beef stew with chili and chocolate (a slow cooker conversion)

So, as I mentioned in my how-to post, I converted a normal recipe to a slow cooker recipe for the first time this week!

Apart from the fact that I felt the stew was too liquid when it was done, I think it turned out very nice. When it had cooled in the fridge for a few hours the liquid had set a bit more, so it wasn’t as liquid as it was when I first took it off the heat. The flavour was definitely good (though more beefy than winey since I added more stock than wine) but the carrots were a bit too mushy. So I would recommend either adding them halfway through the cooking process or putting them in aluminium foil and laying them on top of the meat, mushrooms and liquid.

As I also said in the how-to post, I not only adapted this recipe from a regular one to a slow cooker one – I also had to adapt the ingredients slightly. My local supermarket doesn’t stock venison, so instead I got what we in Sweden call rostas, which is the inner muscle of the beef rump (basically the inner bit of the roast beef bit), and then I added mushrooms as well. I also didn’t use any coriander or chili powder, and bought tinned tomatoes with garlic rather than plain tinned tomatoes. Either way it turned out really good and served with mashed potatoes it’s great comfort food.


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Ingredients (6 portions)

1 kg beef (or venison if you have it at hand)

2 large carrots (ca 200-250g)

250g mushrooms

1 red chili

1 yellow onion

390g tinned tomatoes (with garlic if you wish)

2-300 ml beef stock (I used about 400 ml which felt like way too much)

250 ml red wine

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp thyme

1 cinnamon stick

3 tsp vegetable oil

40g dark chocolate (70%)

water + cornstarch


Chop up your onion and fry until golden in 1 tsp oil. Pour in 2 tsp oil into the slow cooker and add the onion.

Cut your beef into big-ish chunks and add to the slow cooker. If you wish you can sear them before putting them in the slow cooker but this time I didn’t have the energy to and I can’t say I noticed too much of a difference.

Cut up your carrots and mushrooms into similar sized pieces and add to the slow cooker. Alternatively; add the mushrooms to the slow cooker and keep the carrots aside until halfway through, or wrap the carrots in foil and set aside.

Chop up your chili and add to the slow cooker.

Add tomatoes, red wine, beef stock, cumin, thyme, and the cinnamon stick to the slow cooker. (If you have wrapped the carrots in foil, place them on top now.)

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

If the stew is too liquid, add cornstarch to water until there are no more lumps then add to the stew and cook on high for 30 minutes.

Add chocolate and stir so it mixes in.

Serve with mashed potatoes, or boiled potatoes, or maybe even add potatoes to the stew? BBC also say that it’s really good as pie filling, but then you’ll want to make sure it’s not too liquid.


I know I often say so, but I’m definitely making this again. I might play around with it some more, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how this turned out, seeing as it was the first time I tried my hand at making a non-slow cooker recipe in the slow cooker!

/t

 

how to: convert recipes to slow cooker recipes

I tried my hand at converting a normal recipe for the slow cooker this week! I found this recipe for a spiced venison stew with chocolate on BBC Good Food, and thought it sounded really nice. I always wanted to try a stew or chili with chocolate – to see what kind of a difference it may make. I like dark chocolate with chili in it – and when I lived in Italy my favourite ice cream shop made an amazing chili chocolate ice cream – so the idea of that hint of chocolate in a hearty stew was intriguing. However, my local supermarket didn’t stock venison, so I had to go with beef instead.

Having experimented a little with my slow cooker so far (the three bean chili, a beef stew that turned out way too dry, two different batches of peanut butter shredded chicken, and a parsnip and apple soup that was more reminiscent of apple sauce) I’ve come to believe that mine is a bit stronger than may be usual. When I made the beef stew and the first batch of shredded chicken I followed the cooking time exactly and they both turned out really dry. For the second batch of chicken I took off 30 min of the lower estimate and it was still a bit dry. I don’t know if there’s any way that you can figure out what the heat is (instruction manual maybe) but since I was cooking beef I figured I’d be ok even if it was a little bit underdone.

Scouring the internet for how to convert recipes I found a number of articles that set out very similar tips. Essentially it seemed that your best bet is to take soups or stews since they’re often ‘slow cooked’ anyway and since they contain a good bit of liquid. Lifehacker provided me with a slow cooker conversion chart by One Good Thing by Jilliee, but like I said above I made my own adaptions to the cooking times.

