This is rib sticking food for when you’re in the mood for your meat to be red (well pink) in tooth and claw. When you have finished cooking, the leg bones stick out of a cabbagy nest like the remains of some knight who fell foul of a feathery dragon.
It most definitely isn’t a crowd pleaser, but if you like flavours to be bold, brash and in yer face then my word, you’re in for a treat. The meat is almost melting off the bone after several hours of super slow cooking. The fat is all gloopy and – well – fatty, the meat moist and super savoury. Turn up the salt dial to 11 bo’sun. And full steam ahead!
The cabbage provides some respite, although the liquor it swims in takes the flavour of the ham. You might want to add some balancing sharp or sweet flavours to the veg – a little red current jelly, some raisins or apple. It would also complement the pork too.
If you wanted something that won’t assault the senses and deaden your tastebuds to this degree then probably unsmoked knuckle would be the way forward. I suspect the use of ham hocks is what really ramped the impact up. Add a super smokey intensity to the mix and you have a real hum-dinger of a dish.
In other words, venture this way if you dare. But you have been warned.
Enough for three or four people
You don’t need any extra salt with these so be careful what stock you use. The original recipe is from Pork and Sons by Stephane Reynaud, a wonderful paen to all things porcine. It calls for white wine, not stock, which would probably balance the saltiness a little and give it a more rounded flavour. Mind you, it also calls for 100g of lardons as well which would ramp up the saltiness even more.
2 smoked ham hocks
1 red cabbage
1l stock (or white wine)
2 celery sticks
2 med-sm onions
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks lemongrass
2 chorizo sausages sliced into finger-width pieces
1 tblsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
Finely slice the onion, celery, lemongrass and ginger and heat over a low heat in a big, heavy-bottomed saucepan. When they have softened add the chorizo and fry until the oil turns golden-red. About 5-7 minutes.
Wash, core and slice the cabbage finely. Add it to the pan and then pour in the stock or wine. Add the brown sugar and cumin and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the ham hocks and top up with water. Cover, turn the heat down low and leave to bubble slowly for around three hours. Stir it occasionally to prevent the cabbage from sticking.
Take the lid off, remove the ham hocks and turn the heat up and reduce the sauce a little. Take the meat off the bones and serve in bowls with big hunks of crusty bread or boiled potatoes, or both. But only if you’re hungry.