South African festive recipes: London 2011

Top South African food blogger Jeanne Horak-Druiff of Cook Sister! tells us how to make South African Christmas dishes like glazed gammon and Cape brandy pudding – after all it gives you a chance to use up your Klippies. Cheers!

When South Africans first arrive in the UK, the idea of spending Christmas here is too ghastly to contemplate and, come the middle of December, we all fling ourselves onto the first available flight home. But after a couple of Christmases of spending approximately half your annual salary on an overpriced plane ticket, there comes a moment when you decide to bite the bullet and spend the festive season in London.

South African Christmas in London
And let’s face it, Christmas in London is pretty amazing – the lights on Oxford Street, the smell of roasting chestnuts everywhere, the Harrods Christmas shop, and the annual debate about whether or not the capital will have a white Christmas.

But when it comes to Christmas lunch, it’s the tastes and memories of home that we miss. Somehow, being far away from our loved ones makes it more important than ever to get the meal just right and to make London feel like a little outpost of home for the day.

Some like it hot
When English friends ask what South Africans eat for Christmas lunch, they are always amazed at the mundane similarity to their own Christmas meals. Perhaps they think we all go out and shoot a giraffe for the pot on Christmas Eve, but in fact most of us – as we know – ususally eat turkey, duck and ham – just like they do!

I for one have never been a fan of turkey and for me, Christmas is not Christmas without a roast gammon (see below).  Although it’s usually served cold at home, here in the UK it works a charm served hot and glistening straight from the oven – and it is hugely impressive without requiring much culinary skill.  

And for the desperately homesick (who own lots of warm clothes!) there is always the option of braaing on Christmas Day – although I hear from those who have tried that you need an endless supply of coals!  If you feel brave, a chicken stuffed with lightly curried apple stuffing and glazed with spicy apricot jam glaze can be done on the Weber and tastes like home, but it can also be done in the oven if you want to avoid frostbite.

Spicing things up
Pudding back home alternated between hot and cold in our house, but somehow the appeal of a cold pudding here in the middle of a UK winter is zero. But a hot pudding does not have to be stuffy, traditional Christmas pud: a boozy Cape Brandy pudding (aka tipsy tart) is easy to make, comforting for chilly Christmas afternoons, and has a spicy scent that will remind you of your granny’s kitchen. And as an added bonus, it uses up that bottle of Klipdrift you may have lurking in the back of your drinks cabinet.

Getting the wine right
Speaking of drinks, the one area where South Africans will have no difficulty at all in savouring the tastes of home on Christmas Day is liquid refreshment.

South African wines have taken the UK by storm and the variety available continues to grow. In the larger supermarkets, you are likely to find a selection of wines with wild animals on their labels that are made purely for the export market. But if you look at Waitrose and smaller independent retailers like Bibendum, you are likely to find some of the good stuff.
At my table, the bubbly has to be Graham Beck Brut or Blanc de Blanc, both of which offer Champagne quality at a fraction of the price.

For red wine, it’s Springfield’s outstanding Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon that I can’t live without.  And to finish off the meal, there is little to beat a bottle of Allesverloren or Beaumont port (both available through to pair with your British Stilton cheese – the best kind of fusion cuisine!   

Glazed Roast Gammon

1 large gammon (bone in or out)
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
6 whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves

For the glaze:

¾ cup tightly packed brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1-2 tsp wholegrain mustard
¼ tsp of ground cloves

Pre-heat the oven to 160C (Gas mark 3). Rinse gammon and pat dry. Place in a large, deep roasting dish (preferably with a lid). Add carrots, celery, onion and spices to the roasting pan together with the gammon. Add enough water to come up to about half the depth of the roasting pan. Cover your roasting pan with its lid (alternatively with aluminium foil) and place in preheated oven. Cooking time is 30 mins for every 500g, plus an extra 30 mins. When done, remove the gammon from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes while you make the glaze.

The glaze:
Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture boils. Carefully peel the skin off the gammon, but leave the fat attached to the meat. 
Lift a corner of the skin and tug gently – you will see it comes off surprisingly easily. 
Score the fat to create a diamond pattern – scoring helps the glaze to stay on the fat instead of just sliding off. Baste the fat liberally with the glaze and return the gammon to the oven, uncovered. 
Baste frequently until the glazed fat has browned nicely (it should take about 15-20 mins). Turn the grill for a few minutes at the end to brown the glaze and finish it off.

Image: Jeanne Horak-Druiff



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