Other than bringing family and friends together, what I love about Christmas, (other than the perfect excuse to eat and drink the most indulgent things at the most random times of the day,) are the familiar meals that bring memories (funny, happy and sometimes, painful) from the years past. My Ma would always cook ham for us on Christmas Eve, perfectly-timed, so that when we got back from Midnight Mass we could feast on the just-out-of-the-oven, aromatically-clove-scented, thick slices of it, with spoonfuls of chow-chow (our version of Piccalilli) and scotch bonnet pepper sauce (more on our love for condiments another time...). The cloves are something that I just cannot make my version of Christmas Ham without, it is too perfect for that salty meat to leave it out, but here I have also added a lovely sour-ish, dark and syrup sweetness from the tamarind, prune and molasses sugar glaze. A pleasant, and simple way to 'tropical-ise' your Christmas.
1kg boneless gammon joint - 1 small onion, peeled and halved - 1 carrot, cut in large chunks - 2 bay leaves - 5 peppercorns
for the glaze: 2 level tbsp tamarind paste, 100g pitted prunes, 3 tbsp molasses sugar
about 15 cloves
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
2. Pop the joint into a large pot and cover with cold water. Add the peeled onion, carrot bay leaves and peppercorns, bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and gently simmer for about 1 hour and a half, with the lid on.
3. In the meantime, to make the glaze, pop the glaze ingredients into a mortar and use a pestle to bash and grind the ingredients to make a smooth-isn paste.
4. When the ham has cooked, leave it to cool a little in the water then carefully remove it from the pot and place it in a baking tray. Carefully remove the skin, but leave a layer of fat over the meat. Use a knife to score a diagonal criss-cross pattern across the top of the fat. Generously smother the ham with the glaze and at each 'diamond' point scored into the fat, stud with a clove. Pop the ham into the oven and bake until the glaze is sticky and a little charred, for about 20 - 25 minutes, basting regularly. Enjoy hot or cold, with some hot scotch bonnet pepper sauce and with my Christmas Quinoa, if you fancy.