On one of those balmy, yet Cape wintery type days my husband and I were invited to lunch at some lovely friends of ours in their beautifully renovated old family home. It was one of those blissful afternoons spent cooking, sharing and laughing in the kitchen in between glasses of champagne. Whilst my friend and I nattered about this and that, the men drank beer, talked rugby and entertained the young kids as they excitedly ran in and out the house, chasing rugby balls, soccer balls and even the resident rooster. You know it was one of those special few hours where you completely forget about the troubles and stresses of the week, the chores or the unfinished laundry back at home. It was just one of those perfect afternoons.
Back in the kitchen, my friend made this amazing dish of ham hock, beans, chorizo and tomatoes – her husband was quick to say that despite his wife’s considerable resume of cooking qualifications and accomplishments that it was actually his dish – yes he claimed it! I was duly informed that there was no actual recipe and they just throw things together– it was thick and rich and perfect with a piece of bread at the bottom. This is my type of cooking. This is cooking at its best – it’s slow, it’s full of flavour and full of love.
Most of the time, I too cook without recipes but being a blogger I have since forced myself into the discipline of writing everything down. So here you go – this is my version of this splendid ham hock soup pot – it is so delish and so nurturing and perfect for a cold winter’s night. To make matters and preparation simple I decided to use three ingredients of everything – and it worked out perfectly. You need about 4 hours for this so it may be a good idea to make it the day before.
There is also no doubt that this soup needs to be prepared with love and working your way through a few glasses of good red wine, swapping stories and spending some carefree idle hours in the company of good friends.
ham hock soup pot + wine + friends = perfect winter's day
3 Tins of beans (butter beans or black eyed beans etc)
30g Chorizo sliced thinly (optional)
Fry the onions, carrots, celery and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Then add all the other ingredients except the beans + chorizo + oats and simmer for 3 hours.
After 3 hours add the beans, chorizo and oats and simmer for another hour.
Take the hock out – shred the meat and discard the skin and fat. Throw the meat back in the soup and serve piping hot with a delicious gremolate and some chopped chillies. Oh, yes and some chunky freshly baked bread.
This is my all-time favourite winter soup recipe. It lies very close to my heart for two reasons – I was introduced to this recipe by my wonderful chef friend, Louis Verwey (the recipe was very different then and I developed it as I went along into what it is today) and secondly this recipe took me through to the Top 50 of Masterchef SA and earned three overwhelming and resounding yes’s from judges Andrew, Bennie and Pete. My Masterchef journey was an incredible experience, it was an amazing roller coaster ride of emotions, nerves and sheer excitement but the best part was meeting all the fantastic people who all share a common passion – cooking! This adventure re-ignited in me the fire and a burning desire to learn and share in the fun, frivolity and sheer pleasure that comes with cooking and everything culinary. I am very proud to have made it into the Top 35 only to be booted out on the potato challenge. Needless to say I have not cooked or peeled a potato again – but that is a story for another day…enough about me…back to this exquisite soup …
1 onion, cut in half (I keep the skin on - I only peel the onion if I want to make a clear stock)
1 carrot, chopped (…again keep the skin on – didn’t we learn that all the nutritional value lies in the skin?)
5 black pepper corns
2 cardamom pods
1 clove of garlic cut in half
1 small bunch of parsley
350g white fish – I use small whole hakes which I cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, finely grated
24 mussels in ½ shell
400 g kingklip (or any other firm white fish), cut into cubes of +- 2.5cm x 2.5cm
12 de-veined prawns with shells – I love to keep heads on – if you do take the heads off, don’t discard these….add them to your stock
45 ml flour
10 ml masala (I mix my own from the following ground ingredients: 15 ml turmeric, 15ml cumin, 10 ml coriander, 10 ml fennel, 15 ml hot “curry powder” this you can get from your local spice shop or supermarket)
30 ml tomato paste
1 ½ chicken stock cube, crumbled
2 large tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of ½ small lemon
For the gremolata
30 ml chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, finely grated
Zest of one lemon
One big squeeze of lemon juice
30 ml olive oil
Prepare your stock by adding the first 9 ingredients in a pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Take the mussels and place them in a sieve and then put it in the stock to cook for 2 minutes. I do this to infuse the juices in the stock (and to defrost if still frozen). Take out and leave aside.
Repeat the same process with the prawns – leave to simmer for about 3-4 minutes in the stock. Take out and set aside
Take the stock and strain through a very fine sieve. Set aside. (You can discard the stock ingredients but it does make for a very nutritious and fishy treat for my two canine children!)
Add the finely grated garlic to this stock.
Now, melt the butter in a pot. Add the flour to make a roux. Stir for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and masala. Stir well.
Add the warm stock - ladle by ladle - whisking briskly to make sure it does not form lumps. Once you have added the stock, bring it up to simmer - you will see that it has now thickened.
Add the stock cube and the chopped tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir well.
Now add the raw fish and let it simmer for +-3 minutes, then add the prawns and mussels.
Add the lemon juice and stir lightly – be careful not to break the fish! Season for taste by adding salt and pepper, lemon juice.
Simmer for a 5-10 minutes.
Lastly, mix the last 4 ingredients together to make the gremolata and set aside
To serve – in the bottom of a soup bowl put a dollop of the gremolata. Take the prawns out of the soup and place 2 prawns on each plate, add 3 or more pieces of fish. Strain the fish soup through a sieve and pour in the bowl around the fish and prawns. Add 3-4 mussels on top.
Garnish with a few drops of gremolata on top. Serve immediately.