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Ham & Mac Bake

Ham & Mac Bake

My last year in high school I started collecting a series of books by the people at Better, Homes & Gardens. They came one every couple of months or so and I thought they were just fabulous.  They were some of the very first cookery books I used.  There were quite a few volumes, each one pertaining to a different cookery subject. One on meat, another on chicken, there was a casseroles one, one on entertaining, etc.  This recipe today came from a volume filled with money saving budget recipes and became a real favourite of my family through the years.

Its a great way to use up some of the ham left over from a roast ham, and in fact, I will sometimes pick up one of those small dinner hams at the grocery store, just so I can make this old standby of mine. 

Cubes of cooked ham are mixed together with cooked macaroni and slices of sweet apple in a delicious, creamy sauce which is lightly flavoured with mustard and brown sugar. I am sure that it sounds a bit unusual, but it really is quite tasty. The original recipe called for plain ordinary mustard, but I now use Dijon, which is not as bright yellow in colour and has a nice depth of flavour without being too sharp.

Of course ham and mustard are perfect partners anyways, and who hasn't enjoyed a brown sugar glazed ham?  I have often heard of people glazing their hams with apple butter, so really using sliced apple in this is not much of a flavour stretch, and the apple is a flavour partner, albeit it somewhat unusual,  that goes amazingly well.

The sauce is creamy without being too rich. You can use whole milk in this but more often than not I use 2% or semi skimmed. It works just fine.  I have even made it with re-constituted evaporated milk in the past when I was really having to pinch the pennies.  All work well.

You can use white bread for the crumbs, although nowadays I am more apt to use whole wheat. I actually have come to prefer whole wheat bread now because of its almost nutty taste and texture, and of course it is much better for you.  I usually serve this with  salad and pickled beets.

*Ham and Mac Bake*
Serves 4 to 6

This is a wonderful casserole that is not only very tasty, but also very easy on the budget as well.  My children always loved it when they were growing up and it was something different to do with the ham that was leftover from Easter.  I often buy a slab of ham at the shops so that I can make this as well.

225g of uncooked macaroni (2 cups)
65g cup butter (1/4 cup)
45g flour (1/4 cup)
2 TBS Dijon mustard
salt to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
480ml  milk (2 cups)
2 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
2 cups cubed, fully cooked ham (about half a pound)
2 medium eating apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 1/4 slices of bread made into soft bread crumbs (about 1 cup)
2 TBS butter melted 

Cook the macaroni in lightly salted boiling water until done, according to the packet directions.  Drain well, rinse with cold water and drain again.  Set aside until needed. 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ Gas mark 4.    Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for one minute over low heat.  Blend in the mustard, salt, pepper and sugar.  In the meantime bring the milk just to the boil.  (Just until bubbles appear around the edges)  Slowly whisk the heated milk into the flour mixture, cooking and stirring it until thickened, smooth and bubbly.  Stir in the cooked macaroni, ham and apple slices.  Turn into a greased 2 litre casserole dish. 

Toss the bread crumbs with the 2 TBS butter and sprinkle evenly over top of the casserole.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top.  

Simple, old fashioned and delicous, this recipe would be the perfect way to use up some of that Easter Ham. Over here most people cook lamb for Easter, but the North American in me always wants a baked Ham at Easter.  Old habits die hard.  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Hot Cross Bacon Baps

Hot Cross Bacon Baps

One of the things I love most about the Easter Season of eating is . . .  Hot Cross Buns!  Although they are generally available all year round now it seems, WE, in this house, only ever eat them at Easter.  I think when something becomes an every day thing it loses its specialness, so that is why, like Strawberries, we only ever eat Hot Cross Buns at Easter time.

The tradition of marking buns with a cross on the top goes back a very long way. Pagon Saxons baked cross buns at this time of year to mark the beginning of Spring, in honor of their god Eostre. The cross was representative of the four seasons along with the four quarters of the moon, the wheel of life and a rebirth of the earth after the long Winter.

Christians adapted the cross when an Angilcan monk baked the buns and marked them with a cross in honor of Good Friday.  It wasn't really until Tudor times, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1,  that the London clerk of markets issued a decree forbidding the sale of spiced buns at any time other than funerals, Christmas and Good Friday/Easter.

