I was very excited to see this morning that my favourite pork sellers had a beautiful smoked ham hock for sale. Knowing how clever pigs are, how social, and how closely related we are, I am particularly keen to buy free range organic pork, but it is surprisingly hard to come by. I thought that the film Babe, would have set off a ‘happy pigs’ industry years ago, but I still find it difficult to get. I was stoked when I came across Bundawarrah, established on a third generation farm, producing saltbush lamb and free range pork that they sell at the Capital Region Farmers Market. Selfishly, I was very sad over the summer when they took a holiday and I couldn’t get my bacon from them. Anyways, I bought this wonderful hock from them this morning and knew instantly I wanted to make my rustic bacon, leek and potato soup. When my partner came in from taking out the washing, he simply said, “wow, it smells like soup in here” and that was only the stock.
Like all simple food, this soup truly shines when you have the best ingredients. The smoked hock I got was really something, firm, dry, and very smokey. It’ll make all the difference to the finished product. Ingelara produce some truly wonderful organic garlic and potatoes. This week they had some Bison potatoes at the farmers market. I always like to make this soup with a purple skinned potato because it makes it look like there is more bacon in it than there is. The lovely
Ingelara folk tell me Bison is a floury potato that is ideal for mashing, so it sounded pretty good for my soup. But it works well with the Desiree potatoes you get in the supermarkets too. The recipe uses a good quantity of leek and I purchased a couple of bunches of small leeks before I saw the larger ones on sale. The youthfulness of the leeks should add to their sweetness. The thyme bush on my window ledge has well and truly died, much to my disappointment. So I went back to my favourite organic storeholder, Windellama, to buy a bunch of thyme and my shopping was complete.
|1||smoked ham hock|
|1/4||teaspoon||celery seeds (or two sticks of celery)|
|parsley stalks (if you have them lying around the kitchen)|
|1.5||kilograms||purple skinned potatoes|
|2||litres||ham stock (from above)|
|meat reserved from ham hock (from above)|
|6||small||leeks (or 3 large leeks)|
|1/2||bunch||fresh thyme, leaves, buds and flowers|
|vintage merlot salt or black lava sea salt to garnish (optional)|
|fresh ground black pepper|
To make stock, combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Boil for about 90 minutes, or until the meat from the hock is tender and falling off the bone and the skin is soft and fallen off the meat. As the liquid evaporates from the pan, add more hot water to ensure ingredients are covered with liquid. Remove the hock from the stock. Drain stock. Discard the flavourings and leave stock to cool. Remove the fat from the surface of the stock before making soup.
When the hock is cool enough to touch, remove and discard the skin. Remove the meat from the bone and allow to cool further. Remove the fat and gristle from the meat. Roughly chop and tear the meat into small pieces. Leave to dry.
To make soup, in a small saucepan melt the butter. Add the chopped leeks and cover with a lid. Cook on a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are sweet and melted down into gooiness. They should be sweet and very mellow. Be patient, this will take some time. Do not add salt, or anything else. The key to this process is ensuring the pot doesn’t dry out. The lid should make sure you keep enough liquid, but if this isn’t enough, add a little more butter.
In your soup pot, heat a little olive oil and gently fry the ham till crispy and golden like bacon. Add stock to the pan. Thoroughly wash your potatoes and chop roughly. Add potatoes to stock and bring to the boil. Cook the potatoes until some of the pieces start to fall apart. Remove the soup from heat and roughly mash. You should keep some chunky pieces of potato though. Add leeks and half the thyme leaves. If you want to freeze or store some of the soup, this is the point to do so. Taste the soup for seasoning. The ham is likely to have been very salty, so it is possible you won’t need to add salt. Season the soup to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Return the soup you wish to serve back to the heat and bring to the boil. Divide soup between serving bowls, drizzle with a little cream, garnish generously with thyme leaves, buds and flowers; fresh ground black pepper, and merlot salt or black salt (if using).