Greens, Eggs and Ham

Apologies if you’re a bit over ham by now (or it offends your culinary or religious sensibilities). We didn’t have one this year, but the Boy Wonder’s mum cooked a fabulous one and I ate as much of it as I could. Now we’re home, there’s a ham-shaped hole in our fridge that no amount of chocolate or wine is able to fill. When the butcher reopens I’m going to go and buy some so we can have ham sandwiches (hamwiches?) and this fabulous warm salad.

Greens, Eggs and Ham

This is the BW’s invention – hence the amounts are somewhat vague- and we eat it a lot as a weekend lunch or light supper. It’s especially good at this time of year when there’s lots of ham lying around, but you can always substitute bacon if ham isn’t forthcoming.

Salad greens (crisp, crunchy Iceberg, Cos or Little Gem lettuce is best)
Vine tomatoes
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Wholegrain mustard

First boil your eggs. The BW recommends a method he reckons he got from watching Nigella on telly. Put as many eggs as you like in a small pot, add hand-hot water and put on medium heat. Cook for nine minutes, then drain, peel and cut in half.
Meanwhile, fry a couple of handfuls of ham (or bacon) until crispy at the edges.
Fill a bowl with crisp, crunchy salad greens and vine tomatoes. Scatter the ham and eggs on top.
Make a punchy dressing by mixing extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and wholegrain mustard (add a pinch of sugar if it’s too sharp). Drizzle over everything, toss and serve.

Sweet sweet Friday: Sweet Hana’s Raspberry Syrup

Where did 2010 go? Am I the only one who feels like the end of the year has sneaked up on them? Most people I’ve spoken to recently seem glad to see the back of 2010 and I can understand how they feel. It’s been a tough old year in lots of ways that I won’t bore you with now, but we’ve survived relatively unscathed and for that I am extremely thankful.

Portrait of the artist as a demented soak

One of the things that’s happened to our little family that I’m most grateful for is that we found Hana, who looks after the Small Girl when I’m at work.
Before we moved and I started my new job I told people I was looking for a Mary Poppins-alike. They all laughed and told me horrible stories about prison-style childcare centres or nightmare nannies, assuring me that I was looking for a needle in a haystack. In fact, finding Hana – a modern Mary Poppins – was so easy that we still can’t believe our luck. The Small Girl loves her to bits and we think she’s brilliant.

Last week Hana turned up with a pile of presents for us all (see, I told you she was lovely!), including a whole stocking-ful of treats she’d made. This pretty pink syrup was one of them. The Boy Wonder has been sneaking it to pour over strawberries and yoghurt for breakfast, but we’re saving the rest to splash into glasses of bubbles tonight for a fruity toast to 2010.

Here’s hoping we all have a sweet, sweet end to 2010 and much happiness in 2011. See you in the new year!

Hana’s Raspberry Syrup

1 cup raspberries, plus a few more to garnish
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
juice of half a lemon

Bring all ingredients to the boil in a medium saucepan. Keep boiling until the mixture thickens slightly. Strain through a sieve into a jug, then pour into sterilised jars or bottles in which you have placed a few whole raspberries. Seal and allow to cool. This syrup can be stored for about two months unopened, but store it in the fridge and use within a week once you’ve opened it. Makes about 400ml.

Do you have a favourite end of the week – and in this case, end of the year – sweet treat? Add it here to spread the sweetness of Fridays…

Nearly there…

This was going to be a post about my To Do list – but I actually think I’d be better off doing the things on my list rather than telling you about it (because I know you haven’t got much time to spare either).

So, a very Merry Christmas to you all. May your turkeys be succulent, your hams perfectly glazed and your relatives as benign as can be hoped. Thanks so much for coming over to peek into my kitchen over the last couple of months. I can’t wait to share more adventures with you in the New Year…

Lucy x

A not-so-secret Santa…

I never open presents early, but this year I’ve done it quite by accident. I didn’t mean to – it’s just that I started reading a post on one of my new favourite blogs and there, at the bottom, was a nice surprise.

Pohutukawa – native New Zealand Christmas tree (image thanks to

Realising that Michael of Me, My Food And I had passed on a One Lovely Blog award felt like opening the post and finding a cheque from a mysterious stranger. Funny, isn’t it, how you feel like you know other bloggers really well when you probably wouldn’t recognise them in the street? It’s even funnier when you read a blog and think, ‘wow, blogger X would really love this one, I should tell them about it’.