As a child I used to sing this ditty, which was actually the cry of common street-vendors, back in the day . . . 

 ‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns!
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons,
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!’

The buns are usually served on Good Friday, marking the end of Lent and the spices are said to represent the spices used to embalm the Saviour after His crucifixion.

Whatever your take on their significance, one cannot deny that hot cross buns are a delicious Easter flavour and a tradition that helps to mark the joys and promise of this Spring holiday, much needed by many after having gotten through a long cold Winter.

I will admit that I am a Hot Cross Bun purist.  I like  a traditional one, a bun without all the tweaks and chocolate bits, sticky caramel bits, whatever.  Plain, spiced and studded with mixed vine fruits being my chosen poison. Not all are created equal.  I like a well fruited one, so I never opt for the cheapie brands, which more often than not are sadly lacking in both spice and flavour.  I would never settle for a few sad raisins me.  I want an abundance of fruit!

Todd rankles at me buying them even two weeks before Easter.  He reckons they shouldn't come out until Good Friday, and he has a point.  However  . . . he did not turn down my offer this morning of a Hot Cross Bacon Bap!

Unconventional  . . .  perhaps, but so delicious, served toasted and buttered, with a spread of bitter marmalade on the bottoms and a spritz of brown sauce gilding the top of that tasty bacon.  Every mouthful was pure delight.  Don't knock it til you try it!

*Hot Cross Bun Bacon Baps*
Serves 4

This does sound an unusual combination but it probably one of the most delicious Bacon sandwiches you will ever eat. 

4 fruited hot cross buns
12 rashers non-smoked back bacon
softened butter to spread
bitter marmalade to finish along with brown sauce if desired

Heat the oven grill  to high.  Slash the fatty edge of the bacon at 1/3 inch intervalls all along the edge.  Grill the bacon beneath the hot grill until  your desired crispness, flipping it over and grilling on both sides.  Set aside and keep warm.  Slice the hot cross buns in half horizontally.  Pop under the grill and toast on the cut sides only.  Once toasted spread with softened butter.  Spread a portion of marmalde onto the toasted bottoms of each bun.  Lay three rashers of bacon, folded to fit, on top of the marmalade.  Drizzle with brown sauce (if using) place the toasted top buns on top and serve. 

Note - Brown sauce is what we brits call HP sauce. 

I confess I was also tempted to add a layer of cheese, but I restrained myself.  Needless to say these were fabulously tasty, so much so . . .  that I might make us another one for lunch.  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Roast Loin of Pork

Roast Loin of Pork

I had bought a lovely bone in pork loin roast prior to Christmas, which had been in the freezer since then as I just didn't get the chance to cook it.  I remembered it at the weekend and decided to take it out.  It was a lovely piece of meat.  Perfectly sized for four people, or just us two with some nice leftovers.

It was a free-range bone-in loin of pork half roasting joint, skin on, with four rib bones.  The chin bone had been removed, which makes for very easy carving.  I didn't especially want the crackling this time so I trimmed it all off with a sharp knife and discarded it, leaving a nice layer of fat on the outside.

To be honest, I am never really quite sure what to do with the layer of skin. Over here they roast it until it is crisp and serve it as "Cracklin"  . . .  crisp and salty.  I am not a huge fan of this.  Probably because it isn't something I grew up with.  It's also really difficult to get it as crisp as you want for eating purposes simply by roasting it.  I think a lot of places actually deep fry it. We are staying away from that kind of thing in this house.

How I have always done my pork loin roasts is to make deep cuts into the roast, all over it at regular intervals, right down almost to the bottom, using a really sharp knife. My boning knife does a super job.

Then I take peeled cloves of garlic and stuff them into the meat.  For a roast this size, I used four cloves.  You cut them into slivers and then you start stuffing them down into the roast into the holes/slits you cut with your knife.

I use a chopstick for this.  First I push in the chopstick, which makes the slit wider, and then I stuff in the garlic, pressing it down in with the end of the chop stick.  I try to make it so the slivers end up a different spots inside the meat.  Some I will push down all the way and others I will leave nearer the surface.  Don't worry the holes close over when the meat cooks.  You don't end up with a hole-pocked piece of meat, trust me.

After that I sprinkle it all over liberally with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  And that's it.  Just put it into the roasting dish/tin and roast it.  Easy peasy.

