Ham, Green Bean Casserole, Easy Trifle

Fully Festive Ham Yield: Serves 8-10

7 1/2 lbs. ham 8 cups cranberry juice 2 cinnamon sticks, halved 2 onions, halved but not peeled 1 tablespoon allspice berries

For the Cranberry Glaze: approx. 30 cloves to stud ham ¼ cup cranberry jelly or 6 tablespoons cranberry sauce 1 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon English mustard powder ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

“A proper ham is the centerpiece of the holidays, and this one doesn't hold back.”

Put the ham into a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then immediately drain and rinse the ham in a colander, which will get rid of any excess saltiness; the alternative is to leave it soaking in cold water overnight, but I’ve always preferred this method. It’s up to you which you choose.

Rinse the saucepan and put the ham back in, and add all of the above ingredients (but not those for the glaze). If the fruit juices do not cover the ham then add some water; it really depends on how snugly your ham fits into the saucepan. Bring the pan to a boil and cook the ham at a fast simmer for about 3½ - 4 hours. Partially cover the ham with a lid if the liquid is boiling away and the top of the ham is getting dry.

Once the ham is cooked, remove it from the hot (and now salty) juice, and sit it on a board. If you want, you can cook this well ahead of schedule and let it get cold before glazing and roasting it. If that’s the case, what I tend to do is cook it for about a half hour less and then let it get cold in the cooking liquid. I try to let it cook as fast as possible by sitting it near an open window, letting the wintry winds chill it the old-fashioned way.

But if you’re going ahead now, wait until the ham’s bearable to the touch—easy to scald yourself on hot sugary fat—and then cut and peel the rind off the cooked ham, and make sure you take a thin layer of white fat off with it, or just use a knife to shave some fat off, so you’re left with a thin coating. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425° F, though you can just make this work with whatever setting you need your oven to be. You could always give it a short go in a much lower oven and then whip out a blow-torch. I’m always keen. Score the now trimmed fat into a diamond pattern with a sharp knife, and stud the points of each diamond with a clove.

Heat the remaining glaze ingredients together in a saucepan until the jelly or sauce melts into the honey, mustard and cinnamon to make a smooth glaze. Well, it won’t be that smooth if you’re using sauce, but you can always leave the little burst berries in place or sieve the glaze. If you can get cranberry jelly, it just has a higher gloss, but it’s not a big deal or even that much of a difference. What matters though is that you let the glaze bubble into a syrupy sauce: it needs to be thick enough not to run off the ham completely as it blisters in the oven.

Sit the ham on a piece of aluminum foil in a roasting pan, which will make washing up easier later. Pour the glaze over the clove-studded ham so all of the scored fat is covered. Put the Christmas ham, or whatever kind of festive ham it is for you, into the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the fat is colored and burnished by the sugary glaze. If you’ve let the ham get completely cold before you glaze it, it’ll need a good 40 minutes at 350° F and you might have to give a final blast of real heat at the end too. And that is based on its being at room temperature, not fridge cold, when it goes in.

Note: If you wish you could use the ham stock to cook some red cabbage.

From Feast by Nigella Lawson. Copyright (c) Nigella Lawson 2004. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

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Green Bean and Lemon Casserole Yield: Serves 8-10

2 lbs. slender green beans ¾ stick unsalted butter few drops olive oil 1 lemon Sea salt and fresh pepper

“The melted butter fuses with the finely chopped lemon to give a light sauce that is rich and tangy at the same time.”

Bring a big pot of water to the boil while you top and tail (trim) the beans. Once the water has come to the boil, salt it and cook the beans until they have lost their rawness (about 6 minutes after the water comes back to the boil), but retain a bit of crunch.

Strain them, and put the pot back on the stove over a low heat with the butter and olive oil. While the butter melts, chop up the lemon. Put it on a chopping block, cut a slice off each end, just enough to remove skin and pith, and then cut downwards, turning the lemon as you go, to peel the fruit fully. Don’t worry if in order to remove all the pith you cut into the fruit a bit: just take the pieces of fruity peel over the pan and squeeze in any juice you can. Then cut the lemon up on the board: I just slice and let each slice tumble into bits on its own. Add the lemon pieces and all the juice that collects to the melted butter and stir well with a wooden spoon, adding the drained beans.

Swirl the pan vigorously and turn the beans in the lemony butter. Add salt to taste and lots of freshly ground pepper. I love white pepper (out of deference to my mother’s taste and practice) or the much-abominated 1980s restaurant-style mixed pepper, but neither is crucial.

Remove to a warmed casserole making sure you don’t leave any lemony, buttery juices behind.

From Feast by Nigella Lawson. Copyright (c) Nigella Lawson 2004. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

Easy Holiday Trifle Yield: Serves 8 generously 4½ cups dried apricots 6 cups water ¾ cup superfine sugar juice of 1 lemon juice of ½ orange or 1 tangerine 6 cardamom pods ½ pandoro or a 1lb. piece of pandoro or panettone 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup Greek or whole milk yogurt 3 tablespoons honey ¼ cup pistachios ¼ cup slivered almonds

“You can do half of the already scant work in advance.”

Put the dried apricots into a saucepan with the water, and add the sugar and juices from the lemon and tangerine or orange. Bruise the cardamom pods with the back of a knife to release the seeds, and add to the pan, giving a stir as you do so. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Or, if it makes life easier, you can just bring the pan to the boil, turn it off immediately and let the pan stand, cooling, overnight.

Drain the apricots (discarding the cardamom seeds and husks as much as possible) and put the cooking liquid back into the saucepan, then boil over a high heat for 15-20 minutes to reduce to a syrupy consistency. I stop when I’ve reduced the liquid to about 1½ cups. Leave to cool slightly before you go to the next stage.

Cut the pandoro into ½ inch slices; this should give you about eight long stripy slices in total. Line a wide and not-too-deep glass bowl with four of the slices of pandoro, and then spread half of the warm apricots over the cake. Pour half of the syrupy liquid over the pandoro and apricot base.

Do the same thing with the other slices, except lay them the opposite way in the bowl so that the dish is evenly covered in pandoro. Add the remaining half of apricots and then the syrup, and leave to one side to let the cake absorb the liquid. I like to leave this overnight or for a day, covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.

To make the trifle topping, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks form—be careful not to overwhip it—and then add the yogurt and beat or stir together just to combine. It should be soft and light enough to spread easily over the top of the trifle in a not-too-thick layer.

Drizzle the honey over the top with a teaspoon, chop the pistachios into splinters and mix them with the slivered almonds, then scatter both over the top of the trifle.

From Feast by Nigella Lawson. Copyright (c) Nigella Lawson 2004. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.