Part of accepting Michael’s award is that I answer the following questions, so here goes (indulge me, it’s Christmas!):

1. When did you learn to cook?
As a child, because my siblings (I have quite a few) were always cooking alongside my mother. I can’t remember the first thing I ever made, but I do recall that ‘Caroline’s Chocolate Slab’ from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes was one of my early specialties, along with Firehouse Chilli (once I ascertained that it said 1tsp cayenne OR 1tsp chilli in the recipe, not both!)

2. Name three things that are always in your fridge.
French mustard, Greek yoghurt, New Zealand butter.

3. Do you have any food guilty pleasures?
I’ve already detailed my not-so-secret passion for fish fingers on this blog, but my other guilty pleasure at this time of year is old-fashioned New Zealand asparagus rolls. Thin white bread, buttered, crusts cut off, rolled around spears of tinned (and it MUST be tinned) asparagus. I don’t know why I love this decidedly 1960s dish, but I can’t get enough of it. My other secret love at this time of year is eating trifle for breakfast on Boxing Day!

4. Tell us about your most memorable meal…
New Year’s Eve, 2006, at Mon Vieil Ami on the Ile St Louis, Paris. Actually, I can’t recall what we ate exactly but I have a vague recollection of capon, foie gras, coquilles St Jacques and rather a lot of champagne. It was the most expensive meal the Boy Wonder and I have ever had and we vowed never to speak of the cost again. As it happens, I’ve forgotten! Alternatively, I have many happy memories of the incredible gyros we regularly ate while living on Syros in the Cyclades islands between May and July 2007. Two Euros bought the most succulent pork kebabs, dressed with Greek yoghurt and wrapped in fluffy flatbreads, washed down with Mythos beer. We were working for a mad woman during a heatwave and eating gyros on the beach was one of the only things that kept us sane.

5. What is your drink of choice?
Water. Or very good wine. Mostly though, peppermint tea.

But the best thing about getting this award is that I get to pass it on. So, Merry Christmas and thanks for lots of laughs, recipes and inspiration to:

Debby @ Cooking Up A Storm In A Teacup
Paula @ Pod And Three Peas
Jessica @ Miss P’s Kitchen
Claire and Lucy @ Crumbs
Michele @ 5am Foodie
Bronwyn @ Maxabella Loves
Alex @ DearLoveBlog
Brenda @ Brenda’s Canadian Kitchen
Louise @ Please Do Not Feed The Animals
Caz @ Bird With The Golden Seed

Then, no sooner had that turned up than I got another award treat from Dom @ Belleau Kitchen. The funny thing is that I think Dom and Michael would be great mates – I mean, apart from their obvious good taste in blogs. So I can pass Dom’s award on too… but I might save that one for a New Year treat. In the meantime, why don’t you send me the name of a blog you love?

Gingerbread for the tree

You know how I said I was ok about not having a Martha Stewart Christmas? Well, I was, and then I pulled out the tattered and torn copy of Martha Stewart Kids magazine that a friend had given me as a joke (we agreed at the time that such mags were to make working mothers feel even more guilty and inadequate) – and it fell open at the gingerbread men page. I’ve always wanted to make edible Christmas tree decorations and with so many other projects now fallen by the wayside, this seemed the most achieveable.

You’ve got to hand it to Martha, this is a great recipe. Easy and quick to make in a freestanding mixer, a dream to roll out (especially if you roll the dough out between two sheets of cling film) and tasty to boot. The biscuits aren’t rock hard and get softer while they hang on the tree – but at this late stage I don’t think that’s a problem. Next year the Small Girl might be big enough to help, but this year her contribution has been limited to consuming them. “Mmmmm, cracker, nice,” she said, reaching a pyjama-clad arm up to grab a star off a branch. You can’t get much better endorsement than that.

225g soft butter
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp baking soda
1/4tsp salt
4 cups plain flour
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add egg; mix well. Beat in molasses, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add flour a cup at a time, mixing until incorporated.
Divide dough into quarters; shape into disks, and wrap into plastic. Refrigerate until firm, but not rock-hard.
Preheat oven to 180C. Roll the dough out between two sheets of clingfilm until about 3mm thick. Cut out cookies, rolling out any scraps as needed. Transfer to baking paper-lined trays, leaving a little space between them for spreading, then put them in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until firm when touched. Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely. Decorate as desired (I recommend the ‘writing icing’ tubes you can buy at the supermarket – makes artistic flourishes really easy!).