Ham Hock and Kale Stew

‘Flour, water, salt… time?’

While my kitchen has had an abundance the first three of the ingredients of bread, the fourth has been in rather short supply for some time. So, while the baking has continued, the blogging has not. Coming to the end of very rare day of freedom, the thought occurs to me that today’s dinner might be worth a quick post, if for no other reason than to prove my continued survival.

This one’s a little different to any of my other recipes, as not only does it not contain flour, there’s not even any salt. This is a favourite dinner in our house, as it elicits nostalgic memories of hard-pressed grandparents in the adults, while the kids just enjoy anything they can shove into their mouths at speed.

As well as being delicious, this meal is ultra-economical, feeding 8-10 people from one pot for around €1 / $1 a head. I usually make this quantity, and whatever isn’t eaten the first evening is refridgerated and polished off over the course of the following few days.

Hocks, for those that aren’t familiar with the lesser-known parts of the pig, are the ankles and calves of the pig. They contain quite a lot of fat and sinew, which render down to produce far more moist and tender meat than most other cuts of ham. My mother would head a little further south on the poor porker given the choice, being a fan of ‘crubeens’; pig’s feet to you and I.

I buy my hocks at O’Dwyer’s butchers in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, where they’re a snip at €2.50 each.


For the stock:

2 ham hocks

1 celery stick

1 large onion

1 large carrot

3 bay leaves

6 black peppercorns

Place all the stock ingredients in a large saucepan with around 2 L of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for around 3 hours. Remove the hocks and leave to cool, strain the liquid and use in the steps below. Discard the stock vegetables.

For the stew:

1 large onion

2 celery sticks

2 large carrots20170201_174145_001

1.2 L ham stock (above)

800 ml water

1 tsp dried / 1 tbsp fresh rosemary

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp dried sage

2 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

180g dried green lentils

200g curly kale, rinsed and chopped

  • Fry the chopped onion, celery, and carrot in a little olive or rapeseed oil for 5 minutes, or until the onion and celery soften
  • Add the stock, water, potatoes, and herbs; bring to the boil, cover, and simmer gently for around 30 minutes
  • Rinse the lentils under running water; add to the pot and continue to simmer for around 1 hour
  • Using bare hands or a knife (if you’re squeamish), strip the fat and sinew from the cooled hocks and flake the meat into bite-sized morsels
  • Add the ham and kale to the pot and cover for a final 10-15 minute simmer
  • Serve in bowls- ensure it is dark, raining, and windy outside for maximum enjoyment


I don’t hold with the whole ‘superfood’ bullshit so beloved by ‘Doctors’ of Nutrition, but eating kale does just feel good, and it is full of vitamins and minerals. This is a cracking winter stew, and I encourage everyone to give it a go. Unlike crubeens….




Phthalates In Food- When Labelling Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Over the summer months I’ve been reading rather than writing. I’m currently reading Nate Silver’s ‘The Signal And The Noise’, which is a fascinating look at the world of Big Data; not really the sort of thing I discuss here, but I would highly recommend it none the less. What might be more relevant to my readers however is a book which has made a huge impression on myself and my family; it has changed the way we look at many foods and has genuinely altered the way we source and cook ingredients. Continue reading

Healthy Baked Oat Bites

These chewy oat bars are my take on flapjack-style granola bars which are usually heavily laden with refined sugars. Using fruit to provide much of the sweetness means there’s less reason to feel guilty about indulging your sweet tooth, and they’re a great healthy treat for children. Continue reading

Water Content Of Sourdough- Is Wetter Really Better?

I have a confession to make: I first attempted to take up sourdough baking around five or six years ago, but gave up after several weeks because of frustration. I couldn’t decide whether I was just a rubbish baker, or whether all the hype around sourdough was a case of everyone admiring the Emperor’s new clothes. Self-taught, using online resources such as The Fresh Loaf, I found my breads lacked structure, and resembled vulcanised rubber when being chewed. The dough was extremely difficult to handle, and refused to accept shaping into anything other than a flat ovoid. It’s hard to enjoy baking when the process becomes a bit of an ordeal, and the result is unspectacular. When my starter developed a mould infestation after several days of neglect, I felt almost relieved to allow it to succumb. Continue reading

What Is Diastatic Malt Flour?

