Smoked Ham Hock and Parsley Sauce


How much difference does a carrot make to stock? Seriously, do you know? I mean is it the cornerstone of good solid broth? Just how much does this orange root contribute to overall flavour? Is the slow release of carotene and vitamin A essential to the mix? Will I go blind without it? And what about my ham hock? What will happen to this lovely smoked lump of piggy if I don't subject it to a subtle bathing of sludgy carroty sweetness? What will act as a defence against the harsh, unrelenting nature of sulfurous onion? And why don't we have any carrots anyway? I mean c'mon, who ate all the frigging carrots?

I didn't have any carrots yesterday and these were just some of the unremitting questions that were running through my head when I was staring in the fridge. I had a nice piece of smoked ham hock, rather large yet quite affordable from Calcott Hall Farm and the plan was to boil it for a couple of hours before slicing it up and serving with lentils and a parsley sauce. I forged ahead anyway but it did make me ponder upon the importance of certain ingredients in recipes. The holy trinity of a lot of stocks is after all onion, celery and carrot. Would the world really collapse in itself if I left it out? Would Beelzebub himself appear from out of the stock pot and begin to laugh and mock me?

"MWAHAHAHAHAHA! You foolish soul. For millenia have I waited for some craven idiot to unwittingly unlock the portal from my world to yours. Did you not know the power of the carrot? Did you not know the protection it affords you weak, pitiful human beings?! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Perhaps I think too much about these things and maybe in the future I shall save my carrot peelings (and other veg peelings) for the freezer, rather than feed the composter. I hear that it is good practice, as long as they are clean.

Carrot or not, last night's dinner still came out a treat though and in my opinion is the perfect antidote for a dull winter's day so I thought I would post the recipe.

(Incidentally, whilst the hock was bubbling on the hob, I nipped out and went and bought some carrots to accompany the lentils, roasted with thyme. Ha! It's funny how all these things pan out in the end, eh? Eh? No?.....OK)

All in the pot, sans carrot

Smoked Ham Hock and Parsley Sauce - serves 4

1 Smoked Ham Hock
1 large onion, quartered
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
2 carrots (if you have them), roughly chopped
Couple of sprigs of thyme
10 peppercorns
Parsley Sauce
400 ml of full fat milk
1 onion
1 bay leaf
Small bunch of parsley stalks
4 or 5 cloves
Pinch of mace
50 grams of butter
50 grams of plain flour
Large bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Milk infusing

First, prepare your hock the night before by soaking it in cold water, otherwise it will be rather salty. To cook, simply cover with cold water in a large stock pot and add the vegetables, thyme and peppercorn. Place on the hob and bring to the boil, then gently simmer for a couple of hours, spooning off any scum that rises to the surface. Once cooked, take out of the stock and leave to rest under some foil. SAVE THE STOCK THOUGH! For soups, soups and more soups.

To make the parsley sauce, put all the ingredients bar the butter and flour into a saucepan and place on the hob. Bring gently to the boil and then take off, leaving everything to infuse and cool for 30 minutes or so. Then strain the milk through a sieve into a jug. Take a clean saucepan and place over a medium heat. Make a roux by adding the butter and let it melt until it begins to foam, then add the flour. Stir in with a whisk for a minute or so, until it turns a nice biscuit colour. Slowly add the flavoured milk (which should still be warm), whisking all the way over the heat until it thickens to the consistency of runny custard. Take off the heat and keep warm.

Slice up your ham hock and serve on heated plates with your chosen accompaniments* Place your sauce back on the heat for one quick blast and then dump your chopped parsley in at the very last minute (overcooked parsley soon turns grey). Ladle a healthy amount over the ham and enjoy.

*A quick trick to liven earthy lentils up is to cook with finely chopped onion, celery and garlic and then right the end add a  healthy dash of cider vinegar and soy sauce and stir in. Just thought you might like to know that.

Ham and carrots, back together again


Alicia Foodycat said…
I've had the same questions about celery in my stock.

Lovely looking meal though.
Food Urchin said…
Alicia - Interesting and you know what? I reckon celery is more important than carrot in stock, purely because of the depth of flavour it delivers. I mean, have you tried a piece of braised celery against a piece of braised carrot before? Celery is far more complex.
Kavey said…
I always skip celery. I bloody hate it. People who like it say to me, when they've used it in a recipe, "no no, you can't taste it", in which case I wonder why they use it, if it affords no benefit. Sometimes they are right, I can't, but often I can because that's the bastardy bastard way taste works, isn't it, that you notice the things you hate much more strongly than those you like. So anyway, SAY NO TO CELERY, that's my thinking. JUST SAY NO. Zammo had it right, you know... good old Zammo.
Food Urchin said…
Kavey - Hmm, see I went through the whole quandary and like my answer to Alicia, I am a celery man and I love the taste of celery and to my mind you can taste it in lots of dishes. Carrots, hmm, I don't know. And in answer to what happened to Zammo, well I have no comment (but if he did get into trouble because of celery, well, I can't condone it, no, just say no to celery.........fuck Kavey, what have we been smoking?)
Unknown said…
Haha I have had the same stock stress!!! Will my stock be crap because I couldn't be arsed to go out in the rain and grab a bay leaf? Will it be ruined if I don't spend half an hour looking for peppercorns (I KNOW they are here somewhere)? It's always fine!
Food Urchin said…
Catherine Edwards - And they say that making stock is meant to be so easy and stress-free.....

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