Hugh says: There are few more spectacular things to put on a table than a whole ham on the bone glazed with an almost black crust of sugar and mustard. Traditionally ham is served on Christmas Eve
- 4.5-9kg ham, Wiltshire or Suffolk cure, ideally on the bone
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 stick of celery
- 10 black peppercorns
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 5-6 sprigs of thyme
- a small bunch of parsley stalks
- Real Parsley Sauce
- For the spiced figs
- 500g dried figs
- 125g light brown sugar
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 small dried chilli
- For the glaze
- 1 tablespoon English mustard
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 100ml rum or whisky
- 15-20 cloves
Put the ham on to soak in a large bucket of cold water 24-48 hours before cooking (depending on the size of the ham and the length of the original cure, i.e. saltiness). Change the water every 12 hours. Rinse the soaked ham and place it in a large stockpot. Cover with fresh cold water and add the onion, carrot and celery whole and peppercorns, plus the herbs, tied in a bouquet. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover partially with the lid and simmer very gently for 4-5 hours.
If after an hour of simmering the water tastes unpalatably salty, discard it and replace with fresh boiling water – this will help toreduce the saltiness of the finished ham. While the ham is simmering away, separate the dried figs if they are stuck together in a block and rinse in cold water to remove any rice flour. Put them in a heatproofbowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover them. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave for 3-4 hours.
Remove the ham from the pot and allow it to cool slightly. Meanwhile, place the mustard and sugar in a small mixing bowl and addjust enough of the rum or whisky to mix it to a thick, sludgy paste. Carefully cut away the skin of the ham, leaving a smooth, even layer offat over the meat. Place the ham in a large roasting tin, then score the fat layer with the point of a sharp knife in a coarse diamond pattern, but not so deeply as to go right through the fat to the meat.
Slosh the remaining alcohol over the fat and then spread the glaze mixture all over it in an even layer. Stud the fat with cloves atregularly spaced intervals.
Roast the ham in an oven preheated to180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 1-1 1/2 hours, until the glaze is a dark, golden-brown, bubbling crust.
Meanwhile, strain the water in which the figs have been soaking into a clean saucepan and add the sugar andspices. Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, then bring to amerry simmer and cook until reduced to a light syrup. Add the figs and poach gently in the syrup until completely tender. Remove the chilli -the other spices can be left in. If the syrup gets too thick, add a little warm water.
Carve the ham while piping hot from the oven and serve on hot plates with 2 or 3 figs, a spoonful of their syrup on themeat, and a generous pool of parsley sauce on the side. There won’t be much room on the plate for it but since this meal should be a feast in the best sense, have also on the table a large dish of creamy mashed potato, some lightly steamed cabbage tossed in butter and sprinkledwith a few caraway seeds, some plain boiled carrots, still a bitcrunchy, lightly buttered and tossed with a few mustard seeds and just a pinch of brown sugar, and some good English mustard.