Our first Christmas in Sydney. Our first Christmas that we spent it with just the two of us and @tekkieboy. Back in Melbourne, we usually celebrate and spend Christmas holidays with other “orphans”. Many of us are overseas students many moon ago and so our families are usually not with us in Australia. We built a strong bond over time and in many ways, are like brothers and sisters. After more than a decade, it is hard to let go and so I did feel quite depress for a little while. It is only natural that I miss the brothers and sisters in Melbourne but more importantly, I have to look forward to the possibilities in Sydney. This year there are only both of us and hopefully, in a year, there will be more that I can cook for.
Having roast turkey and ham is a tradition in many homes of Western families but not usually in a Chinese family. In a recent outing with my colleagues I was asked a question – How do families in Singapore celebrate Christmas? When I was little, I do remember parties that mum and dad would organise at home. We never roasted any turkey or ham. Not many families owned ovens. But I did remember store bought party pies, roast chicken, slices of ham and loads of candy. There will be bottles of Johnny Walker and VSOP for my dad and his friends to sip on while they played poker and smoke cigarettes. The mums would be chatting away and screaming at the kids for playing too loudly. The parties diminished as I grew older and situation changed. But as a kid, I never really had turkey or rather real turkey. I reckon the first time I had turkey was in Melbourne when Mister and I first dated. Nothing to be ashamed of but we only had turkey from Coles! And I never had proper roasted ham until only recently. It was never a natural tradition with us.
Mister was the clever one that pointed me to this beautiful looking suckling pig ham at Quarter Twenty One at Westfield. This was a Macleay Valley suckling pork that had been double smoked and reared with love by Margaret and Johnny. It was the perfect size for the two of us.
I used whatever spices that I had in my pantry. I added pink peppercorns as I felt festive. It give this spice bag a touch of colour.
I read a few recipes on roasting a ham but none really excited me. Some of you may be aware that I have an obsession with Instagram. I saw an instagram photo of a ham simmering with lovely herbs and spices in a pot taken by @chefvalvasori. He was really kind to share this tips with me on instagram. I took it as a guide and started working on the ham with what I had at home.
I have always seen TV chefs sticking cloves into the ham. You may think it is silly but I felt a childish joy as cloves were being stuck into the ham. It also gave me a weird sense of satisfaction.
The cherries were from the Marrickville farmers market. I wanted to make a nice cherry but very simple cherry sauce. It seems that the cherries sold in Sydney seems to be cheaper. Forgive my naivety but are cherry farms closer to NSW than Victoria?
Roasting ham seems to be the least confronting dish to make over Christmas. It is hard to get it wrong. It can be prepared in advance and great as leftovers in sandwiches or just snacking on its own.
I just went with my gut feel and the advice taken on instagram. This recipe was noted down as I went along.
- 1.5kg of suckling pig ham
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 large onion
- one bunch parsley stalks
- 5 crushed five spice
- 6 juniper berries
- 6 cloves
- a pinch of pink peppercorns
- 2 small anise
- 2tbsp of marmalade
- 2tsbp of maple syrup
- cloves to stud
- black pepper
- 1/4tsp of cinnamon
- 250g of fresh cherries
- 50ml of Port
- 2 tbsp of maple syrup – taste and adjust
- pinch of ginger powder
- pinch of clove powder
- pinch of cinnamon
- First simmer ham with carrot, onions and spice pouch for about 45 mins. Make sure that the water only have bits of slow bubbles
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Prep the cherry sauce. Pitt the cherries. Place the cherries in a heaven base pot with a low heat. Add Port, maple syrup, ginger powder, clove powder and cinnamon. Allow it to steep in the spices and liquid. Stir until the cherries becomes quite saucy and cherries are very soft that is it almost melting into the pot. Allow it to cool down and then strain so that only the cherry sauce remains. Set aside
- Once the ham is simmered, take it out of the pot and once it is slightly cooled down, remove the skin but always keep some fats on the ham. Score diamond shapes on the ham and then use cloves to stud the ham
- Once the ham is decorated in clove studs, baste it with the basting liquid of maple syrup, cinnamon, marmalade and black pepper
- Place it into the oven for about 30mins or until a nice glazed and golden crust is formed
- You may choose to rest it before serving
I was a little proud of my first roast ham. All credit to the beautiful produce. It is one of the best ham that I’ve ever eaten. So succulent. Luxurious in its own right. I hope I have done it justice. This ham will only appear once in year and now I have to wait till end of the year. Fully addicted and a must get.
I made a very simple maple and butter glazed carrots. That was all it needed. Most of the ingredients used was either free range or organic. Mister and I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet meal. Of course we love to have our friends with us but at the same time, we are looking forward to days ahead in Sydney. New friends will be made but old friends are always treasured.
Roasting a nice piece of ham may be a new addition of tradition in our little family. Now I have something to look forward to at the end of the year.
By the way, I have started my very own 365 Project on Flickr. Check out the album so far – www.flickr.com/photos/jeroxie/sets/72157628679148937/