The Wife Cooks …

When I am away, my wife usually will cook up a huge batch of something or other that will last her for several meals over many days. It could be spaghetti sauce (a time honored favorite), or maybe a substantial curry, but on my last trip away she used a basic set of ingredients to cook three different dishes. The ongoing process built upon itself, somewhat like my Sunday Gravy project, and (without any prompting from me) she recorded what she did with her camera. The results were complex, not to mention tasty, and I thought they might make an interesting guest post for my readers…

Part 1 – Hocks and Stock

The main point of this first operation is to make a rich pork stock for use in two subsequent dishes, but the side benefit is that some of the ingredients will also be used in one of the dishes as well as providing an additional bonus meal to boot…

  • 4-6 pork hocks (depending on size)
  • 3 or more cloves of garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • 2 ribs of celery, coarsely chopped into 1” chunks
  • 2 large brown onions, peeled and coarsely chopped into 8 sections
  • Carrots (as many as you like), peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • Potatoes (as many as you like), peeled and cut into large chunks

Put everything except the potatoes and carrots in a big pot and cover well with water (5 or 6 liters is about right).

Bring the pot to the boil and then reduce heat, skimming any foam that rises from time to time. After an hour, add the potatoes and carrots and continue to cook until they are tender.

Remove the vegetables and pork hocks from the stock. The stock is not finished yet, but some of the vegetables and meat will be used in a further dish, while the skin and bones will go back into the pot with what remains being used for a bonus lunch.

My wife says:

“The meal itself is a very homey comfort food and I make it on those days where I am craving an old taste from childhood.  Serve with hocks in one big bowl and veggies in another.  Everybody gets another bowl to put the skin, fat and bones in.  Dip bites of the meat into vinegar as you eat and serve vegetables with lots of butter, salt and pepper.  I like to leave a little of the stock in with the veggies so that you can mush it into them while eating.”

You can now continue to cook down the pork stock, with the bones and skin from the meal being added back, of course. Once you are done (two or three hours later), you will have four liters or so of delicious stock that will become a thick gel when cooled.

Part 2 – Borscht

My wife always uses the stock to make dal but, on this occasion, she had lots to play with and decided to cook up another favorite as well…

  • 2 liters of pork stock (dilute with water if too strong).
  • 5 medium sized beets (and greens, if desired)
  • 1 tsp. dill
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ medium head of cabbage cut into thin shreds
  • Leftover vegetables from pork hocks recipe
  • Leftover pork hock meat
  • 1 (6 oz.) can of tomato paste
  • ¾ c water
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. white sugar or to taste
  • Sour cream
  • Parsley or dill for garnish

You first need to prepare the leftovers from the stock making by cutting the vegetables into chunks and tearing the meat into longish shreds.

Bring stock to boil and add the whole, scrubbed beets.  Boil gently for about 15 minutes or so.  Remove beets and cool.  Slip skins off and the julienne the beets.  Return to pot along with cabbage and tomatoes, bringing back to gentle boil.  If using the beet greens, add them at this time too. Keep adding water as necessary to keep up the level.  Cook for another 15 minutes or so.

Cook the onion in a bit of oil until translucent.  Add tomato paste and water, mixing well.  Add to pot with beets and cabbage and then put in the potatoes, carrots and meat.  Bring the pot back up to a simmer. Add garlic, salt, pepper and sugar.  Turn off heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.  Serve with dollops of sour cream on top and garnished with dill, if desired.

I didn’t get to partake of the original pork hock feast as I was away but there was scads of the Borscht leftover for me when I got home and I liked it very much. My wife’s verdict was a bot more critical:

“This was a really good borscht but I would not put in the beet greens next time, perhaps use them in another recipe.  The taste of the beet greens just didn’t meld well with the rest of the tastes.  Other than that, it worked very well.”

Part 3 – Darlene’s Celebrated Dal

  • 1 c of mixed dal soaked
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, sliced and then cut into small match sticks
  • 1.5 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. ajowan seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 small green chilies, sliced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can on diced tomatoes
  • 2 liters of pork stock from pork hocks

For you choice of dal, Darlene says:

“I used a combination of moath dal and whole mung beans this time.  I like to soak them either over night or for 3 days with several changes of water to encourage sprouting (for this recipe, they were soaked for two days).  Sprouted dal is great!  Feel free to use any kind of dal.  If you use lentils or any whole dal, soak at least over night.  If using split dal, soak for only an hour.  Its also nice to mix it up a bit and use a combination of whole and split dal, just soak them separately.  This will give the finished product a smoother appearance.  Use the small red split dal sparingly.  They have no taste but can add a bit to this smoothness.”

