Skye Gyngell: The pud, the ham and the bubbly

There are some things Skye Gyngell can't live without at Christmas. Better still, they can all be made in advance – leaving more time to celebrate

In Australia, we traditionally eat baked ham at Christmas, as it can be swelteringly hot, making the full roast turkey out of the question. The ham is generally accompanied by grainy mustard, cranberry sauce and a simple salad. When I am here and the weather is cold, I usually serve this with unctuous dauphinoise potatoes, Christmas cake and clementines. But if turkey is all you can think of for Christmas Day, the glazed ham would also be perfect on Christmas Eve. '



Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey. Petersham is holding a candle-lit Christmas market and carol evening this Wednesday and next, 6pm-9pm, while Skye will be cooking a Christmas feast at the restaurant from 21 to 23 December. For details, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Baked ham

If you have time, it is worth soaking the ham in cold water overnight to remove excess salt.



Serves 8, plus enough for leftovers
5-6 kg/10-12lb good-quality ham, ideally left on the bone
1 tsp black peppercorns
5 fresh bay leaves
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped



For the glaze

2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp soft brown sugar, such as muscavado
Finely grated zest and juice of one orange
150ml/5oz white wine
A handful of cloves

Place the ham into a large pot and add the peppercorns, bay leaves and vegetables. Pour over enough water to cover and cover with a firm-fitting lid. Bring to the boil then immediately turn down the heat. Simmer the ham gently for three-and-a-half hours, topping up with water as necessary. When the ham is cooked, the meat will be firm. Remove the pot from the heat and leave the ham to cool in the cooking broth.

Now heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.

To make the glaze, simply mix the mustard, sugar, orange juice and zest and wine together until you have a loose paste.

Remove the skin from the ham, leaving as much fat on as possible, score it evenly all over, and stud each diamond shape with a clove. Using a pastry brush, brush half the glaze evenly over the outside of the ham. Place in a baking tray on the middle shelf of the oven. Roast for 10 minutes then brush the rest of the glaze on top. Cook for 20 minutes or until sticky, golden brown and slightly set. Serve with mustard and cranberry sauce alongside.

Cranberry sauce

Glistening blood-red, the little cranberries in this sauce pop just very slightly in your mouth. It goes perfectly with hot, succulent turkey but also with the baked ham. It must, however, be not too sweet, for then it is cloying – a very slight tartness is nice.

Serves 8

The grated zest and juice of one orange
5 whole cloves
A small slice of ginger
80ml/3fl oz port
170g/6oz caster sugar
700g/25oz cranberries



Place the orange juice, zest, cloves, ginger, port and sugar into a pan and place over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and, once dissolved, add the cranberries. Bring the heat up to a simmer and cook, stirring from time to time for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; the cranberries should have just popped and the sauce thickened. Allow to cool to room temperature. Place in the fridge until ready to use. It can be made up to two days in advance. '

Christmas pudding

What could be more tempting than a steaming hot pudding, irresistibly smelling of spices? These puddings will happily sit in a cool dark place for more than a year.

Makes two puddings, serving 6 each

350g/111/2oz suet
170g/6oz plain flour
170g/6oz fresh white breadcrumbs
150g/5oz candied peel
350g/111/2oz seedless raisins
350g/111/2oz currants
200g/7oz sultanas
170g/6oz dark muscavado sugar
Grated zest of one orange
The grated zest of one lemon
Half whole nutmeg grated
Half tsp ground cinnamon
The juice of half a lemon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
100ml/31/2fl oz Armagnac
550ml/171/2fl oz whole milk
Butter to grease the moulds

To serve

A small ladleful of Armagnac or brandy



Stir all the ingredients into a large bowl until well combined – the mixture should feel quite wet. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave to stand overnight in a cool spot. The following day, divide the mixture evenly between two one-litre pudding moulds, packing the mixture in firmly. Cover the surface with parchment paper and a layer of foil and tie securely under the rim with string.

Place a trivet in two large saucepans and place the pudding on top. Cover with enough water to come just below the rim. Place a lid on the pan and bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat slightly and cook for six hours, topping up the pan with water as necessary. Turn off the heat and remove the puddings. Leave to cool to room temperature. Re-cover with fresh parchment paper and place in the fridge or a cool dark place until ready to use.

Brandy butter

This may just be my favourite thing of all about Christmas – cold, sweet, rich butter slipping down the side of a steaming Christmas pudding. Don't use caster sugar; it will give the butter a grainy consistency.



Makes enough for 1 pudding

200g/7oz unsalted butter, softened
400g/13oz icing sugar
3 tbsp Armagnac



Place the butter and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz until smooth. It should have a luxurious consistency and drop easily from a spoon. Stir in the brandy. Place in a bowl and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

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