Saturday, December 18, 2010


Jain over at Food For Thought has a wonderful blog with three elements that I love - Food (of course), Books (nearly as good) and Great Photography (and I mean great).  She reviews a book, picking out any foodie vignettes, then she cooks/bakes these dishes and photographs them (often in her magnificent Californian garden).  She has asked her readers to review their favourite Christmas books, and throw a bit of cooking in there too - no better woman!

There are two reasons I am delighted to write this post, firstly just love Alice Taylor's "The Night Before Christmas" and secondly I wanted to introduce any non-Nigella disciples (?!) to her Ham in Cola, which is the nicest way to cook ham ... ever.  I would even be so bold as to recommend it as a way to cook your Christmas Ham.

The Night Before Christmas is a quaint book about a child's Christmas in a backwater* in the south of Ireland in the 1940s.  Alice Taylor remembers with incredible clarity all the details of her childhood Christmases; heading off with her siblings to cut holly to decorate the house, helping her mother pluck the geese for Christmas dinner, hilariously helping a neighbour clean her chimney, waiting for Santy to arrive and the excitement of finding a school bag and a doll on Christmas morning.

Food (obviously) plays a huge part in Alice's Christmas memories - buying muscatel raisins for the Christmas cakes, the excitement of receiving a box of fancy chocolates from a cousin who had returned from abroad for the holidays, goose cooked on the bastable over the fire and of course the ham (which they started eating at breakfast time on Christmas morning)

"When we had the kitchen to ourselves, our first priority was to settle down to attack the big ham in the centre of the table.  This was the ham that had matured up the chimney and hung off the meat hook from the ceiling;  my mother had boiled and baked it in a shroud of breadcrumbs and honey, and now all her loving care paid dividends because it was beautifully moist and tender" 

Moist and tender but not huge!

  I was introduced to this book through my book-club a few years ago, and I now read it every Christmas - it is the most wonderful "get in the Christmas mood" aid ever (along with a carol service or a kiddies Nativity play, tearing up at the thought!!).  When you have spent the day queueing for parking spaces, queueing at shopping tills, queueing, queueing queueing, it is wonderful to come home and escape to a Christmas filled with simple pleasures and NO shopping!!!

*My only issue with the book is that it is set in the 1940s when there was electricity here in Ireland (I have asked someone I know who was a child then about their childhood Christmases, their memories would be of a far more modern type experience, none the less magical for that though!) Alice's memories seem to be of of an older time (there were some far flung pockets around the country that took an age to get "the electric") and are (for the reader anyway) more magical and nostalgic for that.

Now onto the ham, this is a wonderful way to cook it, it has been my method of choice since I bought How To Eat 100 years ago!  I have toyed with other methods over the years but like a faithful Labrador I always return!!!

Ham in Cola

2kg              mild-cure gammon*
2 litre           Coke (minus 2 tbsp for glaze)**
1                  onion
1 or 2           bayleaves (my addition)

100g            fresh breadcrumbs
100g            dark muscovado sugar
1 tbsp          mustard powder
2 tbsp          Dijon mustard
2 tbsp          Coke

* You can alter the recipe for smaller joints, less Coke and cooking time.
**The Coke must be full sugar, but can be any cheap brand.

Place the gammon (raw ham), chopped onion, and bay leaves in an appropriately sized pot, cover with the Coke.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.  A 2kg joint needs to be simmered like this for 2 1/2 hours, smaller joints will need less time, but I would err on the side of over rather than undercooking a ham.
Before the ham is finished boiling preheat the oven to 210 C.
Prepare a roasting tin for the ham by lining it with tinfoil (very important if you don't want to spend 3 hours cleaning it afterwards!!)
When ready remove the ham from the pot to the prepared tin and allow to cool slightly (or completely if you want to preprepare the dish to this stage*)
Remove the skin, leaving a layer of fat.
Mix the breadcrumbs, sugar (I used honey this time), and the mustards to a paste, add the Coke a little at a time to bring the paste to a spreadable consistency (you don't want it runny).
Cover the fat side of the ham with the paste (and of course cook it fat side up).
Cook in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes. (I often roast mine at a slightly lower temperature for longer as we like our ham quite dry)
*If you are cooking the ham from cold it will need 30/40 minutes at 180 C.



From Beyond My Kitchen Window said...

What a great recipe. You can use coke in a lot of things. My sister makes a pot roast with coke and it is to die for, extremely tender. Love your review on the book. I will have to look for that one. Ham recipe looks easy and sounds delicious.

Mary said...

Love the sound of your book, I must check it out! Your ham sounds delish, I'll have to try it that way~ "like a faithful Labrador I always return", LOL. Coke truly is a wonder ingredient!Thanks for sharing this recipe & your book!

Jacqueline said...

The book sounds fabulous and your ham looks fabulous. I have never done a raw ham before. I am sure it is incredibly flavorful and tender.

Ah, to celebrate Christmas in a simpler time!

Chele said...

Sweet christmas tradition ;0)
The ham looks great too!

a quiet life said...

i am so glad you joined in and cracked up how you want to initiate the non nigellas right off the bat! the bad news it you showed me the ham before the book, and my mouth is watering so much i can barely read on!
i am definitely going to look for this book, i am so glad you joined in to share it!

thank you so much for playing at food for thought, i am suddenly ravenous, you have just got me craving that ham~

Sommer said...

This looks so delicious! I so want to do a Christmas Ham. I may hmmmm :)

Charlene said...

The book sounds wonderful & the ham even better. I just tried to post a comment & I don't know if it's my computer or Blogger acting up. Hope you don't get two. Merry Christmas! Charlene

laurie said...

This is an interesting recipe...ham and coke, sounds wonderful!

Sarah said...

The book sounds fun and the ham looks delicious. Thanks for sharing in FFT. Christmas ham sounds like a good idea.
Happy Holidays! ~ Sarah

Unknown said...

well, i've ordered my Christmas Ham and have been reviewing recipes constantly so its really good to see you've gone for this version and I'm glad to see it's worked... blogging's great isn't it/ you'll always find what you want in the end!

... I may substitute the Coke for a sweet cider or ginger beer just to be obnoxious! x

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

I enjoy ham and this sounds easy and looks delicious! I'm also going to look for that book! Thanks for all the information! And thanks for sending me over to "Food for Thought." Have a wonderful day!

Anonymous said...

I saw nigella making this on tv. It sounds fascinating :D I bet it has a really sweet and lovely coating on it.
Wishing you a very Happy Holidays.
*kisses* HH

Domestic Goddess Wannabe said...

I love the Ham in Coca-Cola too - we made it riskily for the first time when we had a load of friends for dinner and it paid off tenfold. Everyone loved it. I think a christmas ham is a must-have!

Like the sound of the book too. Is going on my (long) list.

La Bella Cooks said...

Sounds like a lovely book. I am starting to really enjoy ham recently and just had to last night for an Xmas party. Yours looks fabulous!

Unknown said...

I love the cover of the book too. It sounds great!

This ham looks and sounds great as well. I love ham and am always looking for new ways to prepare!

My Little Space said...

The ham looks so irresistible! The outer crust looks really juicy delicious. Thanks for sharing. It's a beautiful recipe. Enjoy your day & have fun!
Cheers, Kristy

Tammy said...

I have always heard of people using cola to make their hams. I've never made it, but tasted hams that other people have made with cola and I absolutely loved it!! I'm not much of a ham eater either. Your recipe is very simple and easy to follow. Speaking of follow, I'm now following you:) You have a beautiful blog. Merry Christmas to you and yours.