Wednesday, 16 January 2013

I'm Free - Ham Hock Soup Recipe

Now that we have finally made it to the end of the indulgent, rich Christmas foods, this bloggers thoughts have been turning towards hearty, frugal cooking. The butchers closest to me in Cardiff, Rees Family Butchers, sometimes have ham hocks available for the grand old price of £2.50 (they also do fantastic pies and often have duck eggs).

I regularly take advantage of these budget cuts and have a few recipes in the toolbag that make the most of this tasty meat, normally stretching the cut to 4 portions, but this super simple, hearty soup feeds 6 or so depending how greedy you are feeling.

Ham hock soup
Ham hock pasta soup
To serve, a little grated Parmesan on top is an excellent garnish. In fact if you have a parmesan rind available throw that in at step 3 with the rest of the ingredients. I like to serve with a chunk of crusty bread and a wedge of cheddar cheese.

Hearty ham hock soup (6 greedy portions)
  • Ham hock - 1
  • Carrots - 4 or 5 depending on size
  • Onions - 2 medium
  • Celery - 4 sticks
  • Bay leaves - 2
  • Star anise
  • White wine (optional) - 1 glass
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • Small shape pasta - A couple of handfuls (orzo works best as it stays firm but spaghetti snapped into pieces or macaroni would do)
  • Chicken stock - 500ml
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Butter
  1. Rinse the ham hock thoroughly or stand in water overnight to reduce the saltiness. Place the meat in a large pan, cover with water. Halve one of the onions, cut 2 of the carrots and 2 of the celery sticks into large pieces and add to the pan with the bay leaves, star anise and a few whole peppercorns. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and leave simmering for a couple of hours. Skim off any scum that rises to the top of the water.
  2. Once cooked drain the meat retaining the cooking water for the soup. Once cool enough, I like to remove the skin and hack into the meat helping it to cool a little quicker so that I can get on with the soup. Once the joint is cool enough to handle, retrieve all the meat, cutting into smallish pieces.
  3. Finely chop the remaining veggies and cook in a little butter until soft, about 10 minutes should do it. Return the meat to the pan, add the wine first, letting it cook off  little, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock and a couple of ladles of the ham stock.
  4. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes then check your seasoning.
  5. When you are happy add your pasta. Note that Orzo has a longer cooking time so adjust accordingly.
    • If you are eating straightaway, leave to simmer until the pasta is just cooked.
    • If like me, you are cooking up a batch for the week or the freezer, just bring back to the boil then turn off the heat and let the whole batch cool.
  6. You may find that the soup has thickened up a little too much at this point, just add some water or more of the ham stock taking care that you don't end up over-seasoning the food.
  7. Shredded ham hock and the soup base
    Shredded ham hock and the soup base
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