Honeyed Ham with Bean Sprouts

This tasty and economical dish is an adaptation of a Chinese recipe. Use fresh bean sprouts rather than canned ones, if possible. Fresh bean sprouts are available at many Continental grocers and from Oriental provision stores.

2 lb. slipper of ham, soaked overnight and drained

1 carrot, scraped and sliced

1 onion, sliced

1 star anise

6 peppercorns, coarsely crushed

2 oz. unsalted peanuts

4 tablespoons clear honey

4 fl. oz. chicken stock

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)

1 lb. bean sprouts, washed

1 teaspoons cornflour mixed with

3 tablespoons water

Put the ham, carrot, onion, star anise and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover the ham. Put the pan over high heat and bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer the ham for 50 minutes or until it is almost cooked.

Remove the pan from the heat. Lift out the ham and allow it to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C).

When the ham is cool, place it on a chopping board and, using a sharp knife, cut it imp 1-inch cubes. Pour the cooled cooking liquid through a strainer into a bowl. Set aside 4 fluid ounces of the cooking liquid. Discard the remainder.

In a medium-sized casserole, combine the ham cubes, peanuts, honey and chicken stock. Cover the casserole and place it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.

Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, in a large frying-pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, add the sesame seeds, if you are using them, and cook them for 1 minute. Increase the heat to high, add the bean sprouts and cook, tossing and turning them constantly, for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low, pour over the reserved cooking liquid and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bean sprouts to a warmed serving dish. Keep hot. Reserve the cooking juices in the frying-pan.

Remove the casserole from the oven. With a slotted spoon remove the ham cubes and arrange them on top of the bean sprouts.

Keep hot while you prepare the sauce.

Pour the ham cooking liquid into the frying-pan with the bean sprout cooking liquid. Place the pan over moderately high heat and bring the liquid to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cornflour mixture. Return the pan to the heat and, stirring constantly, cook the sauce for 1 minute or until it is thick and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the sauce over the ham.

Serve immediately.