Friday, December 28, 2007

gammon to last a lifetime

Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) has won the prize for the most unique Christmas present. Now I don't know what the young man has done to upset his in-laws (apart from rolling in pie-eyed most of the time) but they certainly know how to make a person feel loved.
There he was, delving into the parcels under the tree that were marked with his name, when he came across one that left little to the imagination. The shape of it suggested one thing, and one thing only. But The Poipes thought: "It just can't be."
But, stripping off the wrapping, his worst fears were confirmed. It was a coat hanger. A top-of-the-range coathanger, sure, and as he put it, "It will hold trousers as well as a shirt", but it's pretty difficult to paint it in any better light.
They did actually buy him another present to make up for it - three cans of deodorant. It went with the other four cans that he had received from various people. Are people trying to tell him something, I wonder?

The first Thirsty Thursday after Christmas became a pretty revealing adventure in which we finally learned some of the dark secrets that Roberts has been hiding in his dim and murky past. The secretive one has always managed to keep things under his hat before now, but there was a chance meeting with a former mate of his, over from Japan on a week's holiday.
Shockingly I can reveal:
* He was the bass player in a band called The Trees.
* He used to drink with a bunch of desperados in the Square Club, a now defunct Cardiff boozer for ne'er-do-wells.
* He and Tucker, the Western Mail soccer writer who also doubles up as a stand-up comedian, used to be big boozing buddies.
Ok, it doesn't reveal a great deal - but it's a darn sight more than we ever get out of Wales' No 1 rugby writer normally.

Back to Christmas dinner. Shopping the day before in Waitrose I ventured, "Do we need half a gammon or a full joint."
There was no doubt in the Fat Kid's mind. "We need the big one."
Now, bearing in mind there were just the two of us, plus two tiny tots, it did seem rather excessive, particularly as we were having beef as well, but I went with the flow.
When I got the joint back home I decided to boil it in a pan with fennel, black peppercorns, two onion halves and two carrots. Trouble was it wouldn't fit in the Fat Kid's biggest pot, so I had to cut it in two and do it in two batches.
The secret is to put the gammon in first and cover it with water, then bring it to the boil. Once boiled you then empty the water and fill up the pot again. At this stage you add the veg and the peppercorns, bring back to the boil, skim off the surface and then simmer for the best part of an hour. Rest it then for 20 minutes, and wrap in foil. When it has cooled down put in the fridge to heat in the microwave before eating.
I also chopped potatoes and parsnips, peeled the sprouts, and cut the swede into cubes.
Next day I put the oven on 180 degrees, boiled up big potato chunks and simmered for five minutes before putting in a roasting tin and adding goose fat. With the beef I added liberal sprinklings of rock salt, basil leaves, slices of red and green pepper and three garlic cloves, wrapping all this in silver foil and putting in the oven.
On another baking tray I smothered the parsnips with honey, chopped up two shallots thinly, peeled a couple of carrots, smeared goose fat all over, and put on the bottom shelf of the oven 20 minutes after the beef and potatoes started cooking.
Next I boiled up the swede for a good while until it softened, then mashed it and added a knob of butter.
Meantime I made pigs in their blankets by wrapping streaky bacon around cocktail sausages, and also made up a packet of cranberry and chestnut stuffing, wrapping some of this in more bacon, before using the rest to make small round stuffing balls.
When the beef had been cooking for just over an hour and the potatoes had browned nicely I removed them and the parsnips and carrots from the oven. I put the bacon rolls on a thin baking sheet, put some ready made Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire puddings on another, wacked the heat up to about 225 in the electric oven and put them in.
At this stage I boiled sprouts on the hob and filled another pan with smaller chunks of potato for mash.
After 15 to 20 minutes I removed the Yorkshire puddings which had risen and browned, then returned the beef to the oven.
When the potatoes on the stove had done I mashed them with butter and milk.
When the bacon and beef appeared done I started to load the plates up. Slices of beef, slices of gammon, yorkshire pudding, bacon rolls, stuffing, sprouts, mashed potato, roast potato, parsnips and swede.
I put the carrots and shallots into another pan, added 3/4 pint of cold water, mixed up four heaped teaspoons of Bisto gravy with a small amount of water, added that and brought the gravy to the boil, stirring frequently. When it boiled and thickened I started to heat the food plates in the microwave, finishing off with the gravy. The Fat Kid opted for apple sauce with hers, I went for horse radish. We spent the night blobbed out on the sofa watching Eastenders.

Boxing Day and I suddenly realised the full pain of being a Gashead. I watched my football team draw 1-1 at home to Luton who, by the end of the match, had only eight players left on the field having had three sent off. Oh, the humiliation.

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