back to basics: nigella’s ham!

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updated: 13th December 2017 

A cooked/grilled ham doesn’t care about seasons: it is a delicious chunk of meat effortlessly prepared & satisfying many guests’ hunger. Today we deal w/ a very special type of roast I found years ago in one of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks: the “secret ingredient” is – believe it or not – Coke!

Yes – it’s Coke: real old-fashioned Coca-Cola! Nigella Lawson (pls refer to my food books) emphasizes using real Coca-Cola – no modern offsprings like Cola-light, Cola-Zero, Cola-life, Cola-Cherry, Cola-Vanilla etc. To accompany the Coke flavour we’ll need hot & spicy mustard & sweet syrup – all applied before the roast marches into the oven to be grilled…


What is a “ham”?

We think about:

  • pork roast w/ crust
  • joint of ham
  • cured ham (mild-cured ham!)
  • gammon.

We may start with any of these types of pork. In my trusted food store I’m looking for cured ham w/ salt & slightly smoked; the following recipe was realized with a big chunk of it. (My experience: it doesn’t matter if you use salted/smoked ham even if marinated in BBQ flavour or whatever. The main flavour of the ready-to-eat ham doesn’t change much…)

…& another idea: it can be useful to soak the ham in water overnight to get rid of the excess salt. Until now I always found rather mild-cured ham so i didn’t need any soaking!


(When roaming any food blogs: I often come across recipes announcing you’ll only use 5 ingredients – Nigella’s ham needs only 6 ingredients: I like this!)

What do we need?

  • Cured ham w/ crust
  • Coke (of course!)
  • onions
  • mustard
  • syrup
  • cloves.

That’s all!



The cured ham is placed in a fitting pot. (If the pot is larger than necessary you’ll need more Coke.) Don’t remove the skin nor the fat. Place the ham with the skin down on the bottom of the pot.



Start with spicy red onions & chop them roughly. (You may also use any other type of onion, e. g. white onions, but it should be a real hot one.)



Add the chopped onion to the ham & fill up with Coke. The ham shall be covered.

Then put on the heat. If it starts bubbling put a lid on the pot & reduce heat – however, boiling w/ a little bubbling is necessary!



After some hours… (estimate about 15 min for heating & about 1 h per 1.000 gr ham – I had a ham of 1.800 gr so it was 123 min apps. 2 hours…) …there’s the cooked ham!

What to do with the liquid?

  • You may all of it just pour away – if you don’t like any gravy.
  • You may pour away all of the liquid except a litre or so & blend liquid & soft onions with a handheld blender.
  • (You may also blend all of the liquid & the soft onions with a handheld blender, divide it appropriately & freeze it some in freezer suitable containers for later use or you don’t blend anything & use & freeze only the liquid – it’s your choice!)

You can use the (blended) liquid for preparing some gravy (adding red wine, mustard, some more stock – whatever!)… Remember: this blog entry deals with the ham – and not with preparing any gravy!

So: we placed the ham on a cutting board – now it should rest a little & cool little.




It’s time to mix the mustard & the syrup. Don’t use any sweet mustard: I recommend a rather hot & spicy one!

Syrup… You can use sugar beet syrup as well as maple syrup. Other possibilities include apple syrup or similar syrups… & of course you can also use honey. Or you can add brown sugar. Or you may combine different syrups, honeys, sugars… (e. g. if there are only small amounts left in glasses or bottles from cook adventures in the past!).

The mix might get runny – it shouldn’t be too runny. Reason (I think!): mustard! Just add some more syrup or sugar.


Last time I prepared this special ham I just put the mustard on the ham & drizzles brown sugar on top. Some of the sugar melted, but overall the mess didn’t get runny, but stuck lazily on the ham.





Next step: carefully cut off the skin & most of the fat. A thin fat layer of about 5 mm should remain. Cut it like a diamond pattern. (It’s up to you if save the fat for future use when frying whatever…)




Put a clove in each crossing. Cover everything with the mustard-syrup-mix… but before put the ham on (or in) a baking tray. It will drip – doesn’t matter – you’ve put it in a baking tray before the dripping starts.

Now it can rest in the oven: for some hours or overnight.

If you like the ham for dinner you should start heating the oven about 45 min before dinner. It’s about 200 degrees C with fan. Finally you can add about 5 min with 225 or 240 degrees C…it depends how crackling the crust you like. (I admit: I like it more soft so I often skip the last act.)

Then it’s ready:

  • The ham is smoky, sweet & spicy.
  • The Coke made it smoky & BBQ like.
  • The mustard added the spiciness & hotness.
  • …and the syrup/honey/sugar is just sweetness.

