Saturday, 4 May 2013

Ham hock, lentil and spinach soup

Ham hock, lentil and spinach soup

Autumn arrived this weekend with a chilling wind, and soup appears to be back on the menu. When I was off getting my Saturday morning, post run coffee today, I saw the cafe was advertising ham and lentil soup as the lunchtime special.
That got my mind, and imaginary taste-buds racing. And so tonight is my version of ham hock and french lentil soup, with spinach as it is back in season. I even have some little spinach seedlings growing in my garden so hopefully will be able to eat these in a few months!

Back to the soup.
Start with a nice big soup-sized pot- around 5 litres.
Also start with your 3 main soup flavouring ingredients, a large onion, 3 cloves of garlic and 3 carrots. You can also add celery, but given that this ingredient is banned at my house, it sadly did not enter this soup.
Dice you onion up. Peel, squash with the flat side of a knife blade, and dice your garlic up too. 
Peel your carrots
Slice them in half longways (or thirds, or quarters if they're really fat carrots) and dice them up like so.
 So into the pan we go. Heat a splash of olive oil in the pot. Add your onion and garlic and let them saute for 2 minutes, before you add the carrot.
Stir them around until they start to go soft, and the onion gets a little colour. 
 Take your big smoked ham hock. This was just from the deli section of the supermarket, and weighed about 700g.
Give it a quick wash 
and throw it into your soup pot. 
Boil the kettle up, and pour in enough water (or liquid stock) to cover the ham hock. Mine took about 2.5 litres of water. 
 And throw in some stock powder if you only used water above.
 And now for some flavouring. I put in 2 bay leaves, and 2 strips of lemon peel. This gives it a great fresh and warming flavour.
 Into the pot. With some ground black pepper.
Lid on and let it go for 30 minutes. 
After this time, 
find one cup of lentils. French black lentils apparently hold their shape and are nuttier. Somewhat like me. The nutty part. 
Pour into your broth. 
Bring it up to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away for another 45 minutes.
In the meantime, take 3 or 4 big stalks of spinach, make sure all the dirt is washed off. 
 Slice the stalk up into small pieces, and keep going slicing all the green leaves up too.  
After your 45 minutes is up, time to take out the ham hock. Lift it out with whatever kitchen implements you have.
Before you shred the ham hock up, add a tin of tomatoes to the soup and mix in.
 Dismember you ham hock with a knife- take off the skin, throw away, along with the bone.
With the meat that's left- dice it up into small pieces. 
Tip it back into the pot. 
 One last step before you soup is ready- tip in the spinach
 Stir it in, cover and let it simmer for a further 10 minutes until the stalks soften and the leaves are withered, and it's good to go! (Don't forget to take out the bay leaf! Don't worry if you can't find the lemon peel.)
 And there you have it- ham hock, lentil and spinach soup- beautiful. 
Serve with some bread, and if you like, cheese on top. 

Ham hock, lentil and spinach soup

1 large brown onion
3 cloves garlic
3 carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large smoked ham hock
2.5 litres water 
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
2 bay leaves
2 small strips of lemon peel
1 cup dried french black lentils
4 large stalks of spinach
1 400g tin diced tomatoes

1. Dice onion, garlic and carrots. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil, then sauté onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the carrots for a further minute.
2. Add the ham hock to the pot, then pour in enough boiling water to cover the ham hock. Add the stock powder, bay leaves, lemon peel and ground pepper. Cover and and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add lentils and let simmer for further 45 minutes.
4. Take ham hock out of the pot, then add the tin of tomatoes.
5. Take the skin off the ham hock and throw away. Shred the meat off the bone, and throw away the bone. Add the ham back to the soup.
6. Chop up the spinach and add to the soup- cover up again for a final 10 minutes to let the spinach soften, and you're ready to eat!

Makes 4-6 servings.

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