I like to serve it with some mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, swede and gravy.  With a bit of applesauce on the side, it makes for a beautiful meal. Sometimes I will make a fruity bread stuffing to serve along side as well. Its so tasty!

*A Simple Roast Loin of Pork*
Serves 4
This is a delicious method of cooking a bone in pork loin, which results in tender well flavoured and succulent meat. 

1.1kg free range loin of Pork half roasting  joint (2 1/2 pounds)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
sea salt and black pepper

Remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  

If your roast has the skin on it, using a really sharp boning knife, trim off the skin and discard, leaving a nice layer of fat.  Using the tip of your boning knife, make deep cuts down into the meat, through the fat.  Push a sliver of garlic down into each cut.  Sprinkle all over liberally with salt and black pepper.  Place into a small roasting tin/dish. 

Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes per 500g/1 pound plus an additional 20 minutes. My roast took approximately 1 1/2 hours. The juices should run clear. 

Serve hot cut into thick slices.  (I like to cut in between the ribs. This is very easy to do, if the chin bone has been removed.)  

Serve with applesauce and your favourite vegetables.  
You can make a delicious gravy with the pan drippings if you wish.  Remove and discard all of the fat, but 2 TBS of the fat. Put the the 2 TBS pork fat into a saucepan.  Add 2 cups hot stock (chicken) to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits and meat juices. Heat the fat over medium heat and whisk in 2 TBS of flour.  Cook for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the pan juices/stock.  Cook, whisking constantly, until it bubbles and thickens.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and a bit of thyme if you desire.

We had some of the leftovers today in Cuban Sandwiches.  I have never been to Cuba, but this sandwich has always intrigued me. It has always looked incredibly delicious.

I did a search on Pinterest for a recipe. There was no end of recipes to choose from. I finally decided on one that I found on Saving Room for Dessert.  Most of the other recipes I had looked at called for a layer of Salami, which I didn't have.  This was simply layers of honey ham, roast pork, swiss cheese (I used a Dutch Maasdam), mustard and sour gerkins/pickles.  I used ciabatta rolls.  Buttered and pressed/weighted down and grilled in my iron skillet.  YUM!

The leftover roast pork was perfect in this, with a nice hit of garlic, thinly sliced.  My new favourite sandwich!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Asian Slaw

Asian Slaw

This recipe I am sharing today is one that was a popular one with the ladies when I worked at the Manor.  That is not much of a surprise  as it is filled with an abundance of fresh flavours and a variety of crunchy textures!  Its also very colourful, at least on the first day at any rate.  It does tend to become singularly coloured with the red cabbage if left overnight, although the flavours are still really nice.

There are two kind of cabbage . . . crisp white cabbage, (also known as green in some places) and bright purple/red cabbage. Grated orange carrots . . .  sharp thinly sliced spring onions, along with coriander leaf and chopped dry roasted peanuts complete the salad mix.

The dressing is a lovely mix of Asian flavours . . . rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, toasted sesame, gingerroot and garlic, whisked together with Dijon mustard (for sharpness) and a mild flavoured oil.

The dry roasted peanuts add another different texture and a hint of saltiness that goes very well with everything else.

The coriander (cilantro) leaf also adds colour and a hint of asian flavour that is very much at home in the mix.

The original recipe came from a Junior League cookbook called "The Life of the Party."  My boss always loved the Junior League Cookbooks.  I confess, I always liked reading hers and did photocopy a few recipes from out of them.

I also love Community Cookbooks, filled with everyone's favourite recipes.  You can find a few gems in those as well.   The more I look through cookbooks, and recipes collected through the ages, the more I realise that there is really nothing new under the sun, only new ways of doing things . . .  and fresher ingredients. We are so very blessed in these modern times to have ingredients available to us that our mothers could only dream of. 

