Heat the oil in a large deep pot over high heat. Add the bacon and fry until it is slightly crisp. Add the ham hock, onions, and carrots. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the onions are slightly wilted.
Add the cabbage, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, salt, and cayenne. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the cabbage is slightly wilted. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Add the potatoes. Cover and cook for 1 hour, or until the cabbage and potatoes are soft and tender.
Remove the ham hock from the soup. Pick off the meat and add to the pot. Skim off any fat that has risen to the surface and remove the bay leaves.
Serve in large soup bowls.
Yield: 8 main-course servings