Christmas cooked in sandals
Our hot summer days are not suitable for huge, sit-down meals of gammon and turkey and trimmings – take them out to the braai festivefeasts
FRESH from a late November in England, where Christmas pervades everything, everywhere, and embarking from the plane straight into a Cape heatwave, it felt strange to be contemplating a sunny SA Christmas and almost impossible to imagine eating the entire turkey and trimmings in such hot weather.
But it’s possible to do the traditional Christmas while enjoying the sunshine as well. A turkey can be done in a potjie, if you’re prepared to forgo the crisp, golden skin of the oven-roasted version, and as for gammon and its traditional coat of pineapple and cherries, there’s no reason why that cannot be deconstructed and reassembled on a skewer.
The turkey potjie recipe here was inspired by the late Lannice Snyman, who chanced upon the recipe by accident when, during a seaside family holiday long ago, the gas oven blew up just as she was about to pop the turkey in. Undaunted – as ever – Lannice crammed the trussed bird into a potjie that was slightly too small for it, threw in some aromatics, and a couple of hours later the Snyman clan had a new favourite recipe that they used again, many times. The version here is loosely based on Lannice’s recipe, with some adaptations.
So here’s a hot and chilled-out way of enjoying your Christmas Day lunch in shorts and sandals, beer or mulled wine in hand and tongs at the ready.
Turkey in a Potjie 1 x 3kg turkey 1 onion, quartered 3 garlic cloves, crushed 3 ripe oranges, quartered peeled zest of 1 orange in one or two strips 300ml red wine 100ml port or sweet sherry 100ml chicken stock 1 cinnamon stick 6 cloves 2 bay leaves a piece of mace, or 1tsp grated nutmeg salt and pepper to taste 3tbs butter If the turkey is frozen, thaw it slowly in the fridge for a whole day, then unwrap, remove giblets, rinse and pat dry. Season inside with salt and pepper. Stud the quartered onion with the cloves and place in the cavity with the quartered oranges. Melt butter in the bottom of a heated potjie over hot coals, add the garlic, cinnamon stick, mace and bay leaves, and brown the whole bird on all sides. Heat together the chicken stock, wine and port or sherry in a saucepan until just hot, then pour over the bird. Add the orange peel (but no pith). Cover and cook over moderate coals (just enough to provide a gentle bubble) for about two to twoand-a-half hours. As Lannice says, the turkey is done when “the legs wobble frantically when you wiggle them”. Use a ladle to remove as much of the collected liquids as possible to a saucepan and reduce this down on the stove until it is of a perfect consistency for a sauce to go with your turkey. You might want to swig back a glass or two of hot mulled wine while the potjie is cooking. Serve it with foil-braaied potatoes and braised beetroot. ( Make the beetroot earlier and reheat quickly when the turkey is ready to serve.)
Braised beetroot with pecans 1 red onion, finely sliced 4 small beetroot, quartered 1 cup pecans 1tsp mustard seeds 1tsp jeera (cumin) seeds 1tbs honey 1tbs mustard 1tbs butter or ghee (clarified butter) salt and pepper to taste Blanche the quartered beetroot in salted boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, refresh under icy water and drain. Braise the seeds gently in butter or ghee. Add the sliced red onion and sauté until soft. Add the beetroot and sauté, stirring, for about 10 minutes over a moderate heat until just tender. Add the mustard and honey, season to taste with salt and pepper. Toast the pecans in a dry pan until they crisp up and turn golden. Toss with the beetroot. Gammon kebabs with a honeymustard glaze 1kg “ready to eat” beech-smoked gammon 4 or 5 fresh cherries per skewer I jar maraschino cherries 1 smallish pineapple
Glaze 100g demarara sugar 100ml honey 2tbs mustard Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook over a low heat until the sugar is melted, stirring to combine the mustard with honey and sugar.
Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top of each fresh cherry and carefully remove the stone. Peel the pineapple and cut into thin triangular slices. Make sure you buy the “ready to eat” gammon product.
Cube the gammon. Soak skewers (if wooden or wood-handled) in cold water for half an hour. Skewer the ingredients, alternating with pineapple and cherries.
Brush over the glaze. Braai over hot coals, turning frequently, until the glaze turns a pale gold – about 8 minutes a side. That’s all it takes.
More festive nosh next week.
SUMMER TWIST: Gammon kebabs with a honey-mustard glaze.
POT LUCK: Christmas turkey potjie, a summer take on a winter festive favourite.