Conventional recipe time    Slow cooker time on low     Slow cooker time on high

15-30 min                           4-6 hours                             2-3 hours

35-45 min                           6-8 hours                             3-4 hours

50 min – 3 hours               8-10 hours                           4-6 hours

My stew falls into the last category (about 2.5 hours) but my previous experience has shown that cooking the food on the low setting for the time specified as the high estimate on the high setting (i.e. cooking the stew on low for 6 hours in this case) may be the way to go. So this time I went with my gut.

There are also a few things they say you should think about in terms of the ingredients – the big thing being the liquid. If your recipe is a soup or stew, or something else that already has liquid in it, the tip is to reduce the liquid by half. If your original recipe doesn’t have any liquid (or sauce) in it you should instead add 100-125 ml water to it – to create the steam needed for the slow cooker to reach its cooking temperature.

As for meat and vegetables, the general tip is to brown/sear any meat – unless you want to shred it – and seafood going in the pot. Obviously you don’t have to sear the meat, but they say it enhances the flavour and it helps in that it removes some of the excess fat which otherwise will just end up in your broth. Onions and garlic on the other hand should apparently always be browned first, or it will be too strong in flavour.

I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite still in them, and have found that even on the low setting, 6 hours in a slow cooker does mushy things to them. Most of the tips I read online said that hard vegetables like carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips, etc. can go in right at the beginning, but I would say that if you’re able to (i.e. you’re not cooking it overnight or while you’re at work) it’s nicer to add your vegetables halfway through. Softer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, peas, etc. should always be added nearer the end, or they’ll disintegrate in the stew. Another tip on the root vegetables (if you have to add them at the beginning) is to wrap them in foil and place on top of the beef, and then stir them in when the cooking time is over. This way they’ll stay a little bit firmer.

I haven’t yet tried a recipe containing dairy products or rice or pasta so I can’t comment on the next tips, but apparently any dairy products – milk, cheese or other – should be added in the last 30-60 minutes of cooking, and rice and pasta should be parboiled and added at the end – with just enough time left to heat through.

If your recipe calls for a thickening agent to be added to the sauce/broth, wait until the end. My tip (based on what I’ve done with my other stew) would be to reduce the cooking time by 30-45 minutes. Once finished cooking, combine cornstarch and water  until no lumps remain(the quantities vary but a good basis is 4 tbsp water and 2 tbsp cornstarch) and add to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Another option is to remove the broth/sauce from the slow cooker and reduce it on the hob (stove in American), or to simply remove the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 30 min. I haven’t tried the last way, but the cornstarch approach is tried in tested in many regular recipes, so I’ll probably keep using that.

When I was doing my conversion prep I read somewhere that the liquid in your recipe should still cover your meat and vegetables completely. When I had halved my wine and beef stock it was nowhere near covering everything, so I added the other half of the stock to make up the full amount. However, when the stew was done, there was then way too much liquid, and even reducing it on the hob with added cornstarch mix didn’t make it thick enough in time for me to pop to work this morning. So I think I should have maybe stuck with the halving of the liquid rule. (Also, adding more beef stock compared to the wine will have changed the flavour of the stew compared to the original recipe – for better or worse I don’t know.)

Either way I’m going to keep experimenting with my sloow cooker until we’re best friends and I know all its secrets, likes and dislikes. And I’ll post my adapted recipe for the stew tomorrow or Thursday.

/t

three bean chili with sweet potato (my first slow cooker recipe!)

I’m so tired today. It’s been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping very well most nights. I’m pretty certain I’ve pulled/strained my left chest muscle, so all week I’ve been waking up during the nights because I’ve moved and it has hurt.

It must have been during boxing last Tuesday that I did it, but I first properly felt it on Thursday when I did yoga. Then after a day of carrying heavy boxes around the office, it really started hurting on Saturday. On Sunday it was so bad certain movements made me feel like crying. Since then it’s gotten a bit better – the pain is not as sharp now, it’s a duller kind of pain, but sometimes it still surprises me how much it hurts. Like when I sneezed yesterday and thought I was going to cry. On top of this I’m of course getting a cold – at a time where I can’t sneeze, cough, or blow my nose without being in pain.

