Valentine Warner: Ham with autumn vegetables in Parsley Sauce

Before going to the white wall to await ‘steady, aim, fire’, I’m pretty sure that my last meal would be ham in parsley sauce. Of course the gaol cook would be excellent! It’s hard to make this kind of decision – having eaten so many wonderful things I feel a traitor – but a plate of this dish, a glass of cider and the Sunday papers is simply unbeatable.

Serves 6-8      


3 small onions  

3 celery sticks  

3 leeks 200ml milk

6 medium carrots         

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1 small swede              

1 x 2kg uncooked, unsmoked ham       

3 bay leaves    

4 cloves

Parsley sauce

50g butter

75g plain flour

1 level teaspoon English mustard powder(optional)

1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 large bunch of fresh parsley

Clean the vegetables.

Peel the onions and then halve them from top to bottom, leaving a little of the hard root end to ensure each half does not come apart.

De-string and halve the celery sticks and cut the leeks across the middle too.

Trim any tops from the carrots and leave them whole. Peel and chop the swede into six pieces.

Lower your ham into a good-sized flameproof pot that can comfortably accommodate the vegetables as well.

Well cover with cold water and drop the vegetables in with the bay and cloves.

Bring all this to a gentle simmer. Skim when necessary. Sitting on the top, it will need to cook for 2-21/2 hours, lid off.

When the ham is cooked, turn off the heat and leave it to sit while you make the sauce.

In a saucepan, melt the butter on a medium heat before stirring in the flour and mustard powder.

Use a whisk, as it will help banish any lumps. Let this all foam, but do not let it colour! About 1 minute will be fine.

Mix the milk and 500ml of the stock from the ham in a measuring jug. Add this bit by bit. The sauce will immediately clag up, but not to worry; just continue adding more liquid, as it will loosen.

Stir in the grain mustard if you want it. Leave the sauce to slowly tick over on a light simmer.

Pick the parsley leaves and then finely chop them. Don’t add them to the sauce until you are ready to eat, or they will turn a khaki colour.

Carve the ham and place it in the centre of a good-sized platter, surrounded by the soft vegetables. Once seated, lift these to the plates and blanket with the parsley sauce. If potatoes are required, I suggest boiled ones.