Thursday, 14 March 2013


My maternal grandmother's maiden name was Cecil; it is part of family legend that we are descended from Elizabeth I's Secretary of State. Another is that we have all inherited something called the "Cecil Mean Gene". That is to say, put at its gentlest, we avoid spending money and gain serious satisfaction from a bargain. Last night, I found myself in precisely that frame of mind while wandering around the supermarket. I lingered over the "Reduced to Clear" shelves, a place where there is a hint of tension. Will anything really exciting arrive there during my survey, so I get first dibs? Will someone manage to grab something before I do? I tend to watch people like a hawk, noticing what they pick up, occasionally willing them to return it so that I can then snatch it. It's like a return to toddlerhood.

What I found last night was a large piece of gammon which had been reduced to half price - the reason being, I surmised, that the best before date was that very day. Into the basket it went.

At home, I decided to conduct a little experiment. The gammon would be simply roasted. I stuck a few cloves in. Then, taking an idea from Nigella Lawson (cooking ham in coca cola) I tipped over the ham the dregs of a bottle of ginger beer and then smeared some honeycomb on top, put it into a hot oven and waited for a couple of hours.

I think it worked. The ginger beer had completely dried up on the bottom of the roasting tin. The fat of the ham was completely blackened and shiny. The ham itself was neither too moist nor too dry. I had some of the end for breakfast this morning, with unsalted butter, coarse grain mustard, in a hot cross bun.

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