Ham hock in cider recipe

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
3 cloves
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.

Nigella’s maple pecan bundt cake

After months of very little baking, October seems to be the month of baking in our house. So far I have baked chocolate chip cookies and brownies (for my boyfriend to take to work to celebrate his birthday) and a maple pecan bundt cake for his 30th birthday. All 3 recipes are from Nigella’s new book Kitchen and all 3 turned out beautifully. I’ve still got to bake something for our late Macmillan coffee morning at work on friday and something to take in to work for my birthday next week. Just as well then that Tate and Lyle sent me a range of their fair trade sugars to tell you about. They are committed to making their range 100% fair trade and have a new design to their packaging too. Why not have a look at their fantastic baking facebook page here.

I loved the maple pecan bundt cake. The cake itself was delicious and moist but the best thing about this cake is the surprise that comes when you cut in to it. The maple syrup and pecan filling is to die for! The cookies worked really well too. I’ve made quiet a few cookie recipes before but these were by far the best texture wise, crunchy outside and chewy in the middle. The only negative was, for me, they were perhaps a little too sweet. The everyday brownie recipe was easy to make and the results were gooey and delicious.

I bought Nigella’s book on a bit whim whilst I was taking a break from revision last month. It was a bargain at just £13 and almost 500 pages. It is however my first Nigella cookbook! I know, I know I’m a bit late finding Nigella but I never watched her shows until this summer when that seemed to be all that was showing on the Good food channel. I’ve always thought of her cooking as being too “unhealthy” but with the bargain price, delicious looking pictures and me desperate to get back in to the kitchen trying out new recipes, I decided to give it a go.

The book doesn’t disappoint, I instantly loved her style of writing and only 20 pages in I found I’d read nearly every word and learnt quiet a few hints and tips. As for the recipes, first impressions are that they don’t seem as unhealthy as I thought. Yes there are a lot of baking recipes but I don’t bake that often, for just the two of us, but when I do  have an occasion to bake for, it’s nice to have a selection of recipes you can trust to turn out well. There are some savory recipes I’ll never cook or that I would experiment with replacing or reducing the butter etc but not as many as I expected and anyway it’s all about moderation and using your own judgment. Now a days I tend to look at the balance of the types of food we eat over a week rather than in one day, we all need the occasional treat. All in all a great book that I can see myself going back to regularly. I may even have to take a look at some of her earlier books.

Maple pecan bundt cake

for the maple pecan filling:

75g plain flour
30g soft unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g pecans (or walnuts), roughly chopped
125ml maple syrup

for the cake:

300g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
250ml creme fraiche or sour cream
1-2 tsp icing sugar, for decoration
flavourless oil, for greasing

1x23cm bundt tin

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Using flavourless oil grease your bundt tin, and leave upside down on newspaper for the excess oil to drain out.
  • Make the filling for the cake by mixing together the 75g flour and 30g butter with a fork, till you end up with the sort of mixture you’d expect when making crumble topping. Then, still using the fork, mix in the cinnamon, chopped nuts and maple syrup, to form a sticky, bumpy paste. set a side for a moment.
  • For the cake, measure 300g flour, the baking powder and bicarb into a bowl.
  • Now, cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in 1tbsp of the flour mixture, then 1 egg, then another tbsp of flour mixture followed by the second egg.
  • Add the rest of the flour mixture beating as you go, and then finally the creme fraiche or sour cream. You should expect to end up with a fairly firm cake batter.
  • Spoon just more than half the cake batter into the oiled bundt tin. Spread the mixture up the sides a little and around the funnel of the tin to create a rim. You don’t want the sticky filling to leak out the sides of the tin.
  • Dollop the maple filling carefully in to the dent in the cake batter, then cover the filling with the remaining batter. Smooth the top and put the tin in the oven for 40 minutes, though it’s best to check with a cake tester after 30 minutes.
  • Once cooked, and the cake tester comes out clean where it hits the sponge (obviously, any gooey filling will stick to the tester), let the cake cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes in its tin, then loosen the edges with a small spatula, including around the middle funnel bit, and turn the cake out onto the rack.
  • When the cake is cold, dust with icing sugar by pushing a teaspoon or so through a tea strainer.