Every year on Boxing Day I always make these exact same four dishes, it's one of my favourite meals on earth. It's a cold, slightly lazy lunch of glazed ham, potatoes and sharp red cabbage. It has a post-celebratory feel to it which is what Boxing Day is all about.
Usually I make it for my best friend Fiona and her family, so it's wonderfully low-key and cosy. For me Boxing Day is a day to hunker down at home. There can be a strange feeling of emptiness the day after Christmas; I always feel tired and drained, definitely poorer and often a little angry at myself for giving in to wanton and wasteful spending.
So this is lunch for a quiet day. Have it with loved ones and follow it up with a film and an afternoon nap. It's a lovely way to end the festive season.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627
Warm baked ham
This will serve up to 20 people, so it's fantastic to eat on Boxing Day and then save the rest for sandwiches, or to serve warmed in a frying pan with scrambled eggs.
Serves up to 20
1 leg of ham (ask your butcher to order one for you)
4 sticks of celery
10 juniper berries
5 fresh bay leaves
For the glaze
4tbsp Dijon mustard (or grainy if you prefer)
6tbsp quince jelly (or any other good-quality jam. My mother used to use really strong marmalade and it tasted strangely delicious)
Place the ham in a bucket, cover with cold water and leave to soak for 24 hours. This is done to take the saltiness out of it. Remove the ham and place it in a deep stockpot.
Next, roughly chop the carrots, celery and leeks and add them to the pot. Then add the juniper berries, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. This can take up to one and a half hours. Turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for a further two hours.
For the glaze, heat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas8. Remove the ham from the pot. Cut around the shin of the leg and peel back the skin. Using a sharp knife, make a series of diagonal crosses both ways across the fat and stud each resulting diamond with a clove.
Mix together the quince jelly and the mustard until smooth. Place the ham on a baking tray and smear with the paste. Place in the oven, rotating it to roast the ham evenly, for around 20 minutes or until gloriously sticky and golden in colour. Serve with grainy mustard or chutney.
12 desiree potatoes
600ml/1 pint full-fat milk (plus a little extra water if necessary)
Sea-salt and ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
11/2tsp freshly grated nutmeg
400ml/14fl oz double cream
175g/6oz gruyère, grated
50g/2oz Parmesan, grated
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Peel and finely slice the potato into rounds about an 3mm or an eighth of an inch thick. Rinse under cold water (don't leave them soaking in water for any length of time as this removes all the starch).
Place in a saucepan and cover with the milk, top up with a little water if necessary and add a generous pinch of salt. Place over a low heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
Drain, and place the potatoes in a bowl. Add the garlic, nutmeg, cream and salt and pepper. Toss to mix well, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. This dish is substantial in flavour, not insipid, so what you are looking for is a distinctly garlicky, nutmegy flavour.
Once you have the taste just so, place the potato mixture in an ovenproof dish and cover with the gruyère and Parmesan. Finish with a couple of turns of the pepper mill and place in the heated oven. Cook until golden and bubbling. This will take approximately 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Sweet and sour red cabbage
This slightly sweet, yet sharp, lightly pickled cabbage works particularly well with the ham.
1 medium red cabbage
50g/2oz unsalted butter
6 juniper berries
3 fresh bay leaves
40ml/11/2fl oz balsamic vinegar
120ml/4fl oz full-bodied red wine
Using a sharp knife, peel the layer of outer leaves from the cabbage and slice it in half lengthwise. Place the flat-side on the board and chop the cabbage into fine ribbons. Place a heavy-based pan on the stove over a medium heat. Add the butter and when melted and foaming add the juniper berries, bay leaves and sugar.
Stir until the sugar dissolves and pour in the vinegar, allow to bubble then add the wine. Bring to the boil and add the cabbage - season with a little salt and pepper.
Turn down the heat, cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add more salt and some freshly ground black pepper if needed. Set aside. You can make this a day ahead, the flavour will only improve with time.
I have really loved chantenay carrots this year - plump, crisp and sweet. The honey and butter work together well to give them a wonderful and pleasing gloss.