Slice bacon into thick slices and put into large, heavy bottomed pot with a little oil (or butter for decadence) on a low or medium low heat.  Fry for a couple of minutes and then add onions.  Cook until bacon is browning and onions start to caramelize.  Add garlic and ginger and stir well.  Cook for a couple more minutes.  Add cumin, turmeric, ajowan seed, bay, cinnamon and chilies.  Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.

Add drained dal and mix well, allowing to cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.

Add tomatoes and pork stock and stir well.  Bring to a boil and simmer until dal are done.  This will take a varying length of time depending on the size of dal or whether it was split or not.  The larger lentils can take a couple of hours.  Add water as necessary.

There wasn’t much of this left by the time I got home from Igloolik, but it tasted great (it always does). Darlene says:

“I make dal all of the time and this was one of my best.  I really think that the extra soaking time on the dal, allowing them to sprout a bit, makes a huge difference to the taste.  Also, I almost always make dal using the pork hock broth which adds a major component to the taste.”

25 thoughts on “The Wife Cooks …”

  1. It seems “the wife” has to work very hard while you are away! Kudo to you, madam! I want to comment on the pork hock, which we asian usually refer to pig feet ( I know it is like the leg, but not the feet). At any rate, do you know that the Okinawa studies of the centenarian, found that one of the reasons of long life is the diet, which includes pig feet (. also pork hock) , because of the collagen of the skin of the pigs ! Keep an eye…the wife will be getting younger and younger!

  2. Wife is brilliant! I have recently read that beet greens are edible and I love the flavor. I am definitely going to try this, it is wonderful. My one dish that goes on and on, is hubbies fav. I need a dish like this when I am busy with a project, like now! A blueprint for ease, thank you!

  3. Now that’s how to cook – spoon in one hand, liquor in the other! (although I do not drink… it still looks fun. What part of the country is your wife from that she dips pork hock in vinegar? when we cook fresh ham, we always have a container of American mustard on the table to put a splutch on the plate and then lightly dab the pork into. I’m a born and bred Southerner…so. Pork and vinegar is on the way to being NC bbq. Our neighbor never used the greens in her borscht (Russian). She did cook the greens separately as one would cook turnip greens, collards, etc. She also added to tossed salads. She had a similar contraption to the ulu that was her great grandmother’s. it was half the size and wicked sharp. she used it to cut all kinds of things.

    Please have your wife as a guest again! her recipes were delightful and great to look at. Be careful of that collagen though, for sure. Southern ladies know how young fatty pork keeps you – hocks, etc. they feed them to their men so they can sort of keep up with them, along with lots of oysters – fried, steamed, raw, in stews….

    1. From “the Wife”: Actually,the original pork hocks recipe is from my Mom who is from English/Scottish roots. She would just put the stock down the sink (gasp!).. She never actually gave me the “recipe” but this tastes pretty much the same. IMPORTANT TIP: the dal just isn’t anywhere near as good if its not done with this port stock – THAT’S the magic ingredient. I know its laborious but SOOOOO worth it!

  4. If I may say, the pork hock stock is really important. If you don’t have leftover carrots and spuds, that’s no problem because you can add them fresh earlier in the recipe.

  5. I would also recommend for beet greens, stir frying them with chopped red pepper, a tomato (not critical if you don’t have one), onions, garlic and ginger root all cooked with a dab of chili paste and soy sauce.

    Yummy when cooked with pasta.

  6. It’s been a long while since I’ve enjoyed pork hocks, and now you’ve made me want to make them. The dal looks very tasty too. I unfortunately have some kind of irrational aversion to borscht, which I think goes back to my childhood. It used to be for all things beet, but in recent years I’ve discovered I actually really like roasted beets. Once day I’ll come to my senses and discover that borscht doesn’t bite.

  7. love pork hock! may i suggest blanching the pork hock first for about 5 minutes to “clean” it from dirt, blood, etc and I promise you that when you make your broth, you don’t need to scoop the foam out. 🙂 I will try your borscht recipe, I tried to make it the other day and it was a disaster.

    Ps. l couldnt help but notice your chinese dishes! 😛

    1. Actually, I almost always blanch meat before making stock … unless I roast it first. My wife was doing the cooking here… and if you aren’t concerned about really clear broth it probably doesn’t matter too much. I do it out of habit even if clear stock isn’t an issue though 🙂

  8. Your wife looks very well-balanced–and damned happy. That bottle does wonders, eh? This all looks so good!
    Can you tell me what “dal” is?

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