Polenta Dumplings with Squash, Asparagus and Gammon

Simon Rimmer combines traditional English gammon with hearty Italian dill-scented dumplings and wintery butternut puree
Polenta Dumplings with Squash, Asparagus and Gammon
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 2.5 hours 30 minutes
  • Prep Time: plus soaking
  • Effort: easy


For the gammon

  • 1 kg joint gammon, or ham hock
  • 1.5 tbsp Dijon mustard, or English mustard
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 handfuls cloves

For the vegetables

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 butternut squash, peeled, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 125 ml vegetable stock
  • 125 g mascarpone
  • salt and black pepper

For the dumplings

  • 600 g floury potatoes, such as King Edwards or Maris Piperpreferably Russet
  • 1 large egg
  • 250 g flour
  • 200 g polenta
  • 30 g dill, chopped
  • salt and black pepper
  • olive oil, for drizzling

To serve

  • 8-10 asparagus
  • 100 g parmesan, shavings


1. For the gammon, put the gammon joint into a large bowl, cover with cold water and leave to soak for 24 hours. Drain well and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 2. Place a sheet of kitchen foil in a large roasting pan and lay a second sheet across it, at right angles.

3. Sit the joint square in the middle; bring the silver foil up around the gammon to make an airtight wrapping around it.
4. Roast the joint for 1 hour. Increase the oven temperature to 220C/gas 7. Open up the foil and lift the gammon out onto a large chopping board. Drain off all the juices. Make a couple of long cuts through the outer layer of skin (but not the fat underneath). Carefully peel the skin away in strips.
5. Mix the mustard and honey together, and smear thickly over the layer of fat left on the joint.

6. Score the fat in a criss-cross fashion, first in one direction and then at an angle - you should end up with a diamond pattern. Push a clove into the centre of each diamond.
7. Return the joint to the oven for a final 30-45 minutes, or until richly browned and glazed. If you are serving the joint hot, let it rest in a warm place for 20-30 minutes before carving. For cold gammon, leave it to cool in its own time. Turn down the oven to 200C/gas 6.

8. For the squash, heat the oil in an ovenproof dish and roast the squash at 200C/gas 6 for about 30 minutes, until soft. Take half the squash and tip into a liquidiser - blend until smooth. Set aside.

9. For the polenta, boil the potatoes, unpeeled, for about 40 minutes, until soft. When cool enough to handle, push them through a 'ricer', or mash and push through a metal sieve.

10. Make a well in the centre of the potatoes - add the egg, flour, polenta, dill and seasoning. Stir and mix everything until the ingredients combine to make a dough. Knead for a few minutes until firm to the touch.

11. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll each out into 2cm diameter 'ropes', then cut off pieces at 2.5cm intervals.

12. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and add the dumplings. When they rise to the top - after about 4 minutes - scoop them out and refresh in ice-water. Drain, drizzle over a little olive oil and keep warm.

13. Heat a ridged griddle pan over a high heat and char-grill the blanched asparagus (without any oil) until it begins to colour. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

14. Reheat the butternut puree with the cooked butternut cubes, and add enough stock to make a sauce-like consistency. Stir in the mascarpone cheese and tip in the polenta dumplings. Heat through over a moderate heat.

15. Spoon everything into a bowl and top with the warm asparagus stems. Finish with Parmesan shavings and accompany with slices of cooked gammon.

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