I know what you're thinking. Who the hell has leftover ham? Well, it's not me. And I am pretty sure it won't be you either. But someone is throwing away ham because every year in the UK a staggering 1.9m slices of ham are binned every year. According to a Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) report (pdf), that amounts to 17,000 tonnes of wasted ham, which by my rough calculation is over 40 fully-loaded 747s. Even if you're not staggered by that, I most certainly am.
The reason why I don't have much ham around is because I am determined to use up even the smallest of pieces - in anything from stir fries to soups and stews - much in the way that you would use up bacon. Even a small amount, especially smoked ham, can add an injection of flavour. You really don't need much to liven up a frittata or pasta salad.
1. Stuffed deli sandwich
Stuffed deli sandwich. Photograph: Rachel Kelly
While the French have the pan bagnat, those from New Orleans have the muffuletta; here in my neck of the wood, I have the deli sandwich. Actually it might be more accurate to describe it as the "all but the kitchen sink" stuffed sandwich. Essentially as it is just stuffed full of things I like - from slices of ham and cheese, to leftover potato salad, pickles and roasted vegetables.
Take your favourite deli ingredients (and yes potato salad isn't traditional, but I like it) stuff them into a hollowed out loaf, wrap in foil and weight it down. The sandwich is set aside for several hours (preferably overnight - a case of going to work while you sleep). By the time you have unwrapped the sandwich, all the ingredients have got to know each other, brought together by a little olive oil which soaks through the bread, infusing it with yet more flavour.
And because this is a sandwich (or more strictly a sandwich loaf) that benefits from aging, it really is a great recipe for picnics or for taking to work.
1 rustic sourdough loaf
potato salad (preferably homemade with gherkins and chopped spring onions)
thinly sliced cured ham (a mixture of any types of ham, from a good English ham to Parma, serrano, salami, prosciutto and chorizo)
homemade tomato and chilli jam
slices of cheese (such as emmental, gruyère, young pecorino, provolone, goats' cheese, mild cheddar, manchego or gouda)
roasted red peppers (from a jar will do)
freshly ground black pepper
Other nice things to add:
the classic muffuletta olive pickle
roasted artichokes (in oil)
chopped spring onions
anchovy fillets (in oil)
baby plum tomatoes, finely sliced
fresh herbs (parsley, chives, basil or oregano)
Take the loaf and carefully cut the top off - not too large but wide enough to get your hand inside the loaf to pull out the dough.
Scoop the bread out from inside the loaf (either eat then and there, save to make breadcrumbs, feed your birds or take to the park to feed the ducks!) You should leave a "wall" of bread about 1cm thick.
Spread the potato salad across the bottom and then a thin layer of pesto.
Start layering with all your other ingredients, starting with slices of meat, then a layer of vegetables, then cheese. Repeat (either with the same ingredients or with a different type of meat, cheese and vegetables).
Make sure that the ingredients are pushed well up to the sides of the loaf. Press down as you layer as well.
Add a grinding of black pepper between each layer.
When you can add no more, drizzle over a little olive oil. Brush the bread "lid" with a little more olive oil, the place firmly on top of the loaf.
Wrap the entire loaf tightly in grease-proof paper, then in kitchen foil.
Place on a clean chopping board. Place another chopping board on top of the loaf and weigh it down with heavy objects such as tins of beans. I actually use about six heavy hard-backed cookery books, as you get a good distribution of weight. Make sure that the weights are evenly placed or your loaf will become lopsided. Leave so that all the flavours can get to know each other. Nothing less than 12 hours will do in my opinion - but a couple of hours at a pinch. (I often turn the loaf over half way through. Not sure if it adds anything but it keep my mind at rest.)
When you are ready, unwrap the compressed loaf and cut into slices about 2cm thick. (If you have used a round loaf, then cut into generous wedges.)
2. Braised broad beans, peas and ham
Braised broad beans, peas, and ham. Photograph: Rachel Kelly
There is a traditional Roman dish of braised broad beans with guanciale. The Spanish are very fond of broad beans with ham too. The combination of sweet peas with salty ham is something of a classic too. I couldn't decide whether to use broad beans or peas and in the end decided to have both. This is a simple dish that is just full of my favourite things to eat.
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced (reserve the green tops to serve)
2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
100ml chicken stock
100g podded broad beans
a splash of sherry
2 large eggs, poached
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pod the broad beans. Steam them either in lightly boiling water or in the microwave for 3 minutes. Drain and hold under cold running water. Then remove the skins. They may pop out of their skins quite easily. Alternatively use the point of a sharp knife to make a small nick in the skin and then squeeze.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add the shallots and spring onion slices with a pinch of salt. Gently cook for 3 minutes before stirring in the garlic. Continue to cook for 3 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.
