Serves 6


  • 1 ham hock
  • 3 celery sticks, snapped in half
  • 3 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 whole head of garlic, with the cloves peeled
  • 30g sage, roughly chopped
  • 100g pearl barley
  • 250g cavolo nero or savoy cabbage, trimmed and sliced


  • A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Put the ham hock and 4-5 litres of water into a pot with all the veg, herbs and garlic.
  • Bring to the boil, skim, then turn down the heat and leave to simmer for 4 hours, skimming occasionally until the meat is falling off the bone.
  • Lift the ham out and leave it to cool.
  • Take out the veg and put to one side.
  • Throw away the thyme and bay leaves.
  • Chop the veg into nice small chunks.
  • Put the ham stock back on the stove and bring to a simmer.
  • Give it a final skim then add the sage and pearl barley, cooking the barley according to the time on the packet. Note the time required to cook the barley.
  • Pick and chuck the bigger bits of fat off the ham hock, then shred the meat into soup-size chunks.
  • Add the meat to the veg.
  • About 25 minutes before the barley is cooked, stir in the cavolo nero.
  • Cover the broth with a lid and simmer until the barley and cavolo are cooked.
  • Add back the cooked veg and meat and season well.
  • Serve in big bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and some crusty bread.