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Bright Winter Soup

Last year, Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism, put out a little recipe book in digital format. I was more than happy to contribute to this sample taste of the Great Ocean Road. Below is the recipe I submitted. However, head over to this link to see more wonderful recipes by clever folks like Dan Hunter from Brae and Frank Camorra from Movida Lorne to name a couple. Taste the Great Ocean Road.

I hope you enjoy this hearty soup. Feel free to substitute the ham hock for a couple of chunky lamb chops, or a chook.

This Tuscan inspired dish may have its origins a long way from the Otways, but it suits our kitchen vegetable garden so well, and it features regularly at our farm table.

It is the sort of slow food dish you can assemble on a Saturday morning before heading out into the garden or catching up on farm chores, knowing you have dinner sorted! This is my favourite type of weekend cooking. Once our Rayburn wood stove gets lit at the end of autumn, a pot of soup like this one is on high rotation all throughout the colder months. It's the perfect comfort food!

Before you begin, take a quick scout around your vegie patch and gather as much of your own produce that you might have on hand.

You will need from your garden, your friendly neighbour, community share cupboard or green grocer:

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped (rustic chunks are fine)

1 turnip and 1 swede, peeled and chopped (optional)

3 or 4 celery stalks and their leaves, finely chopped. (I like to strip the fibrous strings from the stalks before I slice them)

A good couple of handfuls of Tuscan kale, (dark green leaves) or spinach chopped roughly

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

1 zucchini chopped (I like to freeze some at the end of Summer for winter stews and soups)

Bunch of parsley chopped finely

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To buy:

A ham hock or two (about a kg).

400g tin organic tomatoes (You can use chopped up fresh tomatoes)

400g tin organic cannellini or borlotti beans. (You can soak a cup of dried beans overnight if you prefer the slower method)

1-liter chicken stock (use your own stock if possible)

Extra virgin olive oil

Bread to serve alongside

1. Into a deep, heavy based pot, add a generous glug of olive oil and cook the onion slowly on your stovetop. Add the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.

2. Add the rest of the vegetables (holding the parsley back till just before you serve) and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Place the ham hocks into vegetables and add the stock to the pot. Top up the pot if necessary with a little more stock or water to just cover the vegetables and meat.

4. Put a lid on the pot and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer gently until the meat starts to separate from the bones. Keep an eye on the pot. Don’t let it get too dry. A couple of hours will get you to this stage.

5. Remove the ham hocks and pick the meat from the bones and return the meat to the pot.

6. Add the chopped up parsley and simmer for a few minutes till it is wilted.

7. Check for seasoning.

Serve with warm bread and lashings of butter!


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