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Ham cooked in cola with a brown sugar crust

My take on Nigella Lawson's classic coke-soaked ham

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I've been meaning to cook a proper ham for years, but something about the boiling (with all the usual scum - plus do you salt it, or wash it? Who knows) and then the glazing and roasting put me off. However, one of our elderly neighbours likes to thank us for helping him with gifts of raw meat (don't mention the out-of-date chicken we once got) and just before Christmas we were presented with a smoked gammon joint. So - to the cookery books! And of course, to Nigella for her classic ham in cola recipe.

You will need

For boiling bit:

1 large piece of gammon ham - I used a 1.7kg smoked gammon joint

Half an onion, quartered

Half a leak, roughly chunked

2 litres cola (save a slosh for the crust)

For the crust:

2 slices brown bread blitzed into bread crumbs

100g dark brown muscavado sugar

2 tsp Colman's mustard powder

1tbsp (ish) wholegrain mustard

Slosh of cola


I feel like a proper country cook (even though I am devoid of Aga) doing this recipe. It involves using a large saucepan, and something about really large saucepans makes me feel extremely grown up. Once I was over my small existential crisis I cut up the onion and leak and popped the gammon on top of some of them in the LARGE saucepan. Pour in the cola in on top and THAT'S IT. Using Nigella's instructions, I let is simmery-boil for about 2.5hrs. I didn't even think about soaking the ham or washing it, and luckily it didn't seem necessary.

Just before the end of the simmering time, I prepped the oven and crust. Set the oven to 200C (standard) and then prep the crust ingredients. I did deviate from Nigella just a bit here, but I think this is the part of the recipe that you can really freestyle on. The boiling is really doing all the work and this crust will just be baked on later. In a bowl I mixed together fresh bread crumbs made from the heels of a brown loaf. This was approximately 200g worth I think. I had 100g of muscavado sugar, which was perfect. I thought the required 2 TABLESPOONS of mustard powder in the original recipe seemed a bit explosive, so I opted for 2 teaspoons instead (plus I didn't want to use it all up, as I have to make some gougere soon). I had retained about 2 tablespoons of the cola (worth noting here that I bought the cheapest supermarket own brand) and sloshed it in and made the mixture into a squidgy paste.

Here (left) is how the ham looked when it had been boiled for the full 2.5hours (complete with bits of leak hanging off it). I cut the string and removed it at this point and placed the hot ham on a baking tray. Do let the ham cool a bit if you want to - as the next job is to peel the skin off the top, leaving a bit of the fat underneath. The skin comes off easily - I was going to keep it to make crackling, but I'm not sure if that would work - worth a try maybe, put perhaps it's too soggy after all the boiling? Worth noting, you can leave the ham to completely cool at this point and then glaze/crust later - say if you were serving for supper.

Anyway, once the strings are off and the skin removed, score the remaining fat with a sharp knife and then press the crust mixture into the scored fat and down the sides of the ham.

Once the crust is pressed onto the ham, pop it into the oven for about 30-35 minutes. If the ham is cooled - ie if you've cooked it the day before - then you might need longer in the oven. The crust will still be soft-ish, but it will harden slightly as it cools. I tucked into the ham, to check to see if it was good (disclaimer - yes it was) and it felt more like pulled pork than slicing ham, but once cooled it now slices like a dream and is absolutely delicious.


Full credit to Nigella Lawson and her recipe from How To Eat. It's the only recipe that used the breadcrumbs as a crust rather than a glaze and hard to find online. But I did alter the ingredients a bit in the crust - and would happily replace various mustards with whatever I have in the larder if needs be.


There are, of course, many variations to the crust. It tastes delicious though, sweet and savoury, tangy and crunchy - a great addition to the ham when served cold with parsley sauce etc. I think next time I'll try a more traditional glaze, but the good thing to note is that the ham is cooked by the stove-top boiling, so the oven time is only for the glaze.

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