In addition to this, I slept really badly both last night (pain) and the night between Wednesday and Thursday when I woke up at 1am, 4am, 5am and 6am, thinking I’d overslept each time. So it wasn’t just the waking up and rolling over in bed, it was the waking up with your heart jumping out of your chest because you thought you were running late (and then trying to roll around without incurring that still somewhat shooting pain in my chest muscle).

So it hasn’t been a great week. I also haven’t been to the gym since Thursday’s yoga, and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do next week either. You don’t really realise just how much you use/tense your chest muscles in your everyday life until it starts hurting when you do it – just getting up from the sofa, turning around in bed, or laughing has become something painful. I’m going to be really careful about the gym though, because we have a conference with work next weekend at a ski resort in the Alps and I’m not planning to miss out on the skiing.

Anyway, I’m long overdue on this, but I’m going to post the three bean chili recipe that was my first slow cooker attempt! I found it online somewhere where it was a recipe for three bean chili with pumpkin. I’m not overly keen on pumpkin though (and the recipe called for tinned pumpkin which I doubt I’d be able to find in my local supermarket) so I decided to swap it out for sweet potato. I think it turned out nice, but the first portion didn’t give me that ‘wow’ feeling I had hoped for. I then added frozen sweetcorn to my remaining portions and that upped the game a lot. So I think when I make this again I will skip out on the sweet potatoes and instead add sweetcorn (after the chili has cooked for the prescribed time).


Ingredients (6 portions)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g sweet potato

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt


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Fry the onion in 1 tbsp oil until translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another few minutes.

Add 1 tbsp oil to the slow cooker, then add all of the remaining ingredients.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

It really can’t be simpler.


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Next time, however, I’ll try:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx.. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

2-3 red peppers

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

500g sweetcorn (add after cooking)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt

Also, this obviously isn’t vegetarian because it has beef stock in it, but if you swap the beef stock for vegetable stock you’re good to go. I just prefer the slightly heartier taste I feel like the chili gets with beef stock.

/t

the protein bar djungle

Since I’m almost always working out after work I often don’t get home until 8-9 pm. Having had either nothing to eat or just some fruit since lunch and then exercised (often vigorously) on top of that you can imagine how I was feeling. Spent and hungry. But at that time in the evening I don’t particularly feel like a huge meal, and the energy to cook is even less existent.

So in the last few weeks (since early December really) I’ve been taking to having protein bars in my bag for those days I’m doing something vigorous – like boxing – straight from work. That way I can eat something before my workout that’ll make me feel full and isn’t as bad nutrition wise as that pastry or snack I might reach for otherwise. But it also works out well because having eaten something beforehand I don’t feel as hungry when I come home, which means that I’m more likely to actually have the energy to heat up my already prepared meal and not just stuff my face with sandwiches (I love sandwiches).

However, the thing about protein bars are that they’re quite expensive and it’s really hit and miss with the way they taste. I usually only buy them when they’re on offer, which means that I often end up with different brands. The brands I’ve learned I quite like are Gainomax, Swebar, and ProteinPro. But then even within those there are ones I tried and really disliked, for example Gainomax’s blueberry yogurt and ProteinPro’s toffee caramel.

It’s not easy to know which protein bar will taste nice and which will taste like an explosion of artificial chemicals, but there are a few signs to look out for IMO.

You’re usually safe (ish) with chocolate. Cocoa powder is a good flavouring tool and easy to work with, and the flavour usually stays ‘authentic’. Fruit is trickier. My favourite bar so far is the Swebar raspberry and liquorice and in that the raspberry flavour works really well. On the other hand, today I had the most disgusting bar – a pear and vanilla flavoured bar I bought at Lidl. Maybe I should have been clued in by the fact that I got it at Lidl, but oh well.

Caramel/toffee ones are also a tricky on my opinion, because they can go either way. Sometimes they’re really nice but other times they have a sickly sweet taste to them.

I did end up getting a strawberry bar from the same brand (2 for 1 deal) which maybe (I’m hoping) won’t be as bad as the pear one. Either way I’ll be continuing to try and navigate the protein bar djungle.

