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Last Christmas, celebrity chef Simon Gault decided to ignore tradition by making use of his much-loved pizza oven to create his favourite Neapolitan pizza.
“To say this was an error of judgement is like saying Tiger Woods is a reasonably good golfer.
“I thought it all went well but the reaction from some was as if they had been subjected to some bizarre form of Christmas abuse.”
This year he is going back to tried and true traditions with a glazed ham and he has shared the recipe in his new book Summer with Simon Gault.
“The tamarind and candied ginger with the clover honey is sensational and should satisfy even the most critical, who should by year’s end have recovered from the pizza affront.”
“I have concentrated on top-quality produce available at that time of year, bold flavours and proven combinations that make full use of what the season offers.”
Gault has faced some personal challenges in recent years, particularly his type 2 diabetes diagnosis, becoming a dad and then a bachelor again.
He readily admits stress and poor diet proved to be disastrous avenues to travel down.
So he decided to tackle the problems head-on, going on a journey of self-discovery in an effort to get his diabetes under control.
He made a documentary - Why are we fat? - about the obesity problems facing the country, and began to look at ways he could help others.
Gault also opened a new restaurant, Giraffe, which has a menu designed to bring healthy eating to the fore.
The chef acknowledges in his book that not everyone holds his views on sugar (it’s the new tobacco, he believes) so not all of his recipes are sugar-free.
“We should simply realise and accept that ‘everything in moderation’ will always be a safe and sensible dietary option to observe for ourselves and our children.”
In conjuring Kiwi summers, he had to start the book with a chapter on barbecuing.
“I love nothing more than firing up the grill and creating casual feasts for friends and family.”
His tip for the ultimate results when barbecuing is to measure the internal temperature of the meat or seafood with a meat thermometer.
The book also has chapters on picnics, salads, kids’ food, feeding a crowd, dishes from around the world, sweets and mock and cocktails.
Tamarind ginger Christmas ham
Simon’s advice to making the perfect glazed ham is to add water to the baking tray to stop the glaze from burning on the base of the ham; allow time for each layer of glaze to set before basting with another; and if your ham is beginning to colour too much during the cooking process, cover loosely with tinfoil. If there is any leftover ham, try it with some watermelon - it’s delicious!
Wrap any leftover ham in a clean tea towel soaked in a mix of water and malt vinegar to keep it fresh.
Tamarind ginger glaze
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
100ml ginger beer
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Christmas ham, skin on
1/2 cup candied (crystallised) ginger, cut into matchstick-size pieces
cup whole cloves
Tamarind ginger glaze
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer gently for five minutes or until the glaze has reduced to a consistency thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Heat oven to 180degC.
Remove the ham from the fridge well in advance of cooking, allowing the ham to reach room temperature. Peel off the skin, being careful not to tear the fat and leaving as much of the fat layer intact as possible.
Use a sharp knife to score the fat diagonally to make diamond shapes (this is a two-person job as it helps to have someone holding the ham).
Stud with pieces of candied ginger, submerging them into the ham fat, then stud with cloves.
Place the ham in a large roasting dish, cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and discard the foil.
Add a little water to the bottom of the pan, then baste the ham with a generous coating of the tamarind ginger glaze and return it to the oven. Baste the ham frequently.
After being in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, it will be sticky and golden. (Cooking time is 45-55 minutes per kg. Ideal finished internal temperature is 62degC.)
Remove the ham from the oven and allow to rest before carving.
Christmas berry pudding
This is a stunner - it’s a perfect summertime Christmas Day pudding. It features my famous rum sauce; if you’re not so keen on rum, swap it out for brandy.
9 punnets mixed fresh berries (loganberries, boysenberries, raspberries)
1/2 cup limoncello
Simon’s rum (or brandy) sauce (see below)
200g creme fraiche
1 packet savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers)
Simon’s rum (or brandy) sauce
1 cup cream
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp dark rum or brandy
bowl of ice
1/2 cup cream, whipped to soft peaks
Place 2 cups of the berries in a blender and puree. Pour the puree into a large flat dish and add the limoncello to thin the puree. Set aside.
In a bowl, fold together the rum (or brandy) sauce, mascarpone and creme fraiche until combined.
Take a large, high-sided glass serving bowl and spread a layer of the rum sauce mix across the base. Add a layer of fresh berries, then another layer of the rum sauce mix, then more berries.
Dip a savoiardi biscuit into the berry puree and place on top of the berries. Repeat until the berries are covered. Finish with another layer of the remaining rum sauce mix. Garnish the top with extra fresh berries.
Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Simon’s rum (or brandy) sauce
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup cream until small bubbles appear.
In a separate glass bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to the saucepan and cook over a very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce coats the back of the spoon (or it reaches 82degC). Add the rum or brandy.
Cool the pan in a bowl of ice and, once chilled, fold in the whipped cream.
Superfood salad with cashew nuggets and hemp dressing
As its name suggests, this salad is packed full of superfoods - not only is it good for you, but it also tastes amazing.
2 cups raw cashews
1/2 medium shallot, peeled
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp ground psyllium husk
2 tsp Indian seasoning or 1 tsp curry powder
1 litre vegetable oil, for frying
1 tsp flaky sea salt
Hemp seed dressing
2 Tbsp raw unsalted almonds
115ml fresh orange juice
4 Tbsp tamari sauce
4 Tbsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup hemp seeds (or hearts)
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
24 goji berries
1/4 cup blueberries
120g curly kale
120g baby spinach
20 thin slices raw baby beetroot
20 thin slices honeydew melon
20 thin slices rock melon
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
Soak the cashews in water for 2 hours. Drain and put the cashews in a food processor. Add the shallot, lemon juice, 1 Tbsp psyllium husk and Indian seasoning or curry powder. Process to make a paste.
Shape the paste between 2 tablespoons into small nuggets. Dust or crumb the nuggets with the remaining psyllium husk.
In a large frying pan, bring the vegetable oil to a high heat. Shallow-fry the nuggets until golden brown. Once cooked through, remove from heat and dry on a paper towel.
Season with salt flakes and set aside.
Hemp seed dressing
Place all ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth.