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Preparation of Cold Meats and Teatime Fayre

After all the over-indulgence of a full traditional Christmas dinner one would expect any further consumption to be impossible. Most families, however, will still offer snacks and desserts to complete the feasting.

Alongside the now almost obligatory dishes of crisps (potato chips), salted nuts, fresh nuts, dates, satsumas, oranges, clementines, other fresh or candied fruits and chocolate appear remnants from an earlier age; sausage rolls and cheese straws, boiled or roast ham and gammon, tongue, green salad, salmon, followed by sherry trifle, fruit jelly and yet more mince pies. These are usually laid out as a serve-yourself buffet.

'Tongue' is a cow's tongue pressed flat and salted before cooking. It is now unavailable due to health concerns.

Gammon and Ham

Ham and gammon first found its way onto the everyday table in the Middle Ages. There is archaeological evidence that the pig was domesticated in the Middle East as early as 9000 years ago. From here the pig spread across Asia, Europe and Africa. Because pigs were difficult to herd and move for long distances they were soon organised into swineries or piggeries, although the rich still preferred to obtain their meat from the wild boar then prevalent in the UK. A 15th Century recipe suggests pushing cloves into the wild boar and then covering and cooking it with a sauce made of ginger, cinnamon, clove, grain, long pepper and nutmegs, mixed with wine, and vinegar. One of the most popular dishes during the reign of Henry VIII was the 'Boars Head', which was serenaded to the table, carried on a silver salver with an apple between its jaws.

The domestic pig was butchered, hung to dry and then heavily salted to preserve it. By the late 17th Century methods for curing and smoking pork had been introduced from the continent and the tradition of serving ham cold with hot or cold vegetables or salad was established.

Honey Roast Gammon


  • 4lb - 1.8kg - gammon joint
  • 1 onion
  • 20 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1.75oz - 40g - soft brown sugar
  • Grated rind and juice of 1 large orange
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard


  1. Soak the gammon joint in a bowl or cold water for at least three hours. Drain and place the gammon in a large saucepan. Stud the onion with the cloves and add to the pan with the bay leaves and peppercorns. Cover with water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

  2. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 6 - 200C - 400F. Drain the gammon, remove the skin and most of the fat. Score the remaining fat into diamonds, stud with the remaining cloves and place in a roasting tin. Mix together the ingredients for the glaze, and spoon over the gammon. Bake for 45 minutes, basting 3-4 times during the cooking time. It can be served hot or cold but should be left to stand before slicing.

Boiled Ham


  • 1 ham joint
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Any peeled and sliced root vegetables (optional)


  1. Soak the ham for at least 6 hours, changing the water once or twice if the joint is very salty. Place into a pan with fresh cold water and the other ingredients. Bring to the boil, skim the surface to remove any scum which may have formed and reduce the heat to a simmer.

  2. For hams up to 6lb - 2.6kg - allow 25 minutes per lb - 450g - from when the water first boils. For larger hams the cooking time may be reduced proportionally, allowing only 15 minutes per lb - 450g - for one weighing 15lb - 6.6kg. The ham is cooked when the flesh separates easily from the bone; for added flavour leave it standing in the cooking juices for a further two hours. Remove the skin and sprinkle with browned breadcrumbs or preparatory 'golden' breadcrumbs.

Sausage Rolls and Cheese Straws

The origins of cheese straws and sausage rolls are both unclear. Both were often made at the start of Lent to use up any meat and diary products which were originally banned during the 'fast' days. Gradually they became part of the accepted 'tea time' fayre, especially on feast days.

Cheese Straws


  • 4oz - 100g - flour
  • 2oz - 50g - butter or margarine
  • 3oz - 75g - strong-flavoured grated cheese
  • I egg yolk
  • 1 pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • A little water


  1. Sift together the flour, slat and both peppers. Rub the fat in with the fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the grated cheese and bind with the beaten egg yolk and enough water to produce a stiff dough.

  2. Knead lightly on a floured board, roll out until 0.5" - 12.5mm - thick and cut into a strip 3" - 7.5cm - wide. Cut across into strips 0.25" - 6.25mm wide and place on a greased baking tray. A good tip here is to use the reverse of the tray as it is easier to slide the straws off after cooking. Bake for 10 minutes at Gas Mark 4 - 180C - 350F. Remove and leave to cool before packing into a cake tin or freezing. For extra flavour, if reheating, sprinkle with onion salt.

Sausage Rolls



Make the pastry and roll out into a strip about 0.5" - 7cm - wide. Form the sausagemeat into a roll about 0.75" - 19mm - thick. Lay the sausagemeat on the pastry near to one edge. Use the beaten egg yolk or milk to moisten the other edge and roll the pastry right over until the join is under the roll. Cut into 2.5to 3" - 6 to 8cm lengths and make 3 extra slits across the top of each roll. Place on a whetted baking tray and cook for 20 minutes on Gas Mark 8 - 230C - 450F. They may be reheated, served hot or cold, and are safe to freeze.

Fruit Jelly

The stalwart of every children's birthday party, a fresh jelly, plain or with fruit, cleanses the palette and refreshes the taste buds.

Choose any flavour of packet jelly and mix with fresh or canned fruit. Favourites include; mandarin jelly with tinned mandarin segments, lime jelly with pears, lemon or orange jelly with mixed fruit, blackcurrant jelly with maraschino cherries. 'Traffic Light' jelly is formed by setting a lime jelly, spooning on pineapple jelly and leaving this until set and finishing with raspberry or strawberry flavour. If you intend to turn this out reverse the order!


  • Use as little boiling water as necessary to reduce setting time and make up the required liquid content with the juice from the fruit.

  • If using a mould remember to wet it thoroughly before pouring in the jelly.

  • Stir after 10 minutes to distribute the fruit evenly.

  • If the fridge is too full, place the jelly in an empty bath or cool larder to set. Allow at least 24 hours in this instance.

  • If the jelly won't tip out of the mould, run it under a hot tap for a few minutes and release with a palette knife.

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