Downton Abbey’s decadent Christmas ham recipe

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serves: 16 - 16
Prep: 15 min
Cooking: 9 hr
plus resting

Nutrition per portion

Calories 368 kCal 18%
Fat 18g 26%
  -  Saturates 7g 35%
Carbohydrates 16g 18%
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  • Get in the festive spirit by roasting up Mrs Mackie’s decadent Christmas ham, as served at Downton Abbey.

    Mrs Mackie was the cook at Highclere Castle circa 1930. Today, most people know Highclere as Downton Abbey. We’ve given Mrs Mackie’s wonderfully decadent Christmas recipe, from Lady Fiona Carnarvon’s new book, Christmas at Highclere, a modern twist. Champagne of course screams Christmas and celebration but any sparkling wine will do, such as Prosecco, cava or an English sparkling wine. Why not celebrate the start of Christmas by inviting some friends round, roasting your ham and having a glass of festive fizz!

    For a more traditional recipe, try Gordon Ramsey’s honey-glazed ham recipe.

    Looking for another perfect appetiser/side dish your guests won’t be able to get enough of? Look no further than the classic all time favourites pigs in blankets!


    • For the ham
    • 2 onions, quartered
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 sprig of parsley
    • 1 sprig of thyme
    • 1 Christmas ham, bone out, about 3kg (6-7lb)
    • 1 litre (13⁄4 pints) cider
    • For the glaze
    • 3tbsp golden syrup
    • 5tbsp Dijon mustard
    • A splash of Champagne or sparkling wine
    • Cloves, to garnish


    • Heat the oven to 240C/Gas 9.

    • Spread the onions and herbs in a large roasting tin to make a trivet and place the ham on top. Pour over the cider and wrap the whole tin in a double layer of foil.

    • Put the roasting tin into the oven for 20 mins, then turn the heat down to 120C/ Gas 1⁄2 and cook the ham for 8 hrs.

    • Remove the ham from the oven and carefully remove the foil. Transfer the ham to a chopping board. Discard the onions and any leftover cider.

    • Peel away the top layer of skin from the ham and use a sharp knife to score the fat in a criss-cross pattern. Line the roasting tin with foil and return the ham to the tin.

    • For the glaze, mix the golden syrup, mustard and Champagne together and brush over the ham. Stick the cloves into the fat where the score lines cross.

    • When hot, bake the ham for 30-40 mins, until it has taken on a deep golden colour. Remove the ham from the oven and allow to rest for at least 20 mins before serving.

    • Increase the heat of the oven to 200C/Gas6. When hot, bake the ham for 30-40 mins, until it has taken on a deep golden colour. Remove the ham from the oven and allow to rest for at least 20 mins before serving.

    Top tip for making Downton Abbey’s decadent Christmas ham

    Make the ham the day before Christmas Eve and serve it over the holiday period.

    Can you boil a gammon rather than roasting?

    Yes you can! When you want to boil a ham it can require a large pot, especially if you're entertaining a lot of people for your Christmas dinner. However, boiling does mean you've freed up your limited oven space for some of your other dishes and roasts. You want to make sure your pot is topped up with fresh water and throw in some vegetables like carrot and onion to help add some flavour. Simmer for 20 minutes per 450g of meat, and then add an additional 20 minutes. Keep the water topped up and when finished cooking leave your meat to cool down in the water.

    How to stop your gammon from drying out

    The last thing you want for your delicious Christmas gammon is for it to dry out while cooking away in the oven. A simple and easy way to make sure your gammon doesn't dry out, and also that your glaze doesn't burn, is to bring your gammon out of the oven every 15-20 minutes and baste it to help keep it moist and juicy - just remember to put it back in the oven!


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