What’s for dinner tonight? Favourite recipe

spiced ham

I like recipes that are easy to follow, simple and adaptable. One of my favourites is a spiced ham which most people only make or buy at Christmas. I used to do that and now cook this all year round. Here is how I like it, served with a pear, fennel and rocket salad.


  • 1.5kg uncooked ham (smoked or unsmoked depending on your preference).

The spices & flavouring

  • Dessert spoon of peppercorns.
  • Teaspoon of coriander seeds. 
  • 3 or 4 cardamom pods.
  • 2 bay leaves. 
  • 1 star anise.
  • 1 red chilli, cut in half.
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut in half.
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut in half. 
  • 1 litre bottle of cola (can use red wine if preferred or just water).

The salad

  • 4 ripe pears.
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs.
  • Bag of rocket.

The dressing

  • 4 tablespoon olive oil.
  • 1 tablespoon honey.
  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard.
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar.
  • Half the juice of a lemon.
  • Salt & pepper to taste.


Put the peppercorns, coriander seeds, star anise and cardamom pods in a large stock pot and heat gently to toast. Once they start cracking and popping it’s time to add the onion and fennels halves and red chilli. Place the ham in the pan and pour the cola over. Top up with water until the ham is covered and bring to the boil. For a 1.5kg ham you need to simmer this for about 4–5 hours. If you haven’t got a large pot, use a smaller ham and reduce the quantities.

If you like, you can then glaze the ham. I made a marmalade glaze which is just heating up some orange marmalade to melt it and pouring over the ham. At Christmas I make this a redcurrant and port glaze and have also used mustard and honey. 

Once the glaze is poured over place in a medium to hot oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Once the ham is at room temperature, cover with cling film and put in the fridge, It should keep for at least a week. 

Prepare your salad dressing

Put all the ingredients except the seasoning in a bowl and whisk to combine, Have a taste and add salt and pepper until it is to your liking, this dressing will go with any peppery salad. Now for the salad: only three ingredients to this and it couldn’t be simpler. Cut off the fennel tops and, using a mandolin, finely slice. If you don’t have a mandolin, halve the fennel and place on a chopping board on the flat side to keep it secure then slice as finely as you can. Quarter the pears and cut out the cores, then slice finely. Place the fennel and pear in a large bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of the dressing and mix – you only want enough dressing to lightly coat them at this stage.


Place some rocket on a plate and spoon some of the salad on top. Slice the ham and roughly pull apart and scatter over the salad. Drizzle a little more dressing over to finish. 

spiced ham and fennel salad

This is a fresh tasty dish full of flavour and all the ingredients work so well together. Every element is flexible; you can use the ham for sandwiches, pea and ham soup, ham egg and chips or to stuff a chicken breast along with some cheese and I am sure you can think of a lot more! It’s great to buy a large ham and enjoy it all week long. You can choose different glazes, try honey and mustard or, if doing this at Christmas, try a port and redcurrant glaze and you could even add some Christmas spices. The salad goes just as well on it’s own, served with soda bread and is the perfect accompaniment to duck.

A spice ham really is a joy, you can chop and change this recipe as much as you like, you can even change the mix of spices. I hope you enjoy the recipe and getting in the kitchen and experimenting.

UK/IE 2013b/00058c; date of preparation: June 2015

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