Monday, January 18, 2016

Use your Christmas Ham Bone to make this light and delicious Kale and Ham Soup

Ham and Kale Soup

This is a terrific recipe I found a few years ago, and until now I have restricted making it to Winter, using the Christmas ham bone which I place in the freezer religiously after each Christmas. My beautiful daughter inspired me though shortly after Christmas this year by making this soup (her favourite) in her slow cooker and freezing it in single edible portions in her freezer, for a perfect and nutritious meal to have after work some days, or even for lunch in the air-conditioning. After all, we had Christmas in Cairns so she inherited the ham bone this year.

So I returned home, thinking about that soup which smelled and looked wonderful. Of course I found myself at the local butchers, bought a ham hock and cooked the soup in my old but ongoing and faithful red crock pot, and froze it in double portions. Then it rained cats and dogs yesterday, so the soup was the perfect meal for a rainy day. However, it is light enough to be eaten on a cool evening in the heat of Summer as well. 

It is also the perfect way to eat Kale, a vegetable I am not smitten with to be truthful, but which I know is full of the essential healthy vitamins we need. Sharp Parmesan Cheese finishes it off beautifully. 


1 smoked ham hock or bone from your Christmas Ham
1 onion, halved
2 sticks celery
1 carrot, sliced
3 garlic cloves
2 parsley stalks, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 leeks. white part only, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
400g can cannellini beans, drained
1 bunch kale (about 12 leaves), trimmed and chopped
Shaved Parmesan, to serve
Olive oil, to serve

Let’s make the stock:

Place the ham bone, onion, celery, carrot, garlic and parsley in a large saucepan or slow cooker bowl.

Slow cooker method:
Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker bowl and fill the pot with 3 litres of water. Cook on low for 8 hours or on medium for 4 hours. Halfway through the cooking, adjust the ham bone if necessary, so that all of the bone will be cooked and the meat tender by the end.  Remove the ham hock and discard the skin. Shred meat and set aside. Strain stock and set aside.

Large saucepan method:
Place all the ingredients in the saucepan and cover with 3 litres of water. Cook, simmering for 30 minutes (use a spoon to skim the surface).

Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, or until meat is tender and falling off the bone. Remove the ham hock and discard the skin. Shred meat and set aside. Strain stock and set aside.

Let’s make the soup:

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, leeks, and garlic. Cook, stirring for 4-5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add stock and bring to the boil. Add cannellini beans, kale, and ham hock meat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until kale is tender.

Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon into soup bowls, top with shaved Parmesan, and drizzle with olive oil.

Warm wishes,

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Potatoes and Deconstructed Pesto

Basil is such a great herb to have growing in the garden and fortunately I have heaps of it. At this time of year, it is challenging to maintain a vegetable garden in the hot tropics, so I think that herbs are the way to go. Before we went away on holiday at Christmas time, I planted a whole lot of my self harvested basil seeds and came home to a very nice crop of basil plants. Since then I have made tubs of basil pesto which are in the freezer for winter pasta making when basil doesn't grow very well, or for making muffins etc throughout the year. However, it occurred to me today, that I should be using more of the fresh stuff on a daily basis.

 I have some very nice small organic potatoes, the name of which I have forgotten, which I bought from Rusty's markets in Cairns, grown in Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands, and which need to be used.

The following  is my version of a recipe I found in the River Cottage veg everyday cookbook, which is a great way of deconstructing all the ingredients traditionally used in basil pesto, and using fresh basil, which is perfect for summer. This marries beautifully with grilled chicken.

A dollop of homemade basil  pesto can still  be added as a garnish  if desired.

Potatoes and Deconstructed Pesto

Serves 2-3

500g small potatoes, or Sebago, Kipfler or other creamy potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
A handful of fresh basil, shredded
1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)
50g stoned black olives, very roughly chopped (optional)
A generous squeeze of lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Sea salt
Grated Parmesan
Hard goat’s cheese


Cut the potatoes into 2 or 3 pieces each. Put into a saucepan to boil. Covered with water, salted, bring potatoes to the boil and lower the heat. Simmer for about 8 minutes until tender.

Drain well and return to the hot saucepan.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small pan over a low heat. Add the pine nuts for a minute to lightly brown and then add the slivered garlic and cook very gently for a couple of minutes, then  add the olives and cook gently for another minute. Don’t allow the garlic to brown and be careful that the pine nuts don't burn. Remove from the heat.(Pine nuts or olives can be omitted if necessary.)

Tip the oil, garlic, pine nuts and olives into the pan with the potatoes, add loads of shredded basil (a good bunch), plenty of slivered or finely grated Parmesan, and hard goat’s cheese. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice. The goat’s cheese and the Parmesan will melt slightly and ooze nicely throughout the potatoes.

Enjoy the dish, we did!

Best wishes