/t

chokladbollar – an old post

I found one of my old cooking blogs I started while I was at uni on Blogger a few weeks ago. It was quite fun to read my old posts, though there weren’t many of them, and remember when I wrote them.

I had planned on sharing my first slow cooker recipe with you this week, but the week just ran away with me and I’m going snowboarding over the weekend, which means I won’t have time to write anything then. So I thought that I’d share one of my blog posts written in 2012 (for fun). It’s a quite brief post but it’s still better than just an apologetic post saying sorry I won’t post – right?

*****

Chokladbollar is Swedish for chocolate balls (yeah, I know, super tricky translation there!). Now don’t be fooled into thinking they’re like those healthy protein and date balls people seem to be making all over the internet though! These are proper sweet treats.

Chocolate balls are a staple in most Swedish homes, cafés and even supermarket bakeries, and are so easy to make. A favourite with children around the country – particularly as they’re easy even for little hands! The staple ingredients are oats, cocoa powder, and sugar. If you don’t want them as chocolatey you can opt for their cousin havrebollar (oat balls) which are made with Nesquick-style chocolate drink powder (O’Boy) rather than cocoa powder – and a lot of the time they leave out the coffee.

Anyway, the reason these balls of deliciousness are so easy to make is that there’s no baking involved. So even the least accomplished baker can have a go. The only thing that needs adult supervision (if your kids are involved) is melting the butter.

Now if you’re not Swedish (or Scandinavian) there are a few things here that may throw you off a bit.

First; my recipe measures solids in ml. Sugar, flour, oats, etc. etc. is measured in Sweden in decilitres, and one decilitre is 100 ml. So when it says ‘100 ml sugar’ that means take out the measuring cup and measure up 100 ml as if it was a liquid.

Second; vanilla sugar. In Sweden, we don’t really use vanilla essence. We have vanilla flavoured powdered sugar instead. If you want to make your own you just put one vanilla pod (seeded and cut in half) in 200 ml granulated sugar and leave until the pod has dried out. Once this has happened, run all the sugar through a food mixer until it’s a fine powder and sieve it to get rid of any leftover pieces of pod. If you can’t get hold of vanilla sugar and can’t be bothered to make your own – vanilla essence will do just fine, just put in a bit less.

Third; pearl sugar. Unfortunately this isn’t really something you can make yourself (a far a I’m aware). As you can see from the picture below, pearl sugar is larger pieces of sugar that the chocolate balls are rolled in after they’re made. If you can’t get hold of pearl sugar you can roll your balls in coconut flakes or even sprinkles.

So, onto how to make them!


Ingredients:

100g butter

100 ml sugar

1 tbsp vanilla sugar

3 tbsp cocoa powder

300 ml oats

3 tbsp cold coffee

pearl sugar (or coconut flakes or sprinkles)


 

Melt the butter in a pan and leave it to almost simmer for a little while.

Meanwhile, mix the oats, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla sugar in a bowl. Pour over the melted butter and cold coffee.

Now I like my chocolate balls a bit ‘grainy’, so I like it when they have large oats. However, if you don’t, you can combine the mixture with an electric whisk. Otherwise a normal spoon will do. Once all is combined, put the bowl in the fridge.

When your mixtures has cooled and solidified, take it out of the fridge and roll into balls. I like them a little bit smaller (then you can have two if you want!), so I used about 2/3 of a tablespoon to roll one ball. Then when it’s round enough for you – roll it in pearl sugar /coconut flakes/sprinkles and you’re done! Easy as that.

They really are a super easy treat that anyone can make. And they’re so adaptable. If you don’t like coffe – take it out. If you love coffee – add more. You can add cinnamon for a more Christmassy feel, or a splash of alcohol for an even more grown up treat. Your imagination is the limit.

*****

It really is a very easy and child-friendly recipe and I remember making these with my mum when I was little. They’re so good as well, and if you make them a bit smaller you can have more of them, haha!

/t

your body can stand almost anything, it’s your mind you have to convince

I’m one of those people who you (if you don’t like to exercise) probably find really annoying, because I actually really like exercising. Of course I don’t like all kinds of exercise – for example I find running very boring – but I’ll try anything you throw at me at least once, and often find myself surprised that I like (sometimes even love) it. I’m guessing this has something to do with the fact that I was basically raised in the gym, with the weekends spent in the forest.

