This simple ham hock risotto is the perfect way to start a discussion about meat consumption, nose-to-tail and sustainability. The recipe uses meat from around the joint while making a stock with the bones to cook the risotto with. Ham hock is often forgotten about but is readily available, delicious and really affordable!
As consumers, we are often desensitized to the process behind eating meat. We buy it pre-packaged in the grocery store and it doesn’t resemble an animal in any way. I grew up on a British beef and pig farm, and I was often confronted with a pig’s head looking up out of the freezer when I went to get myself a popsicle. Now located in American suburbia, I realized recently my kids know very little about where their meat comes from.
I’ve been cutting down on meat consumption for the past couple of years… if you haven’t tried my ultimate vegetarian empanadas, I suggest you get involved! Despite reducing, we do still eat meat and I put together this ham hock risotto recipe together for a couple of reasons:
Smoked Ham Hocks Keep
Smoked ham hocks can be bought from your standard grocery store, are inexpensive and keep for ages. The sell-by date will be over a month past when you bought it. Ham hock and risotto rice are things you can keep in the fridge/cupboard and have as back-up. You can cook it at the end of the week (or month) and have no worries about the ingredients spoiling. I highly recommend adding some peas too… again, frozen peas can just be there waiting for when you’re ready and won’t spoil.
Ham Hocks Look Like an Animal Part
Proportionally, there is little meat on a ham hock. There is thick skin, plenty of bone and they clearly look like a joint. My daughter Elsie spotted the ham hocks in action and was a little horrified at first. “Ham what?” “You mean you’re going to eat an elbow?” “That poor pig!”.
It gave us an opportunity to talk about the importance of using all the animal parts. If an animal is going to die, why waste any of it? The growing trend for nose-to-tail cooking is a great step in the right direction for more sustainable meat consumption. Although the vegan movement is growing, I can’t see the carnivores giving it all up just yet, but teaching kids about nose-to-tail and savoring the whole animal is a great way to set good habits for sustainable eating in the future.
Just in case you want a share a little pig butchery with the kids…
Less Preaching and on with the Recipe
Risotto is simple and easy but you do need to actively stir through the process so you have to be present in the kitchen while it cooks. Smoked ham hocks are cooked and technically ready to eat when you buy them, but if you boil them you’ll get that fall-off-the-bone deliciousness that we all associate with hack hock. It also makes it much easier to separate the meat from the fat and you can make a delicious stock in the process which you will use to make your risotto… win win!
- 2 Smoked ham hocks
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 Tbs Olive oil
- 1 Onion
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup White wine
- ¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan
- ½ Tbs butter
- salt and peper to season
- Place ham hocks in a saucepan and cover with water. Add bay leaves and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-60mins until meat feels soft and pulls off the bone easily. Top up water while boiling to keep meat submerged.
- When boiling is complete, remove the ham hocks from the pan and keep the stock aside for cooking the rice later. Pull the meat of the bones with two forks and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pan to a medium heat. Chop the onion and add to the pan. Cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
- Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat in oil. Cook while stirring for 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer while stirring until fully absorbed into the rice.
- Add the ham hock stock to the risotto, one cup at a time. Keep stirring, once the stock is absorbed, you are ready to add another cup. The rice will probably use 3-4cups of stock before being cooked... slightly firm to bite, around 20 mintues cooking time. Stir in the butter.
- Add the ham meat and most of the cheese (keep some aside to serve on top). Stir until cheese is melted. Season with black, you may not require additional salt with the meat stock and parmesan.
- Optional: Add frozen peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Enjoy, let me know how you ham hock risotto turn out!