Mark Hix recipe: Baked butter beans with smoked ham hock

Serves 4-6

As I said earlier, buy the best-quality butter beans you can for this .If you can't find smoked ham hock, an unsmoked one will do.

1 smoked ham hock weighing about a kilo, soaked in cold water overnight
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp plain flour
1 x can of chopped tomatoes
100g dried butter beans, soaked for 24 hours in plenty of cold water, then cooked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
3tbsp chopped parsley

Rinse the ham hock off in cold water, then place in a saucepan with the bay leaf and peppercorns, cover with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone.

Remove the hock from the pan and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onions and garlic for 2-3 minutes until soft, stir in the flour, then gradually add about a litre of the ham stock, whisking every so often to avoid lumps forming. Add the chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for about an hour. Give the sauce the occasional whisk to break down the tomatoes.

Remove the rind from the ham hock and cut it into rough 1cm dice. Line a grill tray with foil and cook the rind for about 10-15 minutes, turning the pieces as they are cooking, until they go crisp, but not burnt. Mix with the breadcrumbs and parsley, season and put to one side.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the meat from the ham hock and cut into rough 2cm chunks; add to the sauce with the cooked butter beans and season. The sauce should be just coating the beans and hock – if it's too thick, add a little more stock.

Simmer gently for another 8-10 minutes, then transfer to an ovenproof dish. Spoon over the breadcrumb mixture and bake for about 20-30 minutes until golden.

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