Soul food isn’t necessarily good for the body. Perhaps that’s why how much you eat is important to watch. There isn’t much zen in spending an entire evening feeling belly-full to bursting, it doesn’t matter how good the food was or how much you enjoyed eating it. Lessons learned and relearned countless times. At which point does knowing something is true become living it?
Cutting down on something you love is one of the hardest things imaginable. Often there is a terrible love-hate war within. Whether your vices are drink or cigs or food or drugs (and how many people have more than one of these?) one isn’t easier to deny than another. It’s noticeable that all of these mentioned are ‘things’ you apply to your body.
Despite having family connections with Islam (my Grandfather was Muslim, originating from India and his father’s family from the Middle East) my main residing knowledge of Islam stems from one lesson in R.E. at school at the age of about 14.
Islam teaches ‘everything in moderation’. (Believe it or not).
It is a simple case to apply. Drink, smoke, eat and be happy. But don’t eat too much. Stop smoking before you get permanently damaged and drink only often enough for it to be special. Everything in moderation. It may be simple but it isn’t easy.
It’s possible to become obsessed about eating only what is good for you. Calorie counting, checking the ‘nutritional information’ and avoiding anything with pesticides is all very well, but it’s so easy to be gullible. Better to know what you are eating, even if it is processed and personalise your purchases by using local shops and talking to the people that provide the products. It’s no good buying a ‘free range’ chicken from some place you’ve never heard of if the so-called free range chook comes from a massive ‘free range’ processing plant where the chickens get exactly 1 sq m to comply with their free rangeness (but institutionalised into the life of the chickenhouse, they never actually venture out of the door).
The same goes for eating processed foods. As long as you know what goes into them and you only eat them irregularly, there’s a good chance they won’t infect you with their evil. Take Coca-Cola. Originally it contained both extracts of cocaine and the caffeine-high kola plant. Who’s betting it tasted better in 1904?! Not that cocaine is a good idea in any quantity, but the chemical concoction we’re drinking now probably has about as much ‘natural’ ingredient in it as a homeopathic remedy.
However, ham in Coca-Cola is a taste-full Nigella recipe (before her days of teenage food as rendered in her recent book Kitchen), mimicked (or bastardised, it depends how you look at it) here in Magpie fashion. This is grown up kitsch with style.
1 ham joint (gammon or bacon, preferably gammon). 500g/2lb in this case, 2kg in the recipe.
1 2L bottle of Coca-Cola.
(There’s supposed to be an onion, but it got forgotten about in this rendition).
Put the joint in a saucepan and cover with the coke, reserving about 1 tbsp of the liquid. (Add the onion, cut in half).
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 mins.
How to tell it’s cooked: It’s not failsafe but if you stick a sharp knife in the raw meat and try to lift it, you’ll find it tries to slide off. If you stick it when it’s cooked through, the joint will grip the knife. Also if the juices run clear (although that can be hard to tell with a non-bloody ham joint) when you pull out the knife.
Set the oven going at 210 deg C.
Slice off the skin with a sharp knife, leaving a narrow band of fat and mash together the following ingredients:
about 100g breadcrumbs,
a teaspoon of treacle and three of caster sugar (or about 100g brown muscovado)
3 teaspoons of English Mustard (the recipe said Dijon and English Mustard powder, but you have what you have in your own cupboards).
A cautious splash of the reserved coke.
You want a thick paste so that you can coat the outside of the fat (and so that it stays on). Press it on.
Put the encrusted joint into the hot oven (and not before. Magpie ended up with a slightly dry result) for about 15 minutes, until the crust is browned.
Nigella’s authority is that the reserved cola stock from the boiling of the ham makes a terrific base for black bean soup, so that will be the second meal we create with the ham*. (The first meal will be simple, adulterated, coked up ham with crushed, roasted potatoes and broad beans).
*Black beans courtesy of Suma, purchased from Packhorse Stores, Kirkby Stephen.