Ditch the processed variety - a ham hock is a delicious, economical and truly versatile joint of meat
A ham hock is one of the most satisfying joints to slow cook with – and the best thing about this simple and delicious cut of meat is that you can still pick up a ham hock for next to nothing from farm shops and butchers. Once you have done the initial cooking you will be left with a great stock base for a soup or broth as well as lots of meat which can be used in anything from spring salads to a main course cut to leftovers in sarnies.
During these recessionary times, an economical ham hock or two cooked once a week is a great idea for any household, rather than buying that pre-sliced plastic ham that tastes more of its packaging. Down in Dorset at Felicity's Farm Shop in Morcombelake (felicitysfarmshop.co.uk), a fantastic place where I regularly shop, ham hocks were recently selling for 99p each – now that really is a bargain.
Ham hocks are available both smoked and unsmoked but I always like to soak them overnight to remove any excess saltiness, regardless of the instructions on the packets, as you don't want to go through the cooking process and discover that the meat is far too salty.
Griddled scallops with ham hock and split peas
Ham hock goes really well with shellfish, rather like bacon. I've used dried split green peas here but you could use fresh peas once they are in season, or even frozen peas. I recommend that you buy your scallops freshly shucked by your fishmonger or you can shuck them yourself if you can.
60-70g dried split green peas, soaked for 4-5 hours in cold water
A knob of butter
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
300-400ml ham cooking liquid
60-70g ham hock trimmings, shredded into 1-2cm pieces
12 or more medium sized scallops, cleaned
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a small heavy based saucepan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the drained green split peas and the ham stock, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the pieces of ham hock and continue simmering for another 10-15 minutes or until the peas are cooked and the liquid has reduced and is just coating the peas.
To serve, season the scallops, heat a little vegetable oil in a heavy or non-stick frying pan and cook the scallops on a high heat for a minute on each side.
To serve, spoon the peas on to a serving dish and place the scallops on top.
Ham hock with root vegetable remoulade
This is a nice simple spring or summer picnic or lunch dish or you could even load the two items into a delicious sandwich. You can vary the vegetables you use in this depending on what's in season but carrot, celeriac and even kohlrabi or turnip taste great when they are used raw in a salad like this.
4-6 slices of cooked ham hock
For the remoulade
A 100g piece of celeriac, peeled
1small carrot, peeled
1 small kohlrabi or turnip, peeled
2tbsp good quality mayonnaise
2tsp Dijon mustard
1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a mandolin, shred the vegetables into fine matchsticks then mix in a bowl with the mayonnaise, mustard and parsley and season. Serve with the slices of ham hock or separately.
Ham hock and flageolet bean soup
If you are going to boil a ham hock, then it makes sense to create a hearty soup like this with the stock.
60g flageolet beans soaked overnight
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
1.5ltrs ham cooking liquid
1 medium leek, halved, cut into rough 1cm squares and washed
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
A few leaves of green cabbage, washed and cut into 1cm squares
80-100g or more of ham hock trimmings, cut into rough 1cm chunks
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently cook the onion for a few minutes until soft but without letting it colour. Add the thyme and the drained flageolet beans and ham cooking liquid, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes then add the leek and carrot and continue simmering until the flageolet beans are tender.
Add the cabbage and ham hock pieces, season if necessary or just with pepper and simmer for 5-6 minutes until the cabbage is cooked.
Ham hock cooked in cider with potatoes and green onion sauce
Cooking ham in cider imparts it with a flavour that is both delicious and sutble. In the restaurants we have also recently been experimenting with cooking small, peeled potatoes in cider which has gone down a real treat with the customers and also makes a great accompaniment to meat or fish. And a simple, creamy sauce made with the addition of spring onions finishes the combination off perfectly.
1 ham hock, soaked overnight in cold water
500ml medium cider
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
5 juniper berries
6-8 small waxy potatoes, peeled
150ml double cream
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
Rinse the ham hock in cold water, then put it in a saucepan with the cider, bayleaf, peppercorns, thyme and juniper and cover well with cold water.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1 -2 hours, skimming every so often, or until the meat is just coming away from the bone. During the cooking, add the potatoes and cook for about 10-12 minutes until tender, then remove from the pan.
Strain about 100ml of the ham cooking liquid into a small saucepan and simmer until it has reduced to about a tablespoon, then add the cream and simmer until it has reduced by one third then add the spring onions and continue simmering until the sauce has thickened then season if necessary.
To serve, reheat the potatoes in the cooking stock, cut a couple of chunks or slices from the hock, arrange on warmed serving plates and spoon over the sauce and serve with the potatoes.