Saturday, January 29, 2011

Glam up the Gammon

Christmas ham is a traditional Eurasian staple.  My grandmother would buy hers from a little shop at the corner of Tembeling and East Coast Road.  My mother remembers the ham coming in a sack, all packed in saw dust.  It would be boiled for hours to cook it and to remove some of the salt used to preserve the meat.  The first pieces would be eaten Christmas Eve, after midnight mass, together with achar,  mulligatawny soup and a crisp French loaf.

Today, we just go to Cold Storage and after removing the plastic wrapper, the ham is good to carve and eat.  But of course the challenge of eating all this ham remains.

So, the resourceful Eurasian housewife came up with a way to present it afresh to family members tired of eating the same thing day in day out.  And that's how gammon curry came about.  It's not my family tradition but I found this yummy recipe in Wendy Hutton's Eurasian food cookbook,  "Food of Love".  The whole cookbook can be downloaded so I feel quite comfortable reproducing the recipe here (for the record I bought the hard copy of the book).

I have to highlight that this is not the lemak coconut based curry but a sour, spicy curry cooked with cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds and sweetened by the addition of prunes. Must admit that I didn't actually have *that* much leftover ham so I had to buy some cured pork belly to supplement the pieces of ham.  But the whole thing tasted great, especially eaten with rice and a cool green pea and mint salad.  The last is definitely not traditional but it goes very well. 

1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds, pounded till fine
7-8 dried chillies (soaked to soften, pounded finely) - note that the original recipe calls for 8-10 chillis but I think that's a little hot
2 tablespoons oliveoil
approx 100ml red wine vinegar
500g gammon ham or cured pork belly
1/4tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
16 fresh curry leaves (more if it is frozen or dried)
1/2 cup pitted prunes
green olives
sugar totaste

1.  Combine the pounded cumin and chilli to form smooth paste and fry in oil till fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, add the vinegar and use the mixture to marinate the meat for about 2 hours.
2. Heat oil and fry the fenugreek, mustard seeds and curry leaves quickly for about 1 minute.  Add the meat (reserve marinade) and stir-fry till brown.  Add the marinade and water to just cover meat.  Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
3.  Add the prunes and olives and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add sugar to taste.

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