Like so many other people, I watched Nigella last week and thought how beautifully wintry she looked: her dark hair and eyes; her white and red and black clothes; her festive food and house. She wrote a book called Forever Summer but she herself suits winter far better and in fact her food seems to appeal more to me in the cold weather - even the summery foods that she concocts in Forever Summer. In a way, Feast, the book that followed Forever Summer, might be called Forever Festivals (OK so it might if Nigella had as bad a taste in titles as me...); most of the recipes seem suited to implicitly autumnal or winter occasions - Halloween, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas. Anyway last Wednesday I curled up with Nigella in festive mode, and as always, she infected me with Yuletide spirit - me, who hasn't even taken the tree out of its box yet. Food is always guaranteed to draw me to occasions more than anything else and so it proved; I spent a good part of Saturday seeking gingerbread syrup to make Nigella's 'Christmas in a glass', but I didn't actually find any, despite trying three overcrowded branches of Starbucks, a shop I never, ever enter. See - even Scrooge wouldn't have resisted Nigella.
On Sunday I decided to try Nigella's aromatic spiced ham, the new version of the fully festive ham that appears in Feast and a relative of the ham in Coca Cola and ham in Cherry Coke that Nigella has become known for. I intended to try it with Jamie's creamy butternut squash, following the example of the lovely Gravy Queen who pops up here occasionally, but my newly bought squash was off and I had to abandon it. Instead I did mustard mash (with lovely lovely Yukon Gold potatoes), roast sweet potato and carrot, and sprouts to accompany the ham, letting loose my inner huffy child to mutter darkly about Tesco's shortcomings and wishing our farm shop had had some butternut squash to prevent me having to fall back on Tesco's over-travelled produce. Cooking the ham was delightfully simple: I boiled it in a mix of water, red wine, fennel, onion, star anise, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and garlic, until cooked. Then I peeled off the rind and some of the fat, cut a diamond pattern into the remaining fat and studded each intersection of the diamonds with a clove. Meanwhile I simmered redcurrant jelly, cinnamon, paprika and red wine vinegar until it became a syrup and then glazed the ham with it, before replacing the ham (sitting on foil on a baking tray to avoid mess) in the oven at 230 degrees for 15 minutes.
The picture should speak for itself - this ham is sublime. I love Nigella's ham in cherry Coke but this is just as good, definitely. I haven't tried the fully festive ham from Feast, so I can't compare it, but this was absolutely delicious. And it worked well with my improvised veggie side dishes.
Mmm - this was a very nice dinner, and very easy. I am sure my squash recipe would have gone well with it to, but it wasn't to be (see how calm I can be when I want to be). I can vouch for the deliciousness of the ham as leftovers in sandwiches too, with some lovely red onion confit from Rick Stein's that my brother and sister-in-law brought us for our wedding. Gourmet sandwiches indeed - and barely any effort, which is a bonus.