Saturday, 21 November 2009

roast ham with honey and mustard


i am such a sucker for the christmas food write-ups that invade every newspaper, blog and tv programme from about mid-november right up until christmas eve. i know it's ridiculous - there are only so many ways you can cook a turkey and use up its leftovers. and i don't even like turkey that much. but, for a greedy person, there's something quite seductive about a mountain of food featured, desired and consumed.

eating primal(ish) for christmas is actually remarkably easy - if you're at home. you can do snacks and starters of nuts, cold meats, pickles, smoked salmon, and then the roast bird with some veg for the main. you can either skip the pudding or have something diary-based and not very sweet: last year we had panna cotta, probably with some sort of a berry coulis. this year i might consider some version of a chestnut/chocolate moussey combo but we will see. you can then have a huge cheese board - i am leaning towards a whole vacherine baked till runny and eaten with rosemary skewers with apple chunks, but i guess there will be stilton and goat's cheese and dried figs and frozen grapes. (you don't really need biscuits with all that stuff.) yes, you'll eat more than you ever normally do but it's all good stuff and won't do you any harm.

anyway, the reason i'm rambling on about christmas (is it too early for decorations???) is because of the ham.

we’ve been talking about getting a ham to bake since last christmas. then it was prompted by the ginger prince’s triumph of luck over knowledge in getting a waitrose vacuum pack to roast perfectly in time for christmas dinner in the cottage we rented. the only thing that defeated us was the skin. there were calls for it to be roasted separately until it resembled proper crackling. despite my assurances that there was no way on god’s earth that was ever going to work, the boys went ahead and tried it, as boys would. needless to say, they ended up with a piece of soggy, disturbingly human-like skin swimming in a puddle of fat. not nice. the ham itself was gorgeous though – salty, meaty and with that pen, grainy texture that just gives when you bite into it, without any gristle or fat.

also, for the whole of last december, our butcher had hung dozens of ham on hooks in the ceiling and every time we went to the shop, in addition to salivating over mini melton mowbray pies on a weekly basis, i also had to content with the hammy goodness above my head.

a couple of weeks ago, we finally bought a ham. not the bone-in variety that you would do for christmas, but a hunk of boneless salted pig. the idea was to get two meals out of it - a baked ham like the one prepared by the ginger prince, and a ham-jelly thing i've been hankering after since seeing the recipe in valentine warner's book.

ham prep is a simple thing if you know how salty it is. many hams need to be soaked overnight to get rid of some salt but this one, according to the butcher, only needed bringing to the boil once (and throwing away the water) before the full cooking. how you cook it seems to be a matter of some disagreement - it was not easy to find a definitive recipe so everything was a bit of an improvisation.

for some reason (haste? greed?), i failed to take the picture of the ham as it came out of the oven so all you get are slices on my plate. i've concluded i loved ham and will definitely be baking one for christmas.

ROAST HAM WITH HONEY AND MUSTARD

1 hm, 2kg approx
1 onion
2 celery sticks
2 carrots
6 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs fresh thyme
3tbs honey
3tbs dijon mustard
10 or so cloves
seasoning

put the ham into a large pot of water, bring to the boil and, as soon as it has started bubbling, drain and throw away the water. repeat, if the ham is very salty - you do need to follow the instructions on the packet or ask your butcher.

next, put the ham into the same pot again, cover with cold water and add all the veg, the black pepper and the herbs. bring to the boil, and for the first 10 or so minutes, skim the grey horrible stuff that collects on the surface. cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours.

when it is done, turn the heat off and leave the ham to cool in the liquid for an hour or so - or until it is completely cold.

put the oven on to heat at 220C. drain the ham, reserving the liquid (for the next recipe, to follow) and put the ham on a chopping board. with a sharp knife, take off the skin leaving a thin layer of fat on the meat. you can throw the skin away - not sure it can be used for anything else. score the fat in a criss-cross patter and stud the rhomboids with cloves.

mix the honey and the mustard in a little bowl, then smear over the ham as well as you can. this is much easier done when the ham is cold - when hot, as mine was (impatience is my middle name), the honey just melts and slides off the ham.

stick it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the skin has caramelised nicely and the ham is golden brown and sticky. yum.

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