Mark Hix: Ham hock with pease pudding

Serves 4

As well as making a hearty main course, a ham knuckle is great to have in the fridge for sandwiches or to serve with a salad or eggs.

4 unsmoked ham hocks or knuckles weighing 300-400g each, soaked overnight in water, to remove any excess salt
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
5 cloves
1tsp black peppercorns
120g yellow or green split peas, soaked overnight
2tbsp chopped parsley
A few good knobs of butter

Wash the ham hocks in cold water and put them into a large pot with the onions, carrots, bay leaf, cloves and peppercorns. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour. Drain the split peas and tie them loosely with string in a piece of muslin and put them into a pot with the ham and vegetables and top up with water if necessary. Continue to simmer for another hour then remove the bag of peas and check if they have turned into a chunky purée by just pressing the bag between your fingers; if so remove from the pan, if not return and continue cooking. Check the hocks as well to see whether the meat is coming away from the bone; it's difficult to put a cooking time on cuts like this.

Once the ham hocks are cool enough to handle, remove and discard most of the outer layer of fat with a knife, leaving about cm of fat to protect the meat when roasting. Carefully remove the smaller bone by twisting and pulling it out, leaving the larger bone attached. If you use large hocks, remove some of the meat and keep for a salad or sandwiches, or as a garnish for a soup. To serve, reheat the hocks in a low oven with some butter and parsley, then reheat the pease pudding with butter and a little water, if necessary, to create a sauce-like consistency.