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Ham hock, kale and potato stew

This is somewhere between a soup and a stew – a clear broth made from ham on the bone. A meal that shows the real strength of Irish cooking using simple, cheap ingredients and then treating them with respect to get the best out of them.

Serves 4 (double the measurement for 8)


1 ham hock (unsalted) – about a kilo in weight
1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in boiling water
1 stick of celery
1 carrot, whole and peeled
1/2 leek or 1 onion, peeled
2 bay leaves
10 wax potatoes, cleaned with skins on
1/2 head of kale, washed and chopped into 2 inch strips.
10 white peppercorns and a twist of black pepper
Salt to taste



1. You can either skin the ham hock and put it in the pot or put it in, skin and all (and skim off the fat when it has cooled).
2. Cover with water and add all the other ingredients, except the potatoes and the kale.
3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 and a 1/2 to 2 hours, topping up with water if you need to. Keep the lid on to keep in the moisture. (Only wait the extra half hour if you feel you need more flavour, it will depend on the quality of the ham hock. You may need to cook it a little extra to extract more flavour from the bone.)
4. Bring the liquid up to the boil and add the potatoes. Turn the heat back to a simmer and add the kale. Cook for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-soft.
5. If you have left the fat on the ham, take the ham out and take off the fat with a sharp knife. Remove the meat. Leave the stew to cool, then remove the fat off the top with a spoon, return the ham meat to the pot and heat through before serving.
If you have taken the fat off the ham before you cooked it, take the ham hock out, strip it of meat, return it to the pot and serve it in big bowls with some of the vegetables.

Cook's note
– If you leave the fat on the ham hock, you will get a better flavour but you won't be able to eat it immediately. You will have to wait until it cools sufficiently until you can see the layer of fat on the top, and skim it.
– If you want to eat it immediately, skim the fat off before you cook the ham hock – that way you won't have have to wait until it cools. The flavour will still be excellent.

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