We had a rare, weekend with no plans last week. The weather on saturday was gorgeous, so after a lazy start to the morning we took a walk in to town. We came home with a ham hock from the butchers and a dressed crab from the fishmongers along with a few bits of veg. Saturday evening I used the crab to make a crab linguine and set about preparing the ham hock for sunday lunch. I found a delicious sounding recipe using ham hocks in Nigella’s latest book Kitchen, in which she devotes 11 pages to it. There is the base recipe for ham hock in cider, a recipe for leeks in white sauce to serve along side it and lots of information and recipe ideas for the leftovers. These include using the stock to make a cidery pea soup, using any leftover ham and leeks to make pies or pasties and a ham hock and soya bean (or broad bean) salad. I love the fact that she has a whole chapter on cooking meat on the bone (and mostly the cheaper cuts) where the emphasis is on effortless, slow cooking and really making the most of the meat you buy.This recipe is a perfect example, the ham needs soaking overnight and then all the ingredients are combined and cooked on the hob for 2 hours whilst you’re free to read the sunday paper (or recipe books if you’re anything like me).
The ham hock we bought cost only £2.30 and produced easily enough meat for the two of us for sunday lunch. I served it with a leek and potato mash and some carrots. We both enjoyed our somewhat frugal sunday lunch. The meat was tender, falling easily off the bone and had bags of flavour.
The stock left over from cooking the ham was put to good use following Nigella’s recipe for cidery pea soup producing 4 good-sized portions. The soup is too simple to even require a true recipe. Sunday afternoon, once the stock was cooled, I strained the stock in to a large container and left it in the fridge overnight. The following lunch time I removed the stock from the fridge (to satisfyingly find a jellified stock), scraped the fatty layer off the top and heated the remaining stock on the hob. Added a 900g pack of frozen peas and boiled until the peas were cooked (approximately 5 minutes). I then blitzed the soup, seasoned to taste and served. Nigella also adds the juice of a lime but since we didn’t have one in I didn’t bother. The soup was full of flavour, with subtle hints of ham & cider coming through, not sure how we’ll go back to this pea soup made with vegetable of chicken stock cubes!
Ham hocks in cider
Serves 6 (we only used 1 ham hock and I halved all the other ingredients and it comfortably served 2)
2 ham hocks (just over 1.5kg each – didn’t weigh mine so I can’t tell you how this compared to Nigella’s recommendation)
1 litre dry cider
2 sticks celery, halved
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 or 3
4 small onions, halved, skin left on
stalks from fat bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 x 15ml tbsp black peppercorns
1 x 15ml tbsp fennel seeds
1 x 15ml tbsp dark muscovado sugar
- Soak the hocks overnight in cold water in a cool place, to de-salt them. Alternatively just under an hour before you plan to cook them, put the hocks in a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, drain and then proceed normally with the next step.
- Drain and rinse the hocks, then put them in to a pan with all the other ingredients, add cold water to cover the hocks, and bring to the boil.
- Simmer the hocks for about 2 hours, partially covered with a lid, by which time the meat should be tender and coming away from the bone. Take the hocks out of the stock and let them cool a little on a carving board before you slice or chunk up the meat, discarding fat, skin, cartilage and bones. Leave the stock to cool in the pan while you eat.