I got up early Saturday to do some much needed grocery shopping. It's actually my favourite time to shop - the supermarkets are usually devoid of people at that time and often the shelves are freshly stocked ready for the weekend. It's nice to take time, casually strolling aisle to aisle, dreaming up the weekend's menu.
It's perfect soup weather. Having a big pot of soup cooking on the stove-top always reminds me of Mum - who is a massive fan of soup and forever dreaming up new recipes to use up the many vegetables in her garden. I can't remember the last time I visited and there wasn't fresh soup at the ready. So I'm sure at some point I've seen her use a great big ham hock to flavour the broth.
Ham hock soup is very easy, and uber-practical because you can use up bits and pieces in your cupboard and fridge. Get out your biggest pot, put the hock in and put just enough water in to cover the meat. Then, add some finely diced onion, a bay leaf, and a cup of (rinsed) green lentils - or any other type of pulse you happen to have in the pantry. "Soup mix" is good for obvious reasons. The rest is up to you: I like to throw in a couple of chopped potatoes and carrots - but celery, peas, beans, turnip and parsnip also works well. You also might like to put in some extra flavour - like a stock cube or two, or a teaspoon of vegemite.
Put the lid on and bring to a gentle simmer, cook for two hours or until the meat just starts coming away from the hock. Take off the heat and remove the hock, then strip away the meat with a couple of forks, or some kitchen scissors. Discard any fat or skin. Put meat back in to the soup and stir well.
Adjust the seasoning of the broth to taste, I just use a little salt and pepper. If you cool and put it in the fridge, the flavours develop overnight and it becomes even more flavourful. Remember, once it's cooled the fat will rise to the top, so you can skim it off for a healthier version.