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Ham and Penne Alfredo.

  • Ham - see note,
  • Some leftover vegetables (I used baby carrots,cauliflower, and zuchini),
  • Half an onion,
  • A few baby-bella mushrooms,
  • A few pieces of sundried tomato,
  • 1 pint of milk,
  • 1/4 pound of grated sharp cheddar,
  • Riccotta cheese,
  • Crushed garlic,
  • Corn starch,
  • Grated parmesan cheese.
Food picture

Serving suggestion.

This concoction was provoked by the fact that I found a butt-end ham joint at our local supermarket for about six dollars. It was a choice between that and a pack of chicken breasts at about the same price. So I got the ham with a view to doing two meals with it and having ham for breakfast. This will probably exhaust my ham tolerance, but I couldn't resist the bargain.

The thing to remember about these cheap ham joints is that they are a "ham and water product". That is they've had water forced into them at high pressure to make them feel heavier and less dry. For some recipes you need to take this into account.

I cut an inch and a quarter thick slice from the wide end of the ham, removed the fat, skin etc, then cut the slice into chunks about the size of the thickness. If you have time, do this early, and leave them to soak in plenty of cold water. This can somewhat reduce the saltiness of the ham. When you're ready to cook, drain it and dry it off. Then fry it gently in just a little olive oil. The object of the exercise here initially is to get rid of the water. Pour off excess water as it emerges from the ham, and cook like this until the ham is dry, and actually starts to fry. Add a little more oil at this point, and turn the heat down. The ham joint is already cooked, so all you need to do is make sure it's hot, and cooked as much as you like.

Get everything else ready to go while dehydrating the ham, including bringing the milk almost to the boil, and adding a couple of pats of butter. Chop up and fry the onion, mushrooms, and sun dried tomatoes so they're cooked, but the onion isn't browned. Bring water to a boil for the pasta, and heat a little water in the bottom of a pot with a lid to steam the vegetables. Wait now until the ham is dried out, turning the heat off under the milk and pots of water if necessary. Then you're about 12 minutes away from serving.

Throw the slowest cooking vegetable (the carrots in my case) into the steamer and put a lid on it, and put the pasta in its boiling water. Start a timer for 12 minutes for the pasta. Mix a large desert spoon of corn starch with cold water in a cup, and stir until smooth. Bring the milk just back to the boil, then stir in 3/4 of the starch mix, and stir to give some thickness to the sauce - not too thick. Add the rest of the starch and stir more if you don't think it's thick enough. Now over a very low heat, fold the grated cheddar into the milk, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Remember lightly, since ham is salty. Let it come back to the simmer, throw the rest of the vegetables into the steamer, and stir the pasta.

Stir the onions and mushrooms into the sauce. Stir the pasta. Now using a teaspoon, drop blobs of ricotta cheese into the sauce, as many as you like depending how cheesy you like things. Keep them separate, and don't stir them much if at all. The object is to have a sauce with variable consistency. Turn the heat right down under the sauce, and put a lid over it. Now add the crushed garlic to the ham, and stir fry it quickly over a higher heat to cook the garlic. Then sprinkle the ham with grated parmesan.

Arrange the plates with half vegetables, 1/4 ham, and 1/4 pasta, and ladle some sauce on top. Bon appetite!

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