My festive recipes every year always include a dish made with left-overs from the main feast, and this year I thought I'd devise a big, sumptuous salad ideal for feeding a hungry horde the day after Christmas. But once I'd made it - using left-overs from this dish - I liked it so much that it struck me it's worth buying a small gammon specifically for this recipe. So the second time I made this, I bought a 1.5 kg boneless gammon, used half of it for the salad, and put the other half in the fridge for filling future sandwiches. It was flattened in a day, but I'm not complaining, because gammon is still remarkably inexpensive compared to lamb or beef, and it's way cheaper than buying sliced ham at your local deli counter.
I love the mysterious browns and greens of this salad, and adore the earthy combination of beans, salty pork, garlic, lemon and cumin, but I have to say my kids weren't wild about it. Then again, they are suspicious of anything resembling a lentil.
If you're a vegetarian, or expecting vegetarian guests, I suggest you use crisp-fried halloumi cheese in place of gammon in this recipe: make the salad a few hours ahead, and then add the hot cheese at the last minute.
The first time I made this, I noticed that the flavours of the dressing had faded considerably by the next morning as they were absorbed by the beans. In my second try, I tweaked the dressing to make it more punchy, so please don't be alarmed by all the garlic and mustard - the flavours will mellow and mingle as the salad sits. This is best at room temperature, so if you make it the day before, take it out of the fridge an hour or two before you serve it.
Roast Aubergine, Gammon and Mung Bean Salad, to please a Christmas crowd
2 cups dried green mung beans, soaked for an hour in water
6 large aubergines
5 Tbsp (75 ml) olive oil
salt and milled black pepper
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
about 3 cups (750 ml) of gammon chunks or shreds (see gammon recipe at the end of this page)
6 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
150 g (about two 'wheels') feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup (125 ml) pumpkin seeds
5 Tbsp (75 ml) finely chopped fresh mint
For the dressing:
4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
a pinch of salt
a pinch of sugar
4 tsp (20 ml) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) good quality paprika
the juice of two medium lemons
¾ cup (180 ml) olive oil
Heat the oven to 190 ºC. Drain and rinse the mung beans and simmer them in unsalted water for 30-40 minutes, or until soft. Drain and set aside. Skip this step if you're using tinned lentils.
Put the mung beans, aubergine cubes, gammon chunks, feta and spring onions in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and pour it over the salad, tossing gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with clingfilm and set aside for an hour or two so the flavours can mingle. Just before you serve the salad, stir in the freshly chopped mint. Taste the salad, and add a little more lemon juice if you think it needs sharpening up. Pile the salad onto a platter and drizzle with a little extra olive oil. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan, over a low heat, and sprinkle them over the salad.
To cook the gammon:
1 x 1.5 kg boneless gammon
one bottle (330 ml) of your favourite beer, or ginger beer, or apple juice, or cider
1 large onion, peel on, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
a small bunch of parsley
water, to cover
Put the gammon, fat side up, in a large, deep pot and add the beer, onion, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves and parsley. Pour in enough water to cover the gammon to a depth of 2 cm. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat so that the gammon cooks at a brisk simmer. Partially cover the pot with a tilted lid. Cook the meat for 30-35 minutes per kilogram (an hour and a half for a 1.5 kg piece), or according to the directions on the packaging. Check the pot now and then, and top up with more water: the meat must be completely submerged. Turn the gammon over half way through the cooking process.
Turn off the heat and leave it in its liquid to cool completely. Strip off the skin and trim off all the fat. Put half in the fridge for sandwiches, and shred the other half to use in the salad.