Tag Archives: fennel

Dandelion and Burdock Ham

A holding picture of a Christmas ham until I can take my own.

I recently published a version of this recipe in My St Margarets Magazine and as the online version is not yet available am more than happy to share it here. PS – the picture above is not my own ham as the tester versions were wolfed down before I could I lay hands on my camera. Once the next ham is out of the oven I will fend off the ravening hordes for long enough to take a couple of quick snaps. Promise.

By now your Christmas menu is undoubtedly decided, but what about Boxing Day, the very feast of Stephen? Well one of my own traditions for 26th December is to pre-prepare a ham to provide ample grazing opportunities whilst leaving me with plenty of time to try on my new slippers [hint?] and gaze out at the snow – all deep and crisp and even.

Nigella famously does it with cola, so why not try this version with an even more aromatically herbal fizzy pop? This can be made up to a week in advance and will happily simmer away to itself whilst you get on with something else like, oh, wrapping my new slippers [enough hints already?].

Take a 2.75kg boneless mild cure piece of gammon and place in a pan along with 250ml red wine, 1 litre dandelion and burdock, 1 large onion roughly chopped, 1 halved head of fennel, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 star anise, 6 cloves, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds and 1 of black peppercorns. Top up with water if necessary to cover the ham and simmer for 3 hours.

When the ham has cooked and cooled carefully remove the skin, make a diamond pattern of crossed lines in the fat and stud with cloves at the centre of each diamond. In a pan melt 50g membrillo and a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly with 3 tablespoons dry cider, 1 teaspoon wine vinegar and a pinch of smoked paprika. Pour over the ham and glaze in a 230˚C oven for around 15 minutes, brushing and basting from time to time with the glaze. Allow to cool, wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

After watching a television programme last night which made a picture perfect Christmas look sickeningly easy I think I might even spear halved glacé cherries with the cloves before I impale the ham – watch this space to see how that turns out…

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Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta

At one of my local farmers’ markets [actually the one that’s a bit more frou-frou than farmer] there is an occasional visitor, a South African sausage maker, who makes the most luscious Luganega sausages. Luganega and its seasonings, like most things Italian including the language, vary from region to region, from town to town, and it’s also known as salsiccia a metro as it is traditionally sold by the metre. This chap’s version is lightly spiced with chilli and bursting with fennelly flavour. I visit this particular market about every other week, and when my man is there he doesn’t always have the Luganega, so I probably get my hands on them once every eight weeks or so, by which time I’m always more than ready for another bowlful of this.

For two:

  • 3 Luganega [about 230g, or around 36cm if you’re buying in Italy!]
  • 300g fresh tomatoes
  • 170ml dry vermouth [perhaps here it should be Italian, but there’s normally French in my kitchen]
  • I medium onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 dried chilli, flaked
  • 1 star anise
  • 150ml single cream [or double if you prefer]
  • 200g pasta, penne work well here but I’ll use whatever’s in the cupboard
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve

Sautee the onion in a little olive oil until softened and add the flaked chilli and crushed garlic. You can vary the quantity of chilli and use or discard the seeds depending on your need for heat. Skin the sausages and crumble their contents into the pan, stirring and browning the meat. Roughly chop the tomatoes [slice cherry tomatoes in half] and add to the pan. This is a rustic affair so there’s no need to bother with skinning and seeding here. Sprinkle in a small pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper and add the vermouth. After a brief bubbling boil turn down to a low simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cream, check and adjust the seasoning. You will of course have set your pasta cooking at the appropriate point during this process so that by now it’s just al dente – as all brands vary I’m not going to attempt to give you more advice than you’ll find on the side of the packet. Use a little of the pasta water to thin the sauce if it seems too thick. For best results add your pasta to the sauce and give them a minute together in the pan on a low heat to get to know one another better before their dinner table debut, where you can make them feel welcome with a confetti of parmesan.

When I first made this there was another stall at the same market selling a wonderful fennel pesto, but they’ve since disappeared. If you can lay your hands on some add a couple of spoonfuls along with the tomatoes and maybe leave out the star anise.