Alice Wrobel of the London Pantry shares her recipe for ham with pears and fennel. On first inspection ham and pears might seem like a curious pairing, but the sweetness of the fruit and sticky fennel sits perfectly against the saltiness of the smoked ham.
Smoked gammon joint, boned and rolled (1.75kg should feed 6 people with enough for leftovers)
1 apple, peeled, cored and quartered
2 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and halved and studded with 4 cloves
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 large pears - ripe but not too soft - peeled, halved and cored
1 large fennel bulb, shredded and keep the fronds for garnish
3 large banana shallots, peeled and halved
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp honey
If there is skin and fat on your gammon joint, you will need to cut this away and then re-roll and tie the joint so it is easier to ask your butcher to do this for you if you can. Place the gammon in the largest saucepan that you own and fill with cold water. Place over a medium heat and bring to a gentle boil before draining and refilling with cold water. Add the apple, bay leaves, peppercorns and onion studded with cloves. Bring to a simmer and place the lid on the saucepan, ajar.
The ham will need to simmer for a couple of hours so while it is cooking prepare your pears and rub them in lemon juice to stop them browning. I find the easiest way to core pears is using a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed, shallow sided saucepan and add the shredded fennel; cook over a low heat until soft. Remove the fennel from the pan, retaining as much of the butter as possible and set aside in a warm place before adding the shallots and pears cut side down.
Turn the pears and shallots every so often; you want them lightly caramelised to add some colour. Return the fennel to the pan before adding salt, lemon juice and honey; you might need more honey depending on how sweet you like it but the two make a wonderful glaze when combined with the butter.
The pears, shallot and fennel can sit happily in a warm place while you finish the ham. Drain the stock and place the ham in a snugly fitting roasting tin; drizzle with rapeseed oil, spread the mustard over the ham and place in an over at 180° for 20-30 minutes; at this stage the ham is already cooked so roasting it will simply add colour and flavour.
Allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes before carving thinly. Place the pears, fennel and shallots and their juices around the edge of a platter and place the carved ham in the middle. Garnish with the fennel fronds and serve with buttery mash or baked potatoes, a heap of steamed cavolo nero and a dollop of mustard.