1kg/2lb English carrots
50g/2oz unsalted butter
Enough water to just cover the carrots
1 bunch of thyme (lemon thyme is delicious)
60ml/2fl oz honey
Peel and trim the carrots, cut in half lengthwise and place in a saucepan. Add the butter, sugar and just enough water to cover them. Add the thyme and a pinch of salt. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil.
Turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour. The water will reduce and together with the butter and sugar will create a rich glaze. If the carrots have become very tender but the sauce is still watery, remove the carrots using a slotted spoon and set aside in a warm place.
Turn the heat up and reduce until you have just a tablespoon or so of syrup left. Return the carrots to the pan to warm through.
Baked treacle, stem ginger and blackberry pudding
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter (softened), plus a little extra for buttering ramekins or a pudding bowl (capacity 500ml/17fl oz)
100g/31/2oz caster sugar
2 whole eggs
100g/31/2oz self-raising flour
Grated zest of 2 lemons
4 knobs stem ginger, very finely chopped
A small pinch sea-salt
4tbsp golden syrup
12 plump blackberries
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. First butter the ramekins, or pudding bowl and set aside. Cream the softened butter and sugar together until well mixed and smooth (you will find this almost impossible if your butter is too hard). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour from a good height, mixing it in gently. Finally add the lemon zest, ginger and a small pinch of salt.
Divide the golden syrup among your ramekins. Drop three blackberries into each and cover with the sponge mixture. Cover each loosely with buttered foil and bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes. The puddings are done when you can stick a skewer in the centre and pull it out clean. Turn out on to warm plates and serve while still warm with a jug of beautiful unpasteurised cream.
Q&A: Skye answers your culinary queries
I have a vegetarian coming for Christmas. Can you recommend anything more exciting than a nut roast? T Ingells
Why don't you try my chickpea curry. It's one of my favourite comfort foods and I have been making it on a regular basis ever since I had something similar many years ago. I like it with steamed basmati rice and a generous dollop of ghee.
You will need 25g/3/4oz unsalted butter, 1tbsp olive oil, 2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced, a generous bunch of coriander, 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced, 2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped, 1tbsp roasted spice mix, 1tbsp tamarind water, 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks, 2 cans chopped tomatoes, 2 cinnamon sticks, 400g/13oz cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, 100ml/31/2fl oz maple syrup, 100ml/31/2fl oz tamari, juice of 2-3 limes.
Start by melting half of the butter in a medium heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat and heat until foaming. Pour in the olive oil, stir, then add the onions. Sweat gently for 5 minutes until translucent. Meanwhile, wash the coriander, separate the leaves and set aside; finely chop the root and stems - you will need about 2tbsp.
Next, add the garlic, chilli, ginger, coriander, spice mix and tamarind water. Stir for a minute or so, then add the carrots, tomatoes and cinnamon and bring together. Put the lid on, turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for one hour. By this stage the tomatoes will have broken down into the sauce and the carrots should be almost tender.
Add the cooked chickpeas, maple syrup and tamari and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the rest of the butter and lime juice and stir well. You're looking for a deep, spicy, sour, salty and sweet flavour. Finish by adding in a handful of coriander leaves.
How do you make Brussels sprouts palatable? L Min
I love Brussels spouts. They are beautiful with bread sauce and slow-cooked pork. The trick is simply not to over-cook them. Place a pan of salty water on to boil. Clip the end of the sprouts off and make a little cross in each. When that water is boiling, place the sprouts in for seven minutes. Drain and refresh them under cold water. When you come to use them, warm a generous dollop of unsalted butter in a saucepan, heat up the sprouts and serve.
Can you recommend a good alternative to port? Wynne Thomas
In terms of cooking, a good alternative to port is Pedro Ximenez. It's a really beautiful, deep, intensive sweet-tasting type of sherry. I love it in ice-creams. Or you could try Marsala or Madeira wine. Port is profound and full-bodied and these are a little bit thinner, so neither is identical but both work as substitutes.
Email your culinary questions via email to Skye on email@example.com