What a week. I needed a hug in a bowl, maybe ten. Made gently in my quiet kitchen on a cosy day that needed healing, this ham hock, watercress and beluga lentil soup allowed me a half hour where I was immersed somewhere else, somewhere kinder, somewhere nurturing.
The world feels unsafe now, and I worry for all of us, especially those already in terrifying situations. Refugees, those living in poverty (many here in the UK), and minorities living in a place where people fear them. It makes no sense to me, and I am sure that many of you feel the way I do. We need to fight it, we need to make the world we live in a home for everyone. We need to think about how we do that. A world where we are afraid of other and violently opposed to them, is a world headed in a dangerous direction. A frightening place for all of us, even those blindly charging into it.
Refuge in a bowl of soup
So I took brief refuge in cooking and in this bowl of soup. A soothing pot of broth with shreds of bright pink smoked ham and pops of black beluga lentils, holding firm in the face of the luxurious ham broth with some watercress seasoning and lightening it all. Ham hock is perfect for this weather, a time for slow cooking (or cooking fast as I did this time, cooking this in my first pressure cooker, more on that soon).
Ham hock is affordable and generous
Ham hock (aka pork knuckle or the end of the shank) is very well priced, even the swishest London butcher won’t charge you more than £4. I like to buy them smoked and to cook one up over a weekend, using some of the meat and the broth for a soup, and the remains in a gorgeous chicken pie, and lovely with any winter greens that you fancy. Comfort your ham with bechamel, tuck it into a crisp cheese toastie. If cooking for a few cook more in a large stock pot, it takes the same amount of time and yields more. Economical in every sense and fabulous.
Enjoy this soup, I know you will love it. What comfort foods do you turn to and what do you like to make with ham hock?
Other great ham hock and soup recipes from Eat Like a Girl and elsewhere
Pea and Ham Soup
Pumpkin & Kale Autumn Minestre (Soup!)
Rice Soup with Chorizo, Pumpkin, Kale & a Poached Egg
Ham Hock, Butter Bean and Cabbage Soup Recipe
Smoked Ham Hock Pie from Food Stories
Ham Hock Terrine from Donal Skehan
This soup is perfect for Autumn and winter and pretty much cooks itself. For a complete meal add a poached egg.
- 1 ham hock, I like to use smoked
- 4 carrots, coarsely chopped
- 3 onions, quartered
- 1 tbsp white peppercorns (or black if you prefer)
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped in half
- 3 sticks celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 125g beluga lentils
- 250g ham hock meat, pulled gently apart
- 750ml ham hock broth
- 100g watercress
- light oil for frying like rapeseed
- some watercress leaves, I haves used nasturtium flowers and leaves from my garden also
Use a stock pot to prepare the hock. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain the hock (removing impurities that will otherwise cloud the broth) and put back in the pot. Add all other ingredients to the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a simmer for 3 hours.
Drain the pot, reserving the ham hock and the broth. The ham should be falling off the bone, remove the meat and leave to one side.
In a fresh pot heat a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the onion and carrot and cook stirring occasionally for 7 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic and stir through, cooking for a further minute. Add the broth and lentils and cook for approx 15 minutes. Add the ham and cook until the lentils are tender but still firm, just a few more minutes.
Season to taste, it is unlikely you will need salt but you may like pepper. Add the watercress and stir through off the heat.
Serve immediately, for a complete meal add a poached egg.