Ham Hot-Pot: Using Up Leftover Hams
Scottish tradition and superstitions being what they are, I can’t wish anyone a happy new year until it is actually the new year! So, on the premise that lots of people are likely to have a whole lot of leftovers in the next couple of days, here is my favourite leftover dish.
My mum makes this hot-pot, so now I do too. No idea where the original idea came from, it is similar in concept to a moussaka but using leftover ham, inter-leaved with thinly sliced potatoes and leeks, baked in a casserole in the oven in a light bechamel sauce. It is extremely moreish — I have never had a big enough portion of this dish — and we would typically serve it with steamed kale or cabbage on the side.
Due to the somewhat slapdash nature my family folklore cooking, I checked out the re-heating of previously cooked hams, and as long as you achieve a good internal cooking temperature of 140 degrees Celsius, 345 degrees Farenheit there should be no problems. See the US Department of Agriculture food safety advice on cooking and re-heating hams here.
Recipe: Ham Hot-Pot
Ingredients: (This amount served 3 adults in our house, or would serve 2 adults and 2 small ones…)
- 400g or so (how much do you have?) leftover cooked ham, this time it was a pork loin joint but could be any kind of ham or gammon joint, etc.
- 1 large Leek, thinly sliced, or 2 medium ones which is what I used
- 2 lbs/800g Potatoes, suitable varieties would be Maris Piper, King Edwards or similar, anything the supermarket says is robust enought to roast, boil and bake!
- Salt and Pepper to season
- 1 Pint of Bechamel Sauce, either store-bought or make your own by infusing milk gently with an onion studded with a few cloves, a bay leaf, grate of nutmeg or a blade of mace and some peppercorns and then making up as for a white sauce using the infused milk–BTW you always need to start with about a pint and a half of milk to get a pint of sauce. Here is Delia Smith’s classic Bechamel sauce recipe just for fun. She misses out the cloves though, no idea why?
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, 390 degrees Farenheit. Slice the ham, leeks and then the potatoes thinly, I used a mandolin for the potatoes on a medium setting and hand cut the ham and leeks. Keep the potato slices in a separate bowl of water to stop them going brown as you assemble the dish and pat them dry with kitchen paper as you layer up.
In a 2 or 3 pint greased oven-proof casserole dish, start with a layer of ham on the base, then inter-leave with layers of leeks and then overlayered potatoes, seasoning with a tiny bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper as you go. I tend to “distribute” half slices of the ham rather than overlayer it up as otherwise you run out of ham pretty quickly. I also finish with a double layer of potatoes, no idea why, just seems the right thing to do.
Make up the Bechamel sauce and pour over, and “jiggle” (a Scottish expression!) or gently shake the casserole till the sauce distributes through the layers. Bake for around 50 minutes to an hour, until the top goes golden brown, the sauce is clearly bubbling away through the casserole and the potatoes are cooked if you insert a sharp knife easily right down to the bottom, if you feel the slightest resistance try a slice and see. Slice the potatoes too thickly and this dish will take much longer in the oven, the sauce can dry out and disappear and it will be yuk, so you might want to cover with foil or parboil the potatoes first if you want to have big chunky ones in there. And yes, the casserole dish is a total pain to wash up afterwards, but promise it is worth it.