Last step (before enjoying): remove the cloves with a pair of tweezers!


It’s also possible to use a roasting tin (w/o lid!): put in the prepared & soaked ham, add quarters of big sweet onions & tomatoes, small potatoes, some carrots cut into 3-4 pieces each, half-moon slices of a Hokkaido… until the ham is surrounded by vegetables. Put it in the oven at 175° C w/ fan for at least 1 h – the vegetables have to be soft. So you can combine preparing the ham w/ preparing some vegetables!





back to basics: nigella’s ham!

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Servings: 8-10

back to basics: nigella’s ham!

A cooked/grilled ham doesn't care about seasons: it is a delicious chunk of meat effortlessly prepared & satisfying many guests' hunger. Today we deal w/ a very special type of roast I found years ago in one of Nigella Lawson's cookbooks: the "secret ingredient" is - believe it or not - Coke!


  • about 1.500 - 2.000 gr mild-cured ham
  • 2.000 - 2.500 ml Coke
  • 2 red onions
  • 3 tablespoons sugar beet syrup OR honey OR brown sugar OR any other syrup
  • 3 tablespoons mustard (hot & spicy, but not sweet)
  • lots of cloves

How to...

  1. Soak the cured ham if necessary.
  2. Put the cured ham in a fitting pot - the skin should be down on bottom.
  3. Chop roughly 2 red onions & add them to the cured ham.
  4. Add the Coke - the ham should be covered.
  5. Heat for about 15 min until boiling.
  6. Cover the pot & let the ham boil for 90 - 120 min (depending on its weight).
  7. Take the ham out of the pot & save the liquid for later.
  8. Carefully cut off the skin & the fat - only a fat layer of about 5 mm should remain.
  9. Cut the fat layer in diamond shape.
  10. Pin a clove in each crossing.
  11. Mix the mustard & the syrup.
  12. Put the ham on/in a baking tray - fat layer on top!
  13. Cover the ham with the mustard-syrup mix.
  14. Let it rest until you'll need it for finishing (up to some hours or overnight). Don't put it in the fridge.
  15. Put it in the oven & heat the oven to 200 degrees C w/ fan.
  16. Let it heat up for about 45 min.
  17. Put it under the grill (225 - 240 degrees) for about 5 min & watch it; stop the grilling when it starts blackening.
  18. Put the ham on a cutting board; remove the cloves with a pair of tweezers.


Prep Time: This includes the preparation before cooking the ham in Coke as well as the removing of the skin & the underlying fat.

Cook Time: This includes the cooking of the ham in Coke & the reheating & grilling in the oven. If you use a chunk of ham bigger than 2.000 gr you'll have a longer cooking time.


Cooking w/ Coke?
Isn’t this a no-go? I thought so because there were always warnings about health issues – if real or not – by my parents all over my childhood (I wasn’t allowed to drink Coke…). It stuck to me, but I couldn’t resist when reading the recipe.

Ok: what else?

You can serve the roast for dinner together with mashed potatoes & red cabbage… or roast potatoes & baked pumpkin… or a lot of other classic dinner combinations. In this case you should estimate about 200 – 250 gr ham per person. Therefore a ham of 1,5 – 2,0 kg will serve about 6-8 people.

Don’t do all the work w/ less ham! (If you only want to entertain 2 people stay with a real big ham! The leftovers are great!)

You can also prepare a ham for any buffet: just slice the ham as thin as possible &  with classics like potato salad, pasta salad, cole slaw… (Don’t forget the extra mustard!) You can heat it up or let it cool to room temperature – it will be fine & satisfy about 10-20 people depending on the rest of your buffet.

…and finally you can use thin slices of ham for any sandwich or to be served for breakfast with scrambled eggs!

…and if there are any more leftovers think of activating your wok & stirfry chopped ham with vegetables & lots of Asian spices. The sweet-hot-smoky flavour of the ham (of course not a chill-like hotness!)  fits easily into Asian dishes.




As I mentioned you can use the crust & fat cut off before the oven session for further frying… or not – it depends alone on your preferences.

The liquid, the broth: you may smooth all of it (it’s a lot!) & add some mustard & red wine… to create a sauce for dinner or use it as special stock for soups: anyway you can freeze it for later.


The Businesswoman with too many office hours thinks

So I can start with the ham at least 1 day before. It may marinate overnight. Then I only have to start the oven, reheat it & put on some serious heat the get a crackling crust…

Such a big chunk of meat is impressive (may be my part of a buffet I order at a catering service) meaning that I can feed a lot of people with low time & effort.







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