Soup comes in an endless variety of flavors and textures. It can be hot or cold; it can be thick or thin; it is supposedly curative – think chicken noodle soup. Discovering that my butcher sold smoked ham hocks without the dreaded nitrites persuaded me to experiment with a new soup (no seasoning needed – hock provides just the right amount of saltiness) and this soup hits the spot – it is thick, full of nutritious veg. and then there is the lovely backdrop flavor that comes from the smoked ham hock and some of its meat.
Adding a smoked ham hock (a cut of meat from the leg just above the foot) to the veg. and broth makes a world of difference to the taste. This soup is best made in a slow cooker and cooked for some 6 hours. At the end of cooking the ham will be dropping off the bone. In fact you should pull it off using two forks and half of the ‘pulled’ meat can be added to the soup and processed in the food processor. The bone and skin can be discarded. Some of the rest of the meat can be used to garnish the soup and the remainder used for other purposes – for breakfast with eggs, for example.
1 x 1 1/2 pound smoked ham hock (uncured if possible)
3 leeks – sliced
2 large garlic cloves – grated
1 x 19 oz can of cannelini beans
2 cups veg. broth
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Place all ingredients, in the order listed above, in a slow cooker. Cook on ‘high’ for 6 hours.
Then, remove the ham hock from slow cooker, take the meat off the bone and remove the skin. Throw out the bone and skin.
Transfer contents of slow cooker to a food processor and process, adding half of the reserved ham in small pieces.
When serving, ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle a little of the ham, finely chopped, onto the soup.