’s Weekly cookbook.   It’s perfect for a summer buffet.

I haven’t made it for quite some time but said I would dig it out.  Ferne said if you find it, please send it to me.  I have about 30 Women’s Weekly cookbooks – they were all the rage in the 70s and 80s – and typically it was in the last one I opened, called Celebration Cookbook.  Here is my slightly adapted version.

Roast Beef with Fresh Herb Dressing

1 whole beef eye fillet, weighing 1.5-1.8kg, trimmed of fat and sinew
1 Tbs whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
30g butter
2 Tbs vegetable oil
Whole flat parsley leaves to garnish
Dressing:
1 Tbs chopped parsley
1 Tbs chopped fresh chives
3 green (spring) onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbs capers, chopped if large
2 tsp drained canned green peppercorns
1 tsp hot English mustard
1/2 cup tarragon or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
1 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Trim beef, tie into a neat shape with string. Roll in peppercorns and press them in.  Heat butter and oil in a roasting pan.  Add beef and cook briefly all over until sealed.   Place beef in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes for medium-rare, or until cooked to liking.  A meat thermometer is useful for getting it right and should read 55°C for medium-rare.  Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature, remove string.  Slice beef thinly and arrange on serving dish in overlapping rows.  Top with dressing, garnish with parsley leaves.  Serve remaining dressing separately.

Dressing: Place all ingredients in a jam jar with a lid and shake vigorously.

Serves 10-12 as part of a buffet.

Note: Beef can be cooked and dressing made the day before serving.  Store both in the fridge well covered.

Chicken Terrine with Herbs and Pink Peppercorns

A terrine is handy to have in the fridge over the holiday period.  Serve as a light lunch or starter with salad, or as part of a buffet.  My terrine dish is made from glazed pottery and holds 3 liters.  It has a lid and was made in France.  A metal or silicone loaf pan will do.  You can use pink peppercorns in brine or the dry ones which I buy from The Essential Ingredient.  I’ve put “About 700g of chicken mince” because if you buy it prepacked and it happens to be 100g more or less, it doesn’t matter, throw it all in.  Same with the breasts.

When you tip it out there will be a certain amount of jelly surrounding the terrine.  You will probably want to throw this away, although our golden retriever thought it was quite delicious mixed in with his boring dry biscuits for dinner!

Chicken Terrine with Herbs and Pink Peppercorns

5-8 slices of prosciutto or pancetta (enough to line your terrine)
About 700g chicken breast meat
About 700g chicken mince
1 small onion or a couple of shallots, very finely chopped
1 cup cream
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbs pink peppercorns
3-4 Tbs finely chopped herbs (I used a mixture of parsley and marjoram)
2 Tbs brandy

Preheat oven to 200°C.  Lightly oil the terrine dish, then line it on all sides with a single layer of pancetta or prosciutto.  Trim chicken breasts of any fat, then cut into 2-3cm cubes.  Use your food processor to chop the herbs and mix with the chicken breast, stirring to coat thoroughly and adding salt and pepper to taste. Mix chicken mince with remaining ingredients, using food processor to chop the onion or shallots.  When thoroughly mixed place half the mixture in the terrine, spreading evenly, then arrange all of the chicken breast cubes on top, then the rest of the mince mixture.  Press down well, cover terrine with the lid or with a piece of foil.  Place in a large dish such as a lasagne dish or a baking pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the terrine dish.  Bake for an hour, then remove from the oven, cool thoroughly, then refrigerate overnight.  Some terrines need to be weighted overnight, but I found this didn’t need it.  To serve, loosen the terrine and tip out, then cut into slices.  If it’s difficult to remove, you might need to dip the bottom of the terrine into boiling water.  If liked, garnish with some extra pink peppercorns and serve with Sweet Mustard Sauce.

Cuts into about 10 thick slices.

Sweet Mustard Sauce
1 Tbs English mustard
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs grainy mustard
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs vinegar (white or cider)
3 Tbs cup olive oil

Place all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well.  Leave overnight for the sugar to dissolve.

Note: this mustard sauce goes very well with Gravlax for which I would add a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped dill and 3-4 Tbs mayonnaise (preferably home-made) to make the sauce less hot.