Add the shelled broad beans, peas and a splash of sherry. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes or until the peas are cooked through. If it looks as if there is too much liquid then raise the heat to reduce.
Check the seasoning.
Dish the bean and pea mixture onto two plates. Top with a poached egg and strips of ham. Sprinkle with chopped spring onion tops.
Replace the poached eggs with soft-boiled eggs, halved.
For extra flavour and crispness, flash fry the ham before tearing into strips and serving.
Replace the eggs with flakes of hot-smoked salmon or trout. It really does work!
3. Ham and egg cups
This is one of my favourite quick breakfasts. Nothing could be simpler - just ham and eggs baked together in muffin tins.
vegetable oil (for greasing)
ham (I used serrano - 2 slices per cup)
gruyère cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped chives (or the green parts of spring onions), to serve
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.
Lightly coat a muffin tin with vegetable oil. Wipe each cup with kitchen paper to remove any excess oil.
Poke the ham into each muffin mould. I needed 2 slices (with the edges hanging over the tops) - but you may need more or less depending on how big the slices of ham are.
Sprinkle each ham cup with a little grated cheese.
Crack the eggs into a cup and then slip each one into your ham "cups". (I do this to prevent any shell from ending up in the finished dish.)
Season with a little salt and pepper.
Sprinkle over a little extra grated cheese.
Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes in the oven, until the egg whites have cooked through and the yolks are still runny.
Serve with a sprinkling of chopped chives or spring onion tops.
Other nice things to do with small amounts of ham:
4. One of my favourite sandwich fillings is chopped ham stirred into tartare sauce. It really is incredibly moreish!
5. Rupert Kirby of Casa Rosada's white bean purée with horseradish, broad beans and rocket - I love this kind of cooking!
6. Ivonne of Cuban in the Midwest's makes Cuban stir fried rice (which reflects Cuba's Chinese influences).
7. I love this idea for turning leftover ham into Asian pork buns.
8. Fiona Maclean of London Unattached's chicken, ham and leek risotto recipe is a great way of using up a chicken carcass, leftover roast chicken and bits of ham too.
9. The Balmy Sandwich - a cheat's version of the classic Vietnamese bánh mì that includes ham, chicken liver pate and pickles.
10. Helen at Fuss Free Flavours makes a turkey, ham and mushroom pasta bake with her leftovers.
11. Rosana McPhee of Hot and Chilli makes Brazilian canapés, just in time to settle down to watch the World Cup!
12. Do you have a couple of slices of ham? Then Felicity Cloake has the perfect croque monsieur sandwich for you.
13. The Reform Club's chops are coated in a mixture of breadcrumbs and minced ham and served with the classic Reform Sauce.
14. Potted ham may sound a bit "gastro pub" but it has a long tradition in Britain, where thrifty cooks made a little go a long way. Combine about 150g finely chopped ham with an equal amount of unsalted butter. Blend with 2 teaspoons of mustard (English or French are both perfect) and a splash of water until a smooth paste. Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley or chives. Combine well and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to develop. Serve at room temperature with loads of crusty bread.
15. I think Emily's spinach, ham and ricotta ravioli from of Emily's Recipes and Reviews is a wonderful way to use up a little ham.
16. Anneli Faiers of Delicieux who lives and cooks in France, stuffs veal escalopes with brie and ham.
17. What about ham, leek and peas in this risotto?
18. Marie Rayner of The English Kitchen makes a retro classic Chicken Cordon Bleu (chicken breasts stuffed with ham and cheese)
19. Nial and Helen of Pikalily top a simple puff pastry tartlet with Parma ham and pesto.
20. Sian of Fish Fingers for Tea's speedy ham, cream cheese and tomato puff pastry treats are perfect for picnics or lunches.
21. Rachael of Diary of a Saucepot shows how a small amount of ham and cheese can liven up a simple omelette.
22. Jenny Eatwell of Rhubarb Ginger bakes cornbread with ham and cheese.
23. Katie Bryson of Feeding Boys makes easy quesadillas with little bits of ham - a family favourite.
24. One of my favourite food writers, Diana Henry, uses a little serrano ham in this sublime bean salad.
25. A lovely seasonal pea soup topped with bits of ham is perfect on a hot summer's day. We often have it served cold... sitting in the garden, glugging wine, and feeling that everything is all right with the world!
Should I have chosen a simple bowtie pasta with peas and ham or a classic New Orleans' hoppin' john recipe? Do you add ham to macaroni cheese, pasta or potato salad? Or is quiche or empanadas more your thing?
Ham and egg cups. Photograph: Rachel Kelly