Robert Freson’s ham cooked in hay

‘The hay brings the farmyard into the kitchen and acts as a protective force against the rigours of severe heat. I recommend the pet shop for the urban chef in search of hay. Sadly, you just throw the hay away at the end-its work is done’

Fergus Henderson

Ham cooked in hay (Jambon Cuit Dans Le Foin)

Extract from Robert Freson’s The Taste of France Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 1983 Original text from The Sunday Times Magazine

To serve 12

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Serve this chilled at a summer party

-the flavour is extraordinary and very delicate; the only hard part is finding the new-mown hay. If you live in the middle of a town and can’t get hay, you can use aromatic herbs-rosemary, sage, wild thyme -instead. It will taste different but still very good.


1 smoked raw ham, weighing about 9 pounds (4kg)
2 pounds new-mown hay (1kg)


Soak the ham in water to cover for at least 24 hours to remove the salt. Rinse thoroughly, and put the ham in a large pan with plenty of water. Add the hay, and simmer for 4 to 4½ hours with the water just trembling; it mustn’t boil. The hay is infused in the water and its flavour permeates the ham. When cooked, take the ham out of the pan, peel off the skin, and serve, hot or cold, in slices.

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