Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup

I started this week with a small veg box (less roots) and being the time of year, I was confronted with yet more runner beans. I hate to sound a little dismayed but sometimes a particular vegetables begins to get you down. It is not that I don’t like runner beans, it is just two things that upset me. Firstly that I feel that runner beans are usually best when really fresh just lightly boiled or steamed with a little butter but that does not make a very exciting blog post. Secondly, it is very hard to find really good recipes with runner beans that justifies the extra work rather than just boiling or steaming them and serving them with a little butter. Whatever you do decide to do with your runner beans, make sure you take the time to quickly run a peeler down each side of the bean to remove any stinginess before you cut them up. This little tip improves their texture tenfold.

Peeling Runner Beans

Believe it or not, I go to great lengths to think up recipes which I feel are not just an excuse for using up a vegetable. I am very determined that every recipe that goes in this blog is something that you are really going to want to eat. Or at least something that I am really going to want to eat. I was thrilled with my first idea for a Salad Nicoise with runner beans, favourably substituting the traditional French beans. But I looked out the window and it was pouring, literally bucketing it down. Not salad weather I thought, I will have to try harder. More warming, comforting soup weather. We all need comforting when August feels more like winter.

What I love about this soup is that it is supper quick. I have written about the joys of ready cooked, pulled ham hock before and here it is combined with lots of lovely vegetables, cannellini beans, pasta and runner beans. I really feel the runner beans are not an afterthought, but somehow belong in this recipe.

I got a complimentary bunch of basil in my box which you could whiz up with a little olive oil and add to your soup if you like but a little grated parmesan is my favourite addition. Apart from that, your only other decision is what pasta to use. I opted for the very pretty looking Mafalda Corta which is from Campania in Italy but I found in Waitrose. In the past I used anything from Orzo to alphabet pasta or broken spaghetti. I have got to say that it was most definitely a perfect meal to cheer you up on a very wet summer’s day.
If you want to cook your own ham hocks, place them in cold water, bring to the boil, then add a carrot, onion, leek and stick of celery (all chopped in half), some thyme and white pepper-corns. Simmer for a couple of hours until you can pick the hocks up and the meat falls from the bone.
To adapt for vegetarians, exclude the ham hock and use vegetable stock or water.

Ham Hock soup with Parmesan

Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup
180g ham hock, cooked and shredded
1 litre chicken stock or use good quality stock cubes (or use the liquid from cooking the hocks)
2 carrots peeled and sliced into 5mm thickness
1 large onion peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery sliced into 5mm lozenges
1 small leek shredded
A handful of runner beans
A tin of cannellini beans drained
80g dried pasta
Olive oil
Wash the vegetables. Then in a large pan add the olive oil, carrot, onion, leek and celery season with salt and pepper. Sauté for five minutes until they start to soften but without any colour.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Check seasoning and if it needs salt add some now. Add the pasta and cook as per packet instructions. Meanwhile peel your runner beans down each length with a peeler. Top and tail the beans and then cut diagonally into thin strips. When the pasta is done, add the ham-hock, runner beans and cannellini beans and bring to the boil. Cook until runner beans are done. Check seasoning. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, parmesan or basil oil.

Veg for Ham Hock Soup

Mushroom, Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Lasagna

Mushrooms and Spinach just go together for some reason, whether it be in a stir-fry, an omelette or a tart but this week I tried out a Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne with a bit of Goat’s Cheese thrown in as well. Serve alongside some of Riverford’s delicious salad leave and you have a meal in no time.

Riverford don’t do a Goat’s Cheese. Maybe they haven’t managed to find a good Organic one. I used Helen’s Farm, which although not organic, does a lovely range of Goat’s milk products and they even come in a variety of strengths so there is something to suit to everyone. I chose the mild hard cheese and even managed to sneak it past the kids without a fuss.

Spinach_mushroom_goats cheese lasagne

Mushroom, Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Lasagna
Serves 2
One Punnet of Mushrooms
One Bag of Baby Spinach
One large clove of garlic
25g Butter
25g Flour
350mls Milk
50g Parmesan
120g Goat’s Cheese
½ box of lasagna sheets
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely slice your mushrooms. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan and add your mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Fry on a medium heat until golden brown. Meanwhile heat a large saucepan with a lid. Add a very thin layer of oil to the bottom to stop the spinach sticking. Add the bag of spinach and add a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid carefully. The spinach should be just wilted. Tip the spinach into a colander and wipe out the saucepan. Very finely slice the garlic. Add a glug of olive oil to the pan and add the garlic. Fry until just golden brown. Add the spinach carefully as it may spit. Stir well and turn off the heat.

Heat the butter in a small non-stick saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to a low heat and stir until sandy. Carefully add the milk and whisk over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan. Season well to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Cut the goat’s cheese into small chunks. Take a gratin dish about 20cms x 15cms and put a very thin layer of béchamel on the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets. Break up the sheets if necessary. Top with the spinach and 1/3 of the remaining béchamel and 1/2 the goat’s cheese. Next do another layer of lasagne. Then top with the spinach the rest of the goat’s cheese and the next 1/3 of béchamel. Next the final layer of lasagne and finally the rest of the béchamel. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or so until golden brown on top and a blunt knife inserts easily all the way through.