My mum started working as a group training instructor a few years before I was born and before I started going to kindergarten she would often bring me along if she had a class. Back then the gym didn’t have the babysitting facilities they have today, so I would be playing outside the hall while the receptionist kept an eye on me. (To this day if I go places with my mum I still meet people saying “I haven’t seen you since you where this small and were crawling around the gym!”. I’m almost 30 now.)

I find this sign very annoying..

We often spent our weekends at different sporting events, be it football games, orienteering competitions, or other running competitions my mum was participating in. I played football (soccer to you Americans) and did horse-riding for ten years, but I also tried my hand at basketball, orienteering, and street-dance. Adding to that, we would go ice-skating on the frozen lakes and go skiing/snowboarding in the winters, and obviously had to try out a load of different sports during our school’s PE-lessons. So I guess it’s not that odd that I turned out a relatively sporty person.

The thing is that really liking exercise doesn’t always make it easier to continue doing it – unless you love running because then you don’t need much to be able to do it. So what happened in my case was that I moved to Italy to be a nanny and basically stopped exercising completely. There wasn’t a gym I knew of anywhere nearby and it was really difficult for me to make friends since the Italians barely spoke English and I didn’t speak Italian. So I got demotivated and fell into the trap of Italian fast-food; pasta, pizza and ice-cream. I gained about 5-6 kg (11-13 lbs) in weight and felt quite bad about it.

I then worked in two more families, worked in Sweden for a year, and went to uni. I became somewhat of a yoyo-dieter at this time, with shortish periods of feeling good about my weight and longer ones where I wasn’t satisfied. Apart from getting a lot of ‘everyday exercise’ from working in a shop (10-15,000 steps per day average) I didn’t do much exercise at this time, because it just wasn’t very convenient. I did get back into it the last two years at uni, because I lived near a hotel that had a good gym. But moving to London after uni then undid that for me. At first I managed quite well and I went to the gym several times a week, but once we were married (my goal I was working towards) and I was working longer hours all motivation just drained out of me. I’d managed to get down to my ‘happy weight’ for the wedding, but afterwards I gained it all back, and a few additional pounds. I think that was the heaviest I’ve ever been.

What’s difficult for me about going to the gym is not the being there but the getting there. Especially when it’s cold and dark out, or if I get home late. Once I’m at the gym and working out I always feel happy (well ok, sometimes the happy feeling doesn’t come until I’m done and no longer feel exhausted!). So now I’ve taken to going to the gym straight from work. I bring a backpack with my gym clothes and then either leave work and go straight there, or go to somewhere nearby and have a look around the shops – depending on the time and the location of the gym. It really helps a lot, because not stopping at home in between keeps me from crashing on the sofa and looking out thinking it’s too late/dark/cold/whatever. And I’m always happy, if tired, when I get home.

Since I got my membership here in Sweden at the end of May I’ve been to the gym 118 times – for 126 hours in total. That’s an average of one workout ever other day, or around 32 minutes per day. And that includes a ten day hiatus over summer and a week long one over Christmas. One of the things that helps as well is that my ‘new’ (can you call it new if it’s been almost eight months?) gym has a great selection of classes, which is what I prefer to do. Also, if you don’t cancel an hour before the class you get a ‘point’ in the system if you don’t show up, and if you get points you can’t book classes online for a while. When classes book up full within five minutes of being able to book, that’s quite a hassle.

So what’s keeping me at it now is partly that I don’t have anyone waiting for me at home – meaning I’d rather spend time doing things away from home so I don’t feel so lonely – and partly the fact that I’ve found a few classes that I want to do every week. My favourite is a 90 minute long hot yoga called Hot Mojo, which is performed in a room that is 38 degrees warm (Celsius) and has a minimum humidity level of 60%. Unfortunately there’s only one 90 minute class in the entire city and the instructor is on holiday at the moment, so for the next two weeks I have to make do with the 60 minute class.

This post has gone down a different road than what I was thinking when I started out, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you’re raised sporty and like to exercise, it’s not always easy to find the motivation to get there. We all need a little help now and then.

