It would take a bold man to argue that anyone is feeling Christmassy any more. In the midst of a bleak January riddled with guilty drinking and furtive feasting, there is arguably little for our stomachs to look forward to in this fallow month. So, if you will allow, let me take you back to a time when all was well and full of stodge, binging and general merriment…
‘Big D’ (Dad) rules the roost when it comes to the main event in the Phillips’ household over the holiday period; judge, jury and executioner on the 25th without exception. However, this does allow us minnow Phillips’s to have a pop in the kitchen in the run up and usually afterwards for good measure.
This year I thought I’d chip in with something sweet that would also flex my bread making learnings and the ham (a righteous honour once the sole responsibility of provision by Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Goldfinch, my grandad).
Unless a dish is reasonably tried and tested in our household, it tends to come under major scrutiny even before the ingredients are bought. Anything involving ‘too much red meat’ normally requires draining negotiation with my mum and anything that is initially dismissed by my dad is a long slog to win back around.
The Cola ham certainly raised a few conservative eyebrows around the family, with I think only my little brother giddy at the prospect of meat boiled in sugary syrup. The stollen wreath less so but only because none of us really knew what it entailed, myself included.
As alluded to above, this is basically a big sweet bread with boozy fruit and a marzipan center running through the middle. Niiiiice. You can find the recipe here.
Despite coming out looking seriously pimping (if I do say so myself), it was surprisingly straightforward to make. Anyone that’s made a loaf of bread before should be able to tackle this with ease.
The only morsel of advice I would offer is when adding the boozed fruit to the dough, use a slotted spoon or even drain it off beforehand. I had to do some emergency flouring halfway through to patch up some very moist dough. To say Jules (mum) would have been unhappy with the mess would be the understatement of the year. And given that we were nearly at the end of the year at the time, she would have been pretty miffed had she known. And Mum, if you’re reading, now you do.
I ended up going a bit rogue in the absence of a small cake tin for the middle, instead using this rather fetching pot which worked a treat:
Cranberries, pistachios, marzipan, boozy raisins and generous lashings of icing…proper Crimbo in a mouthful.
I won’t linger long on this as I feel like I’ve come rather late to the ‘ham boiled in coke’ party and may be preaching to the choir. If you’re yet to give it a go, I’d heartily recommend following this recipe here. It is face-meltingly good.
After a slight malfunction on my part (I cut the strings off before starting to boil) and a swift fix from Big D (manfully locating some string in the garage and retying the ham), we were off. Having chosen a 4 kg behemoth of a specimen, we could barely fit in the pot as it bubbled away, the stock turning a sticky brown, sweet and meaty aromas perforating the air amidst an offensively loud Strictly Come Dancing semi-final.
Following the boiling, it warranted a quick stint in the oven, being reglazed over and over with the maple and mustard in a gluttonous caress. Beltingly good meat; sweet and salty, melt in mouth and a perfect fatty crust.
The conservative eyebrows were firmly put back in their place. Unfortunately for me, I was still destined to be emasculated at the last moment as Big D stepped into carve the spoils. I don’t think that will ever change.