Fizzy drinks gone flat? Use them to cook ham (or celeriac) – recipe

Over Christmas and new year, large bottles of fizzy pop are often opened and not always finished, so end up going flat. Although they might lose their fizz, soft drinks don’t actually go off, so keep them in the bottle and use them to sweeten and add depth to the likes of Boston baked beans, or to make a syrupy glaze for chicken wings or simply in cake batter. My favourite way to use up flat sodas, however, is Coca-Cola ham, but all sorts of other soft drinks, or even a mixture of them, will work – I especially recommend trying Lilt, cherry cola and dandelion and burdock, for their botanical flavourings.

Flat pop ham
It was one of my food heroes, Nigella Lawson, who in 2001’s Nigella Bites popularised cola ham in the UK, and this is a take on her recipe, with an extra zero-waste twist. Instead of discarding the soda at the end, it’s reduced until it starts to caramelise and turn into a sweet-salty syrup that can be used to glaze the ham, or to marinate other meat and vegetables such as chicken wings, pulled pork or roast carrots.

A plant-based version can be made with a whole swede or celeriac, both of which will soak up the botanical flavours of whichever soft drink you use (similar to the recipe for “A swede pretending to be a ham” in my latest book, Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet).

Carve your ham, swede or celeriac at the table and serve with sauerkraut and/or watercress, or leave it to cool, then slice and pack into sandwiches.

1 free-range gammon, or 1 large swede or celeriac
Stock vegetables – carrot, leek, onion, celery
1 litre (about) cola or other soda per kilo of gammon, swede or celeriac
Sea salt (optional)
1-2 tbsp cloves
1 tsp mustard powder per kilo of gammon, swede or celeriac
1 tbsp muscovado sugar per kilo of gammon, swede or celeriac

Put a free-range gammon, soaked if need be, (or a large swede or celeriac) in a pot into which it fits snugly. Fill any gaps with stock vegetables, then pour over enough flat fizzy pop to cover – you will need up to a litre per kilo of meat, so if you don’t have enough, top up with water.

Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and leave to cook for half an hour per 500g of meat (or until soft, if using swede or celeriac). Once cooked, remove the ham from the pot and transfer to a small baking dish. Return the cooking liquid to a high heat and boil for 10-20 minutes, until it has reduced to a syrup. Score the ham (or swede or celeriac) with a knife in a large criss-cross pattern, stud each resulting “diamond” with a clove, then glaze all over with the syrup. Mix a teaspoon of mustard powder and tablespoon of muscovado sugar per kilo of ham and pat all over the glazed surface. Roast in a 210C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½ oven for 10 minutes, until the glaze starts to bubble and scorch.