/t

julskinka (chistmas ham)

In the UK, the star of the Christmas dinner is the turkey. Everything else (well, apart from the rice pudding) is just an accompaniment really, a side dish. In Sweden I wouldn’t say that there’s that one centrepiece. Since Swedish Christmas dinners often have the three parts – fish, cold cuts and hot food – each part has their own pièce de résistance. (I should probably add a disclaimer that this is just my personal opinion.)

But if I were to choose the nearest Swedish counterpart to the turkey it would have to be the ham. I have always loved Christmas ham (there’s something special about it just coming from it being called ‘Christmas’) and it’s one of those leftover foods you don’t mind having every day until New Year’s.

I also can’t think about Christmas ham without thinking about my mum. Pretty much every Christmas we’ve spent at my grandparents’ the story about when my mum tried to make Christmas ham has come up. My mum – not having the slightest interest in cooking really – didn’t realise you need to boil the ham, so all she did was cover the raw joint in the mustard mix and breadcrumbs and place it in the oven for 15 minutes. I guess this sets the prelude to why she some years later told her friend they should bring a grilled chicken to a barbecue, hehe. (You know I love you mum, even if you can’t cook.)

Anyway, I’ve never made my own Christmas ham, since my grandma or aunt always makes it, so as we were doing Christmas at ours this year (well, last year technically) I thought it would be the perfect time to try out the new slow cooker my MIL had given me as an early Christmas present. However, the smallest joint they had in the shop was 2.5kg, so it didn’t even fit in the slow cooker! I had to use my 6 litre stew pot and even then I had trouble fitting enough water in to cover the whole joint. A bit of the top was left above the water, but it worked out ok in the end.

In comparing my slow cooker recipe with the regular recipe I noticed that all of the ‘condiments’ were missing. The regular recipe just called for the ham joint to be covered by water and left to boil, where the slow cooker recipe added spices and vegetables to the water. Because I’d already bought everything, and because I thought it sounded nicer, I still added the condiments to the water despite not using the slow cooker – so if you want to simplify this you can remove all the spices and vegetables and just cover the ham with water and boil as specified below.

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Ingredients

2.5 kg ham

1 carrot

1 yellow onion

1 tsp whole allspice

1 tsp whole white pepper

2 bay leaves

0.5 tsp salt per litre water

 

1 egg

2 tbsp mustard

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp sugar

100-150 ml breadcrumbs

corn flour or maize starch


Rinse the ham joint in cold water (leave the netting on) and stick a meat thermometer in it. Place it in a large pot.

Chop up the carrot and onion and add to the pot with the allspice, pepper, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the ham, and then 0.5 tsp salt per litre water.

Cover the pot with a lid and bring to boil. When it starts boiling, bring it down to a simmer and leave to cook until the thermometer shows 70-75 degrees Celsius. The estimate is 1 hour per kilo of ham – so in my case that was 2.5 kg.

If you instead want to use a slow cooker, cook on low heat for 9 hours.

Once cooked, leave the ham to cool down before taking off the net and cutting off any excess fat you don’t want.

Then mix together the egg, two mustards and sugar. Put some starch or corn flour on the top of the ham (this helps to keep the mustard mix from sliding off too much) and cover with the mustard mix.

Pour the breadcrumbs over the mustard mix, then grill in the oven at 225 degrees Celsius for 10-15 minutes.

 


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Again, this is a Christmas recipe that isn’t very difficult. It just takes a bit of time. But since you’re going to serve it cold it’s perfect for making a day or two in advance – if you can keep your hands off it in the meantime – so you don’t have to stress on the day.

My Christmas was actually very relaxed cooking wise. I had made the gravlax and the ham in advance so they were ready to serve. I got up around 9 am to roll up some meatballs to be ready to fry later, and then just boiled some eggs and potatoes, fried the meatballs and sausages, and cooked the sausage meat and pigs in blankets (S’s additions) in the oven. The bread and cheese and ready-bought sauces obviously didn’t need any preparations. So the only thing that was a bit of a hassle was the rice pudding, and that was mainly because I’d picked a bad recipe since I’d never made it before – so I had to make a second batch following another recipe, which turned out much better.

/t