Week 1/2024 (part 1): All of the ham

Week of 1 January 2024

Cooking with ham

Because I was unwell (and still am), Saturday was my first cooking day since Christmas day. I decided to cook a dish using ham.


Well, Kramstable had brought home a gigantic ham this week from work. It was bigger than we’d have ever got for ourselves, probably even bigger than one we’d have ordered for a family Christmas, had we ordered one. As you might imagine, ham and cheese toasties have been on the menu a lot.

I didn’t want that (or ham and pineapple pizza) for dinner but I’ve never cooked with ham and had no idea what to do.

So, I turned to a book I got last year to help me out. This is The Food Saver’s A-Z by Alex Elliot-Howery and Jaimee Edwards. Alex is one of the owners of Cornersmith Cafe in Sydney and, with Jaimee, has also authored the book Use It All, about minimising food waste and getting the most out of the food you buy by using all of it.

The Food Savers’ A-Z

The Food Saver’s A-Z takes this a step further.

As the name suggests, it’s an A-Z directory of over 150 food items. It’s packed with suggestions on how to use left over food in your fridge or pantry, in particular, those vegetables that kind of get forgotten about in the back of the fridge.

I am very guilty of this, and bought this book to help me not do it as much.

The cover of a book with a back cover and the words The Food Saver's A-Z The Essential Cornersmith Kitchen Companion
The Food Saver’s A-Z

Food waste is a big contributor to environmental damage, and there are some terrible statistics around about how much food Australians throw away every year. According to the Australia Institute, it’s 7.6 tonnes a year, the equivalent of 152 Sydney Harbour Bridges, at a cost of $19.3 billion (or over $2,000 per household).

It also results in profits of $1.2 billion for the food industry—I presume because people rebuy things they’ve let go too long and thrown out. I despise the food duopoly Colesworths so if there’s something I can do (apart from never shopping there) that can help reduce their profit and influence, I’m all for it.

So, what do you do with ham anyway?

The Food Saver’s A-Z lists some ideas for using up ham, including putting it on pizza (done, thanks Kramstable) and making stock with the bone. That one was always on my radar but wasn’t exactly a dinner solution.

At the bottom of the page is a recipe called “Ham in greens”, which the book describes as “a variation on a Southern US Classic that customarily uses collard greens to go with ham”. My thoughts immediately turned to Honeychild’s Creole cooking and I read on.

For this dish, Alex and Jaimee suggest using their “Tastiest bunch of kale” recipe, adding chopped ham and serving with mashed potato and cornbread. The kale recipe involves using an entire bunch of kale (described as “something we wish we’d never bought”, which seems harsh). It gives you five options for cooking it depending on whether you want a main course or a side dish.

What impressed me about this is when it says it uses the entire bunch, it means it. Stalks and all. The stalk is a part I’d normally throw away, but for this recipe you slice them very thinly and sauté with an onion.

A pile of washed kale leaves, with chopped kale stalks in front of it
Cooking all the kale

Then you add some garlic, pepper and chilli flakes, before throwing in the washed and torn kale leaves and two cups of liquid. This can be stock, wine, tinned tomatoes, or a combination of whatever you have.

For a main course, which I was looking for, I added stock, white wine vinegar and a tin of tomatoes, along with a tin of white beans. This cooked for about 30 minutes when I added (a large) quantity of diced ham. The recipe suggests adding some harissa paste or fermented chilli, but, having decided to serve this with Honeychild’s Tasmanian corn bread, I mixed in some of the chipotle sauce that Toni had given us on one of our foody adventures to her driveway diner.

A hand holding a half-full jar of a red-brown sauce
Chipotle sauce from Honeychild

It was perfect for this dish!

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. And now I know how to cook the stems of kale (I had absolutely no idea this was a thing), that’s one less food I’ll be throwing into the compost.

A blue plate with a serving of cooked kale, white beans and ham served with potato mash and cornbread
The finished dish

Thanks, Alex and Jaimee, and thank you, Toni, for the condiment that made the dish!


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