I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with new ingredients this week; not only have I recently discovered a wonderful local Irish wholemeal flour, but I received a surprise package from BakeryBits in the mail.
Continue reading

Chickpea Burgers With Sourdough Buns

To me nothing signifies summer so much as our little apple buds beginning to swell.
To me nothing signifies summer so much as our little apple buds beginning to swell.

Summer has finally arrived, late and half-hearted as it often tends to be in this corner of the world. Like any red-blooded male I rushed to the supermarket at the first glimpse of a clear sky yesterday and bought up most of their stock of charcoal, as well as enough meat to feed a small army, which was supposed to last us the whole weekend. In my enthusiasm to get grilling last night I somehow managed to cook all the sausages, chicken legs and homemade burgers at one sitting (standing?). What’s more, the rest of the family also seemed to get caught up in Barbecue Fever and, indulging their inner carnivores, managed to scoff more or less the entire mountain of meat.

Feeling a little the worse for wear after last night’s meat binge (which I admit may have been washed down by an ale or two), I figured we needed to have a vegetarian day, and these protein-rich chickpea burgers with their soft sourdough buns always go down a treat. They’re also really easy to prepare. I like to serve them with a good dollop of sweet chilli sauce, but they’d be equally good with some mayonnaise. Our raised vegetable beds are just beginning to produce some lovely salad leaves as well, which make for a beautiful light side dish.

For The Sourdough Buns (makes 6):

75g sourdough starter (here’s how to make it)

300g strong white bread flour

170g milk

10g soft butter

3g salt

8g honey

1 medium egg

Around 9 hours before you plan to eat, combine all your ingredients and knead thoroughly by hand or (preferably) with a mixer and dough hook until you have a very smooth, soft dough. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and stretch and fold it, forming it into a ball with a smooth surface. Place smooth side up in a clean lightly oiled bowl and cover. Allow to ferment for around 6 hours at room temperature.

Again, turn out onto a floured surface and divide and shape into 6 small balls of dough. Using the palm of your hand pat each of these down until they are no more than 1cm thick, then place in a greased baking dish and cover for their final proof. After around an hour, brush the tops of the buns with an egg white and place in a preheated oven at 190C (375F) for 20 minutes.

Remove from the baking dish and allow to cool on a wire rack for about an hour before serving.

Sourdough buns all set for the oven.

For The Chickpea Burgers:

80g breadcrumbs- sourdough of course!

480g chickpeas (cooked from dry or 2 drained tins)

1 small onion

2 egg yolks

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 heaped tsp cumin powder

1 level tsp paprika

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp harissa paste (more or less to taste)

Salt & pepper

1 plum tomato, deseeded and chopped

Preheat your oven to 220C (430F).

Using a blender, puree half the chickpeas with the rest of the ingredients except the tomato. Place the puree in a bowl and mix in the remainder of the chickpeas and the tomato, keeping them intact. Using your hands, form the mixture into 6 patties (squeeze them tight!), and place them on a well-oiled baking sheet.

Bake the burgers for 15 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. Serve in your sliced cooled buns with the topping of your choice and enjoy the taste of summer.

Delicious healthy vegetarian burgers, served with fresh sourdough buns, potato salad, and homegrown greens.


Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom In Bread Baking

'Baking bread' from Tacuini sanitatis
‘Baking bread’ from Tacuini sanitatis

I think it’s amazing that Western society is having to re-learn the importance of fermentation in bread baking in the 21st century. There is abundant evidence of humans producing fermented bread many thousands of years ago, although presumably the earliest bakers didn’t realise exactly what benefits the fermentation conferred to their diet. Continue reading

Phytic Acid- The Antinutrient In Your Bread

When it comes to choosing our breads and breakfast cereals, I think it’s fair to say we all know we should be eating more wholemeal/wholegrain products. There are several very good reasons for this- wholemeal flour, which includes more of the outer parts of the grain, is a good source of dietary fibre for one, and the great majority of us in the western world do not eat enough fibre to maintain healthy gut function. These parts of the grain also contain far higher levels of vitamins and minerals than the soft endosperm which goes into making white flour. In fact, almost 90% of some key nutrients are lost in the extraction process, making white flour a food with poor nutritional value. For this reason, flour millers are legally required to supplement these flours with B vitamins once the extraction process is complete in order to prevent widespread nutrient deficiencies. This seems a convoluted way of producing a nutritious product doesn’t it- removing naturally occurring nutrients to later replace them with industrially-produced imitations. So we’re agreed- wholemeal all the way, right? Continue reading