*Asian Slaw*
Makes 6-8 servings

Fresh Oriental flavours with lots of colour and texture. This is really good.
For the Salad:
600g thinly shredded green cabbage (4 cups)
600g thinly shredded red cabbage (4 cups)
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
4 spring onions, peeled and thinly sliced
40g chopped dry roasted peanuts (1/4 cup)
3 TBS chopped fresh coriander leaf (Cilantro)

For the dressing:
3 TBS rice wine vinegar
1 TBS Dijon mustard
180ml canola or peanut oil (3/4 cup)
2 TBS soy sauce (I like the dark)
1 TBS honey
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp minced fresh gingerroot
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To garnish:
additional chopped peanuts and coriander leaf

 Whisk together the vinegar and mustard for the dressing.. Slowly whisk in the canola/peanut oil. Whisk in the soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil.  Stir in the gingerroot and garlic.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Place both cabbages, carrot and spring onions into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over top and toss to coat. Add the peanuts and coriander leaf and toss again.  Once again taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Cover and chill until you are ready to serve.  Scatter additional chopped peanuts and coriander leaf on top just prior to serving.

Left overnight, this becomes a delicious pickle that is great on sandwiches or with cold meats.  In any case, I am well happy to be coming into Spring when our food will start becoming lighter and fresher, for a time anyways!  Bon Appetit!  

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Marie Rayner
Brown Sugar Cream Pie

Brown Sugar Cream Pie


I have always found the chemistry of cooking fascinating.  The process of combining together a few (or sometimes many) ingredients, which on their own are not all that remarkable, or even very tasty oftimes, into something that is so incredibly delicious, so wow that you can scarce leave it alone . . . to me is like an mesmerizing magic that astonishes me at times.  I find myself wondering about the brain of someone who was intelligent enough to be able to take that leap of faith in the first place. Take this pie for instance . . . 

Other than the pastry shell you bake it in,  it uses only four ingredients.  Plain flour. (ever try to eat plain flour?  YUCK!) Soft light brown sugar. (Fab on rice crispies or in your tea, but wouldn't eat it by the spoonful) Butter. (Lovely on toast and baked potatoes and bread, etc. but  again, you wouldn't sit down and eat a pound of butter on it's own.) Double cream, or heavy cream to you North Americans . . .  (Something else which is good on or in things, but I couldn't just eat it alone.) Four. Simple. Singularly ordinary. Ingredients. Put them together in just the right way however, and bing, bam, boom!  MAGIC!!  Beautiful. Magnificent.  Amazingly tasty  . . .  magic!

 I am betting you have just about everything for this pie in your kitchen right now.  (I recommend my recipe for the crust here. It makes two crusts, but you can tightly wrap and freeze one disk for another time.)

Brown Sugar Cream Pie.  Something magical that happens when you combine those four simple ingredients together.  Totally hedonistic and totally delicious. Totally N-A-U-G-H-T-Y, but in a totally scrumptious way.

Rich, smooth, sweet, and unctuously delicious.  Not something you would want to eat every day, but something which you will totally not be able to resist digging your fork into, again . . .  and again  . . . when you do cave in and decide to bake it.

This pie is the type of dessert that  you would not hesitate to serve to a guest . . . or some hungry missionaries who are not bothered about calories . . . because, well . . . they walk them all off during the day anyways, and what your guests don't know don't hurt!! They say what the eye don't, see the heart don't grieve!

It's blatantly scrumdiddlyumptiously glorious and so seriously very easy to put together, that literally all you have to do is to whisk  these few simple ingredients together and pour them into an unbaked pie shell.

The hardest part is waiting for it to cool down and set enough to eat. A couple hours in the refrigerator does the trick. You will want to serve it in thin quivering delectable slices, along with . . .  yes  . . .  a dollop of softly whipped cream on top to garnish it. In for a penny, in for a pound  . . .

*Brown Sugar Cream Pie*
Makes one 9 inch pie

Creamy and delicious and not for the faint of heart! 

one 9-inch unbaked pie crust
47g plain flour (1/3 cup)
125g butter, melted (1/2 cup)
200g soft light brown sugar (1 cup, packed)
1 pint (480ml) of double cream (2 cups) 

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, flour and cream until well blended.  Pour into the crust.  Bake in the heated oven for 50 to 55 minutes.  The centre should be still jiggly, but not liquid.  Allow to cool completely before cutting into wedges to serve, with or without a dollop of whipped cream on top! 

True, its not is something that you want to eat too often, as the calorie and fat count must be so well off the Richter Scale of what's good for you that you don't really wanna know.  This truly is a once in a blue moon treat, but once in a blue moon . . .  its a beautiful way to indulge your naughtier side.  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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