Hearty and nutritious, this is a meal in a bowl and can be packed with as many vegetables as you like.
1–2 ham hocks, smoked if possible
2 cups apple juice
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped roughly
1 large leek, sliced thickly
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
bouquet garni (available in the spice section of the supermarket or make your own with 2 bay leaves, small handful parsley stalks and sprigs of thyme tied together with kitchen string)
½ cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
300 grams Agria potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot, diced
1 parsnip, diced
2 large handfuls finely shredded greens, use kale, silverbeet, spinach, cavolo nero or cabbage
1½ cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Base: Place all the ingredients in a large stockpot or saucepan then add enough cold water to cover everything by 6cm. Don’t add salt at this point as there is generally enough in the hocks. Bring to the boil, skimming off any foam that sits on the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently uncovered for anywhere between 2–4 hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Cooking time depends on the size of the hocks. If the liquid has reduced considerably, add extra hot water as needed.
Remove the hocks with a slotted spoon to a large plate. When cool enough to handle pull the meat off the bone, discarding all the fat, skin and sinew. Break or cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Taste the stock and if needed season with salt and pepper.
Add the barley, potatoes, carrot and parsnip to the soup and simmer for about 30 minutes until the barley and vegetables are cooked. Add the greens and peas and cook for another 5 minutes. If the soup is very thick, add boiling water to thin a little.
To serve: Add the parsley to the soup. The meat can be stirred back into the soup, reserving some for garnish or it can be quickly cooked in a hot sauté pan until lightly golden then served with the soup, as I have done.