Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Glazed Quince Ham with Cherry Relish

Christmas is fast approaching and although there is usually lots to be done cooking and entertaining wise at this time of the year, this festive season I'm not lifting a finger. Because our household doesn't really celebrate Christmas (Summer Solstice for us!) Andrew and I have decided to pack our bags and spend the Christmas break by ourselves on the beautiful South Coast of NSW. We will be spending 7 glorious days by the sea at Bannister's Resort in Mollymook - which as luck would have it, also houses Rick Stein's famous seafood restaurant.

I have always admired Rick Stein's no nonsense approach to food and his love for seafood in particular. It is going to be a real treat to see what his restaurant has to offer while we are away. I have been keeping my eye on the menu online and it all looks great. We have also made a booking for dinner during our stay, so we get both the lunch and dinner experience. I will be sure to take notes and photos for a review on my return.

In the meantime, I thought that I would prepare a very simple Christmas style dish for those of you who are actually cooking Christmas lunch this year. It is incredibly simple and really delicious - a ham baked with a beautiful fragrant quince glaze and served with a lip smacking cherry relish. I used a very small ham for this, as I was only cooking for two - if you are using a big one, I would make double or triple the amount of glaze to be sure that you have enough. Same goes for the cherry relish. If you aren't a ham fan, you could just make the relish and it will go beautifully with turkey, chicken or roast pork.

The cherry relish uses dried cherries that have a lovely rich flavour. They are sometimes labelled "sour dried cherries". Any store or market that stocks dried fruit should have them. For those in Sydney, I bought mine at Addison Road Organic Market in Marrickville. The quince glaze uses quince jam that I buy from a middle eastern grocer. If you can't find this, a good substitute would be quince paste that has been warmed in the microwave. If you can't locate either, just use apricot jam.

A baked ham is a really fabulous stand by if you need something that is easy, looks great and can feed a lot of people easily. A beautifully glazed ham served with crusty rolls and a generous selection of condiments is a real crowd pleaser. Fabulous party food that frees up the host but is still generous and sustantial.

Ham with Quince Glaze
and Cherry Relish

You will need:
(for the ham) 1 small to medium sized ham, 2 tablespoons quince jam, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon port, pinch of salt, pinch cayenne pepper, black pepper.

(for the cherry relish) 2 cups dried cherries, 2 large red onions, 1 tablespoon salted butter, 1 cup caster sugar, 1 cinnamon stick (or a couple of pieces of cinnamon bark), 1 tablespoon sherry, salt and pepper.

Method: Begin with making the relish - you may prefer to make this a day or two ahead if you want to. Soak the cherries in hot water for about half an hour. Drain them and set aside.

Chop the onions into thin slices. In a pan, melt the butter and cook the onions on a low to medium heat until they soften and are semi transparent. The aim is to cook them gently, so they become soft and sweet. Do not brown them.

Add the drained cherries and the cinnamon. Combine and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and season with salt and a generous amount of pepper. Allow to simmer, stirring often for about 10 minutes. The mixture will turn to the consistency of jam. Add the sherry and mix well. Keep stirring as it bubbles up and simmer for another few minutes.

Allow the relish to cool before removing the cinnamon and transferring to an airtight container or a small sterilised jar.

Now to the ham - preheat the oven to 200C.

Combine the quince jam, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, port, salt, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl with a teaspoon of warm water. Mix well.

If you are using a ham that has skin on it, gently peel the skin off and discard it. Cut a criss cross pattern into the exposed fat. (You may choose to do the traditional thing here and press a clove into the centre of each diamond shape)

If you are using a smaller, skinless and boneless ham like I did, all you have to do is make sure any string/packaging is removed and pat it dry with a paper towel.

Brush the ham all over with the glaze. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Re glaze every 10 minutes or so until it is golden and caramelised on the top and warmed completely through. Remember that ham is already cured, so you do not need to actually "cook" it as such. You just need to heat it. A large ham can take up to an hour to glaze and cook through - mine only took about 25 minutes as it was very small.

Allow the ham to rest for 10- 20 minutes before slicing and serving with cherry relish on the side. After the ham has been glazed, it is also great served cold.


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