Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Hamming it up

HEAVENLY HAM...My ma’s baked ham and onion sauce is one of my favourite dishes.

HEAVENLY HAM…My ma’s baked ham and onion sauce is one of my favourite dishes.

Hands up who likes ham!  Yeah, me too. It’s one of the joys of life, as far as I can tell.

I actually tried to make my own ham once. I had the hind leg of a fattened swine and I dug out a recipe for a Wiltshire cure off the internet (molasses, beer, brine – it was a wile concoction of stuff), but it all ended acrimoniously after the meat ‘turned’ before it was ready.


Apparently, this is a risk you take when trying to cure ham that you haven’t de-boned. Lesson learnt and all that.

However, one of my favourite dinners at me ma’s is when she does her own baked ham and onion sauce.

It’s a winner all day long and it keeps on giving too, what with the follow-up sarnies, omelettes or pasta dishes that just LOVE ham as the main ingredient.

We had it on Sunday past at home, simply served with three veg and a dollop of said sauce (see pic opposite). I had three helpings, not to mention the snaffling which occurred when I was asked to carve.

I wasn’t the only one to blame though, they were all at it. The sticky bits of caramelised fat were particularly unbelievable.

Technically, we’re talking a gammon joint, versions of which are available in supermarkets and butchers across the country. Whether or not you go smoked or un-smoked is up to you. But let’s be honest, they’re both going to be magic.

I won’t insult you by suggesting how you boil, steam or roast your vegetables but I do recommend you try this with the onion sauce.


It’s basically a béchamel with added oomph. Also, I’ve included mustard in my sauce recipe. ‘Cause it’s class.


1 1.5 – 2kg gammon joint, smoked or un-smoked
glass of water
1 bay leaf
6/7 peppercorns
1 onion, chopped
40g of butter
tbsp of plain flour
tsp of mustard powder
150ml of gammon stock
the same of full fat milk
3 tbsps of the cooking liquor
tsp of English mustard or wholegrain (optional)
salt and pepper


  • Start your ham. Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C and while that’s happening put the joint into a casserole dish which has been lined with tin foil. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns and the glass of water and then tuck over the foil so that it’s all securely wrapped.
  • Add a lid for good measure and retire to the oven for 30minutes before turning the temperature down to 140˚C. Let it rip for another three and a half hours. By this time the kitchen should be filled with an incredible smell.
  • Remove the ham from the oven and take out those tablespoons of the juices. Then wrap it up again to rest while you make your sauce.
  • Melt half the butter in a saucepan and add the chopped onions. Sweat on a lowish heat until completely soft – about 15 minutes or so.
  • Turn the heat up a little and stir in the plain flour and the mustard powder. Cook it out for at least a minute – the same as you would an ordinary béchamel.
  • Now start adding the milk and whisking it through. Until it’s all gone.
  • Now begin to add the stock, stirring or whisking all the while.
  • Add the little cooking liquor that you reserved and whisk that through as well. Turn down the heat to the barest simmer and then carve the ham joint.
  • Stir through the remaining butter and then taste the sauce for seasoning – and add that last teaspoon of mustard if using. It probably won’t need a lot of salt because of the salty cooking liquor but it’ll take a grinding of pepper.

Serve the succulent slices with lots of sauce and whatever veg you like. But honestly, you could dip cardboard into this sauce and it would still taste great.

The big upside of course is that, this being ham, the left-overs will live happily in the fridge for several days whilst you think up imaginative ways to use it up. But more on that another time.

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