Last week I made Rotis, after a visit to Shepherd’s Bush Market but I felt I should strive to find an even more authentic taste of the Caribbean. I am not a great fan of Akee and Saltfish, although people have often tried to convince me otherwise, and I always find Rice and Peas just a little disappointing, considered its hype. So I turned to Jerk, with its authentic mix of spices, such as allspice, nutmeg and the ubiquitous Scotch Bonnet. Jerk appears to be a term which refers to three different procedures of cooking. Firstly the meet must be jerked, or stabbed. Secondly a fiery spice rub must be used. The jerking allows the spices to penetrate the meat. Finally the meat must be smoked, originally in a pit fire but more recently in an oil barrel or steel drum. I saw a recipe by Jamie Oliver on some program or another ages ago, for Jerk ham which I have always wanted to give it a go, although I felt could not stretch to a whole ham. So I have adapted it with a piece of Smoked Gammon instead, which was a quarter of the price. As the Gammon is smoked, I felt that it was a more authentic jerk flavour. The results were really spectacular. It made me realise why I had always disliked supermarket, bought ham. It makes huge promises on the label but is always such a disappointment. It is soggy and tastes of nothing but salt. This was really flavourful and had great texture and is so easy to make and cheap. It is really worth the effort. We had it hot as a roast dinner first with cabbage and New Potatoes and then lived of the remainder in sandwiches, for the rest of the week. It was particularly nice in a sandwich with the delicious, spicy Mango Chutney which I made a few weeks ago. Talking of Jamie Oliver, I have to say that I am currently a bit off him. With a hint of Spring in the air (see below), I excitedly rushed down to my local garden centre today to buy soil and seeds as it is high time to get planting my salads and radishes, peas and beans, ready for bountiful crops in the months to come, only to find Jamie Oliver plastered all over everything - the grow bags and compost, herbs and seeds. He was everywhere! It is bad enough not being able to shop in the supermarket without feeling that he is on every shelf, administering his approval over everything you buy, defying you to dare purchase something that he hasn’t given his sanction to. And now, the garden centre as well. Enough is enough! However, I will forgive him because his Jerk Ham recipe works and because I really rate one book that he wrote, Jamie at Home. Although, I just noticed that it quotes on the cover “Cook your way to the good life”, and even though I really have cooked about a quarter of the recipes in the book, I still don’t have a multi-million pound mansion in the countryside with acres of manicured vegetable gardens, greenhouses, a gardener and a wood burning stove! It should have a marginal warning “Cook your way to the good life - though obviously, it’s never going to be as good as mine.” Jerk “Smoked Gammon” Adapted from Jamie Oliver For poaching 1 large piece of Smoked Gammon 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges 1 teaspoons whole cloves 1 stick celery, roughly chopped 1 leek, roughly chopped 1/2 bunch thyme 1 cinnamon stick Jerk Marinade 4 fresh bay leaves 1 tablespoons cinnamon 1 tablespoons allspice ½ tablespoon clove 1 tablespoons ground nutmeg ½ tablespoon sea salt ½ tablespoon fresh ground black pepper 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped 1 red onions, peeled and quartered 4 scotch bonnet chillies, stalks removed 150 ml dark rum 150 ml malt vinegar 1 small bunch thyme, leaves picked Glaze 1/3 jar fine cut marmalade 75 ml golden rum Place the gammon in a saucepan, cover with water and add the peppercorns, onion, vegetables and herbs. Poach for a few hours, depending on weight until cooked through, then remove from the poaching liquid and cool for 30 minutes, remaining covered. (The poaching liquid makes a great stock or base for soup). While it’s still warm, you will need to carefully remove the skin, keeping some fat attached to the ham. With a sharp knife, score the ham by making diagonal cuts across the leg and stab the meat all over with a small knife. To make jerk seasoning, blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Rub the jerk seasoning all over the ham and scored fat. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Combine glaze ingredients in a bowl. Remove ham from the fridge and bake for an hour. Remove from oven, brush with glaze, then continue cooking the ham for another 30–40 minutes, basting with glaze every 10 minutes until golden and sticky.