Wednesday, 10 March 2010


 I have food on the brain. I was writing another blog post on our move but while waiting for the lovely man from Sainsbury's to deliver my noms, I thought I'd submit this instead.Lovely, because he laughs at my muscles or lack thereof when I lift in the shopping myself despite him offering to help. I love this schizophrenic season for food. On one hand, there are the more delicate brassicas like purple sprouting broccoli and kale on offer, parsnips, apples and pears are all in season and on hand to remind you of warming winter eats. On the other, though are radishes, rhubarb, aromatic herbs, spinach all the things that signal the beginning of spring and lighter dishes. So this weeks recipes reflect this madness. The first is Ouillade, a French bacon, cabbage and bean soup. It's less of a soup, really - more an entire meal in a bowl. There are as many versions of ouillade around as there are excuses for coming home late. All I'll say is that in the past I have used carrots and potato in with my soffrito of shallots, carrots and celery, puy lentils instead of beans, and bacon instead of ham hock. The cabbage is the traditional savoy cabbage or take advantage of kale this month. Other than that, my top tip is to use the best stock you can make or buy - it needs to have a good, deep, rich flavour. A thin stock won't give the oomph the ouillade really needs. It's got to be gutsy - warming, tasty, and full of flavour. So that the carnivores don't complain.
 Here's a basic recipe, play with this as you wish.


  1. 250g dried haricot beans
  2. 1 fore hock unsmoked bacon, weighing about 1kg
  3. 2 tbsp olive oil
  4. 1 large onion, chopped
  5. 1 large carrot, chopped
  6. 150g turnip or swede, peeled, quartered and chopped
  7. 350g potatoes, peeled, halved and chopped
  8. 1/2 savoy cabbage or 250g curly kale
  9. 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  10. 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Soak the haricot beans in cold water overnight (or buy them in a tin so no overnight faffing needed).
  2. The next day, put the bacon hock into a deep pan with 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then cover and leave to simmer gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning it over now and then as the liquid starts to reduce, until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone. Leave the hock in the cooking liquor until cool enough to handle.
  3. Meanwhile, drain the beans and put into a second pan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum as it rises to the surface, then lower the heat, cover and leave to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until tender. Drain and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add the carrot and cook for 5 minutes until it’s soft. Strain 1.75 litres of the bacon’s cooking liquor into the pan, add the turnip or swede and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, discard the skin from the hock and tear the meat into small, bite-sized pieces.
  6. Quarter the cabbage, remove the core and thinly slice (or slice the curly kale). Add the bacon pieces, cabbage and beans to the soup and simmer for 5-7 minutes until tender.
  7. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the garlic, parsley and plenty of black pepper. Ladle into large warmed soup plates and serve with lots of fresh crusty bread.

Because this week will be a bit hectic with organising the last of the things for the move and getting the keys to the new place on Friday I'm taking advantage of buying these ingredients and making another similar recipe that can be left to cook for a while: ham hock, split pea and mint stew. The addition of mint freshens up the dish and prepares the palate for spring time fun.


  1. 600g ham hock
  2. 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  3. 1 large onion, quartered
  4. 6 black peppercorns
  5. 150g dried yellow split peas
  6. 450g white potatoes, cut into cubes
  7. 150g frozen peas
  8. Small handful chopped fresh mint


  1. Put the ham hock, carrots, onion and peppercorns in a large pan. Add 1.7 litres water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 1 hour. Skim off any scum.
  2. Strain the cooking liquid through a colander into another large pan. Set the hock aside to cool slightly, pull off the meat and shred. Cover and set aside. Discard the bone and the contents of the colander.
  3. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Add the split peas and cook for 35 minutes, skimming off any scum. Add the potatoes and cook for 10-12 minutes or until the potatoes and split peas are tender. Stir in the frozen peas and cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Take off the heat and stir in most of the mint. Blend half until smooth, mix with the remainder and season.
  4. Divide the stew between warmed bowls. Top with the shredded ham and reserved mint to serve.
Enjoy. P.S The now not so lovely man from Sainsbury's is late and I've had to eat the emergency Kit-Kat chunky that I was hiding in my handbag. Shhhh...

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