Kale and lentil soup | Recipe | Ham hock | Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

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Kale and lentil soup
Recipe

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Country: Australia

When winter approaches the stubby, dark-green shoots of kale start to appear in the markets. This crinkly vegetable is perfect for winter soups and other long-cooked braised dishes. This recipe is one that you can vary to suit the ingredients you have in your cupboard. Just adopt the general technique described here. At the end of the recipe you will find some suggestions for variations.
Ingredients for 4
2 tablespoons good olive oil
100 grams speck cut into small cubes
2 pork sausages, skin removed and cut into small pieces
1 smoked ham hock
2 leeks (white part and a little bit of the green, not too much though as the green part is bitter)
1 generous bunch of kale, including stems, but cut finely
1 cup green 'Puy-style' lentils
Sea salt (we use Australia's own Murray Valley)
A couple of fresh bay leaves and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme tied with string
Freshly ground pepper
Chicken stock (home made) - sufficient to cover the vegetables and lentils plus a little bit more
The first step is to develop some flavours in the pot. This is usually done with chopped onion and garlic but we have used a combination of speck and finely sliced leeks. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pot and add the speck. Sauté gently until the fat starts to render and becomes clear. Add the leeks and cook until they are soft. You now have a mix of good flavours that will provide the base for the soup flavourings. If you don't have leeks available use two medium onions instead and add some chopped garlic towards the end of the softening time.
Now add the kale. Note that it should be cut into pieces small enough to fit easily on a soup spoon.
Season with sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. This helps the vegetables break down and develop flavour. Stir gently, letting the kale wilt and pick up the other flavours. Then add the lentils and sausage pieces and stir them through to coat them with the flavours already in the pan.
Add enough stock to just cover the vegetables and lentils and a little bit more. Bring to the boil then turn the temperature down so it simmers until the kale, lentils and meat are soft (about 40 minutes, although it will vary depending on the variety of kale - some take longer than others to break down to a soft consistency). Keep an eye on the soup during that time. If all the liquid has been absorbed by the lentils while cooking, add some more stock (or water) to return it to a soup consistency.
When everything's cooked and it's come together as a homogenous being, taste the broth and, if necessary, add more salt and pepper.
Remove the ham hock and break the meat up into bite sized pieces. Return the meat to the pot and re-heat. Serve in warm bowls.
Variations
You can vary this soup depending on availability. We often have chicken meat left over from ‘white-cooking' a chicken. If so, we omit the pork hock and add some diced cooked chicken, which we've massaged in a little sea salt, towards the end. Make sure that you bring the soup back to the boil to ensure that the chicken is heated right through to the correct temperature.
Sometimes we leave out the ham hock and add a spicy sausage such as chorizo to give the soup a different flavour. You can also add any other leftover meat such as leg of lamb or rabbit or shoulder of beef if you like. This soup also works very well with meatballs made from pork and breadcrumbs.
It's also not essential to use chicken stock. It would be fine with a vegetable stock and we've also had success with rabbit stock. Even water can do in a pinch.
© Sue Dyson and Roger McShane, 2009
 
     
     
     


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