Do you find that your cooking goals change throughout the year, and from season to season? I do! Yes - to me fall is a cozy season – but also a very rushed one. I like eating seasonally, and fall finds me bringing quite a few root vegetables home. Root vegetables such as rutabaga (swede) and celery root are plentiful, fresh and inexpensive right now. Sadly, as much as I love rutabaga – the mini Vikings doth protest! Except when they enjoy the healthy cruciferous veggie unknowingly – that is!
Insanely rushed days call for slow cooker recipes that require minimal prep, a meal that the whole family will eat and raw materials that will stand up to the rigors of slow cooking. Check, check and check! All the ingredients are thrown straight into the slow cooker, and simply covered with water. I hide the potentially offending root veggies by chopping them smaller than a dice, and larger than a mince. Puy lentils have a firm skin, thus they retain their shape – even after hours simmering in the slow cooker.
Plus – the herbs and spices are quickly tied into a bouquet garni – easily added to the pot – easily extracted before serving.
As great as their distain for mushy root veggies, the mini Vikings are exceedingly fond of kale in their soup. I throw a few handfuls of chopped kale into the pot the last 5-10 minutes – while I debone and shred the ham hocks.
We usually eat this soup with Scandinavian hard breads – like Wasa or Finn Crisp. A side of boiled potatoes also goes well, if heartier fare is in order.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- ½ – ¼ medium rutabaga (about 500 g), small dice
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 ham hocks (total 6 lbs., 3 kg)
- 1 lb. Puy (Beluga) lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 3-4 cups (6-8 dl) chopped kale
- fresh thyme sprigs
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- kitchen twine
- Place the chopped onion, rutabaga and carrots on the bottom of a large slow cooker.
- Place the ham hocks on top of the vegetables.
- Pour the lentils around the ham hocks.
- Cover the ham hocks with water, with a surplus of at least 2 inches.
- Place the thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns on the cheesecloth.
- Form a pouch, and securely close with kitchen twine.
- Place bouquet garni in slow cooker.
- Cook on low for approximately 10 hours, or until ham hocks are falling off the bone.
- Pull ham hocks out to cool.
- Leave slow cooker lid off for 5 minutes so fat can settle. Skim visible fat.
- Remove and discard the bouquet garni.
- Add kale to the slow cooker.
- Using kitchen tongs, remove fat and bones from ham hock.
- Shred or chop the ham, and put it back in the slow cooker.
- Taste the soup, adding more water if too salty or thinner soup is desired.
- Add salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve with bread or Scandinavian hard breads such as Wasa or Finn Crisp. Boiled potatoes also go nicely – for a more filling meal.