Well, hello. Ham hock, so neglected, and why? It can be difficult to find now, unless you have a terrific butcher that stocks it. We need to bring it back. It should be in our supermarkets, it should be in our kitchens. Ham hock is so versatile, and incredibly frugal. Less than £5 for 1.5kg or so, even in the fanciest of butchers.

In an ideal world when I cooked my ham hock I would have had a bounty of carrots, celery, onions and bay leaves, but I didn’t. This would have resulted in the perfect ham stock, but the stock that I got at the end was so intensely hammy, it was wonderful anyway. It has formed the base of most of my cooking for the last few days. And I still have enough left for another bowl of something. Something good!

This soup is a fond look back at my Irish roots where bacon and cabbage are the informal national dish. I love beans, and had in my fridge some gorgeous judion de la granja, plump creamy butter beans from Spain, cooked from scratch as is always best, and not as much a drama as most people seem to think it is. You can use whatever white beans you can get your hands on, and whatever your favourite is.

The first time I made this, I used a lot of cream, and it was drop dead gorgeous and steeped in luxury. I would encourage you to do the same occasionally. The second time I made it, I tamed it, quietened it down, and let the broth and ham shine through. I finished it with chives once, and mint another time. Mint is my favourite, it sings clearer and brighter, but chives will do too.

I plan to get another hock or two in the coming days. I have plans for pies, croquettes, more soup, and lots of joy.

Note on the recipe: this assumes that you have boiled a ham hock. If you haven’t, you can substitute a good broth of your choice, chicken or vegetable if you don’t have ham or pork. And use any ham or bacon that you have to hand. But do try and source a ham hock for next time. They are gorgeous.

Other soup recipes on Eat Like a Girl: 

Cooking in Sabah: Two Healthy Sea Gypsy Recipes (Fish Soup & a Fish Salad)

Potato and Leek Soup with Bacon and Kale

Rice Soup with Chorizo, Pumpkin, Kale & a Poached Egg

For What Ails You: Aromatic & Hot Chicken Soup Powerhouse 

From Bangkok: Prawn Tom Yum Kung (a vibrant and delicious Thai soup)

Recipe: Ham Hock, Butter Bean and Cabbage Soup

makes 2 bowls of soup

Ingredients

150g ham hock, pulled apart gently (from a whole ham hock, if possible, see method below)
100g cabbage (of your choice, kale and sprout tops work well too)
400ml ham stock
1 onion, cut in half and sliced finely
1 bay leaf
250g butter beans (cooked from scratch ideally, but this will equate to one drained tin too)
100ml cream (heavy cream or single cream, depending on where you are!)
optional: 1 tsp Korean gochujaru (red pepper powder) or chilli of your choice for some heat and flavour
2 tbsp fresh chopped chives or torn mint
a knob of butter and a tsp of light oil

Method

If you have a ham hock, and that is where you are starting, cook it in a big pot of water – no salt – and skim any scum that comes to the top off. Then, if you have them, bay leaves, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and peppercorns for the perfect super ham stock. Boil for 2 hours, then remove the ham hock from the broth, and remove the ham from the bone (it should just fall off). Strain the stock, you will have a lot more than you need, but it will freeze well, or you could just keep it in the fridge and use it all week as I did. You will have leftover ham too, this recipe is for a small portion, double or treble as required.

Melt the butter and add the oil over a medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softening.

Add the ham, beans, cabbage, bay leaf and stock and bring to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the cream and stir through. Turn off the heat.

Serve immediately finished with the herb of your choice.

Enjoy!

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Niamh

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