I spotted ham hocks and immediately snapped them up. They were such great big meaty beasts they needed to be simmered in separate saucepans. Having been cooked for a few hours with some classic flavourings, the flabby skin was discarded and pink hunks of meat carved off the bone. Paired with some greenery in a lightly creamy sauce, the home-made rough puff pastry topped it and added some extra richness. I was surprised by how easy the pastry was to make; I've heard from several people that life is too short to make puff pastry. While it didn't have as many layers as shop-bought, it had enough to be light, flaky and buttery.
This isn't a recipe you can knock up after work - there aren't many ingredients but it requires advance planning. What you are rewarded with is pure comfort to dive into. I found it didn't need any potatoes; just a side of steamed greens to ease the conscience.
Ham, Leek & Pea Pie
2 ham hocks
5 sticks of celery
1 clove of garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
100gr plain flour
For the pastry
250gr unsalted butter at room temperature
125gr plain flour
125gr white bread flour
A pinch of salt
Soak the ham hocks in cold water overnight, changing the water if possible. This is to prevent the meat from being overly salty. Place the hocks in a pan of water and bring to the boil to remove impurities. Once it does so, discard the water and place in another pan of water, bringing to the boil. Add the onion, carrot and 4 sticks of celery, roughly chopped. Simmer for 3 hours.
Remove the hocks, reserving the liquid and leave to cool. Slice off the skin and hack the meat off the bone, discarding any big lumps of fat and gristle. Slice the remaining celery and leek finely and fry in a pan in a little oil. Add the clove of garlic, chopped finely, and the leaves of the thyme stripped off the stalk. Fry until softened. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the flour to make a roux. Add the milk bit by bit, whisking any lumps out as you go. When all the milk is added, take off the heat and set to one side.
Strain the liquid the ham hocks were simmering in. Add 800mls of this (depending on how big your pie dish is) to the pan with the vegetables in and slowly whisk in the milky roux. Bring to the simmer and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes until it thickens up nicely. Lastly, add 3/4's of the meat in along with the peas (they'll cook in the residual heat) and take off the heat. Taste, season with salt and pepper if needed, and then spoon it into your pie dish to cool.
To make the pastry, I modified this recipe, whacked it on my pie, glazed it with egg and baked it at 180 degrees for 40 minutes. It fed 3 of us until we felt sick; I think I even ate it cold (pastry and all) out of the fridge the next day.
The stock made from simmering the hocks makes a great soup - it does jellify but that's a good thing. I added red lentils and pearl barley and with the last quarter of ham in it and some wilted spinach, it made a really delicious dinner.
I am all hammed out... for now.