I saw a ham hock for sale and immediately got this idea for a lentil/bean/ham/pork soup/stew.
First step was to pull all the meat from the bone, leaving it in bite-sized pieces. I then simmered the bones and rind for an hour or so to get a salty, hammy stock. Lentils don't soften properly if you cook them in salted water, so I cooked half a packet of red lentils in fresh water until they were completely mushed and had absorbed all the water. In the meantime, I peeled and quartered some potatoes and simmered them in the ham stock for a few minutes to absorb the flavour - I didn't want them to soften very much, so took them out to drain. A few remnants of some pancetta lardons were put into a large iron casserole to render and I cut some smoked pork sausages into chunks and browned them in the casserole. Then I threw in two sliced onions and softened them gently along with the meats. I added the drained potatoes and stirred around to coat them with the contents of the casserole. The stock, ham pieces, a handful of chopped parsley, a large grind of black pepper, a squirt of tomato puree and the lentils followed, and the contents were stirred and cooked over a very gentle heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently and keeping the mix liquid by adding a little water when necessary. I then threw in a can of drained butter beans and let it all bubble for a few minutes more.
Eat with a spoon and fork.
This dish demonstrates a technique that I often use: mixing and returning flavours between ingredients to maximise and deepen the flavours. The whole thing could be made much more simply by just adding all the ingredients together and simmering, but the result wouldn't be nearly as good. The timing of adding the beans also makes sure that there are different textures in the finished dish: the crunchy lardons, the soft lentils, softening potatoes and the beans just beginning to crack. Absolutely delicious, and just great for a very cold evening.