Cooking With Max Rocha: Roast Ham and Winter Greens

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Courtesy Max Rocha

With Christmas in Ireland off the cards, the Dublin-born, London-based chef gets nostalgic for his mother’s wholesome holiday cooking

Max Rocha is a London-based chef who has worked at some of London’s finest restaurants, from St John Bread and Wine to The River Café. Over the coming weeks, he will share a series of seasonal recipes to enjoy while restaurants remain shut.

As tier three was announced (swiftly followed by tier four) and restaurants closed their shutters around London, all I could think about was every close friend in the food industry that’s suffering due to this crisis, and how impressive it is that so many businesses are adapting to the daily changes of tiers on such short notice. All I can hope for is that next year we can all eat together again and support the restaurants we all love to spend time in with loved ones.

I grew up in Dublin, and this is the first year ever I'll be unable to be with my family and Dublin friends on Christmas day. But a Zoom call in the morning will be followed by a turkey cooked by a friend in my bubble, so I’m lucky where I am. This recipe reminds me of Ireland, Christmas and my mother’s cooking.

Roast Ham and Winter Greens

Two kg unsmoked gammon joint, tied by your butcher and extra fatty if they have it.
Two onions, peeled and quartered
Two carrots, peeled and quartered
Two bay leafs
Two cans of cider
10 peppercorns
One savoy cabbage (outer leaves removed)
One bunch of cavelo nero (stalks removes)
200g brown sugar
200g dijon mustard

  1. Place the gammon in a large heavy bottom pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then drain the water to get rid of any impurities.
  2. Add fresh cold water to the pan alongside the two cans of cider, bay, peppercorns, onions and carrots.
  3. Bring to the boil once more, then reduce to a simmer and cook the ham gently and make sure the ham is constantly submerged during the cooking process. The rule for boiling a piece of ham is 20 minutes per 500g
  4. When the ham is cooked, carefully remove it but keep the ham poaching liquor. Allow the ham to cool for 30 minutes
  5. Preheat a fan oven to 180 degrees.
  6. In a roasting tin, place your boiled ham, score the fat with a sharp knife and push your cloves into the fat.
  7. Combine the mustard and brown sugar together in a bowl with a whisk or fork and smear all over your ham keeping back a little for later.
  8. Roast the ham for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown, halfway through, baste the ham and use up the rest of your glaze.
  9. When the ham is cooked and out of the oven, blanch the cabbage and cavelo nero in the ham poaching liquor. Once the vegetables are cooked, dress in a little mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper and serve alongside your roast ham.