One of the only upsides to moving into the cooler weather is SOUP! I drive my family crazy with soup all winter, because it is the ultimate soul food, and I love the magic of throwing a few (normally cheap) ingredients into a pot and a few hours later you have a bowl of delicious warmth. Throw in some crusty bread and you have a meal!
Today I will share the basics of stock making – the base of all good soups, but actually, for some soups, a good bought stock is more than acceptable…
One of life’s true miracles… Every culture has a chicken stock at the heart of some of its true comfort food… And we all know that Chicken soup is the cure all for everything from a cold to a broken heart..
Chicken stock can be made using chicken carcasses, chicken drums/wings or full chickens. I’ve even used the leftovers from a Roast chicken dinner.. The method is the same for all of them.. Luckily, I live with a son who loves boiled chicken for sandwiches, but you can also shred the cooked chicken and put it in fried rice, sandwiches or toss through a salad…
My freezer is never without Chicken stock, either in 2 litre boxes, or just 1 cup serves for a quick pick me up…
Either a few chicken Carcasses – however many you can many to squash into a stock pot
Or – 8 drumsticks
Or – 15-20 chicken wings/nibbles
Or 1 large chicken
Or 2 small chickens (I have found this the best combination, you get a much better flavour)
2-3 carrots cut into chunks
1-2 onions (unpeeled) quartered
You can also add chunks of celery
Salt and about 2t of peppercorns
Any herbs you want to add.
Put all the ingredients in a large pot, add cold water until everything covered. Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Check the water level and top up if needed. It’s ready when the chicken has well and truly disintegrated. At this stage, you can either leave the whole pot as is in the fridge for 24 hours to “steep”, or cool and drain through a colander. I like to leave the stock in the fridge until it “sets”, and then you can take all the fat off the top.
Can be used straight away, or freeze in individual portions, or in an ice-cream container.
I also use the pressure cooker – which I think gives the deepest chicken flavour. Same idea, but you cook it for 40 mins @ high pressure.
Also known by the English as Beef Tea, and now as Paleo Bone Broth…
Beef stock really is a labour of love… A bit more complicated than chicken stock, it needs time to develop its rich meaty flavour. But it is worth the effort if you’re making a soup that needs a deep dark base. The roasting of the bones and veges at the start is pivotal in getting maximum flavour – one of my early rookie mistakes was treating the bones like chicken and boiling them from raw… Not only was it the most unappetising grey colour, but the smell (and possibly flavour) was that of damp sox… So, a good roasting followed by a gentle boiling is the secret to deep dark goodness…
2K Beef bones (get some good meaty ones)
2-3 onions, skins intact
1 head of garlic sliced in half horizontally
Generous swig of olive oil.
Cut the carrots into chunks, the carrots into quarters and half the garlic bulb. Mix with the bones in a flat roasting dish and splash with olive oil. Roast in a hot oven (220C) for 40-50 mins tossing periodically until everything really well browned… Well, blackened, it’s all flavour.
Tip the contents into a stock pot and pour a cup of boiling water into the roasting dish and scrape all the tasty roasted bits stuck to the pan… pour over the bones and veges in the pot and then add enough water to cover everything. Toss in some sprigs of thyme and a few bay leaves, and about a dozen peppercorns.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 hours plus until the stock is as dark as you want, and all the flavour has been boiled out of the bones. There will be a foam rise to the surface, just skim it off. You may need to top up the water if it gets too low.
Once cooked you can just strain and use, but I like to leave the pot and its contents to steep overnight, before bringing back to the boil and then straining it through a colander. This is the point when I season with salt and possibly more pepper. I’ve found if you do it too early, the stock has a danger of becoming too salty.
You can either use the stock straight away, or it keeps for 2 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. One its chilled, you can peel the fat that will rise to the top off, to make it healthier. It will also chill to a very satisfying jelly like texture.
Now you’re ready to go for dark and tasty soups and sauces…