1. Put the ham hock in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Slowly bring to a boil over high heat, skimming the surface as necessary. Reduce the heat to low, add the bouquet garni, half the onions and the hot pepper. Re-cover the pan again and simmer for 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
2. Place a colander over a large heatproof bowl and strain the cooking liquid. Reserve the liquid and set the ham hock aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Add the remaining onions and cook for 5 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rice.
4. Stir in 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, the beans and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, remove the meat from the ham hock and cut into large chunks; discard skin and bones.
6. Remove the casserole from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, covered. Use a fork to stir in the ham. Pile the mixture onto a large serving platter and serve with hot pepper sauce on the side.
Variation: Spicy Hoppin' John
Tomatoes make a good addition to the basic recipe and will make the dish go further. Simply add one 14.5oz (400g) can of chopped tomatoes, drained, in step 4. For extra spice, you can also add a good pinch of Cajun or Creole seasoning.