A STOCK pot used to be a constant and essential part of all kitchens. These days, what with easily bought substitutes, stock is generally only made by good chefs and keen domestic cooks. I am one of the latter.
There simply is no replacement for a good stock. No bought alternative gives the equivalent depth of flavour to a soup or sauce, or in whatever the stock is used as an ingredient, and this includes stews and casseroles, and jellies forming the basis for all types of savoury mousse.
Of course, sometimes I am lazy and in my store cupboard there lurks a tub of the stock substitute I like to use, Marigold, but for the most part, I make my own stocks. And these vary. But they are ALL so much better, in taste as well as texture, than cubes or powder.
Making your own stock takes only a few minutes in preparation, as well as utilising parts of vegetables that you would otherwise throw away – for instance, onion skins, which give a depth of colour to a stock, and tough parsley stalks, which need to be bashed before being thrown into the pot, to release their flavour.
And it’s not just veg. If you are eating langoustines you can make a broth from their shells which can be turned into either a sauce or soup later. Cooking stock without covering the pan with its lid intensifies the flavour. And reducing it right down means it takes up less space in the freezer. I freeze mine in plastic bottles.
• Bones from white, as opposed to smoked, fish, as many as as you like – ask the fishmonger behind the wet fish counter of a supermarket for bones from filleted white fish
• A blade of mace – the mace is the outer part of a whole nutmeg and can be bought in small jars. It has a flavour which enhances that of all fish.
• 2 onions, skinned and halved – the rich brown colour imparted to the stock if the skin is included does not benefit most fish dishes
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• Outer leaves of 1 bulb of fennel
• 1 teaspoon salt, about 1 teaspoon peppercorns bashed once with the end of a rolling pin
• Small bunch of bashed parsley stalks
• 140ml/¼ pint fairly dry white wine
• Pared rind of ½ a lemon
• 2 pints cold water
Put the fish bones and the rest of the ingredients into a large saucepan. Add the water, and, over moderately high heat bring the liquid to a gentle simmer. Simmer, the pan uncovered, for 45 minutes. Cool completely, then strain the fish stock into a measuring jug, and discard the contents of the sieve. Store in the fridge, in a covered container, for up to 24 hours before using.
Roast chicken stock
• 3-4 chicken thighs
• 2 onions, quartered, skin and all
• Outer leaves and ends (providing there is no earth attached) of 3 leeks
• Carrot, or the ends and peelings of 3 carrots
• Small handful of bashed parsley stalks
• Outer ends of a bulb of fennel
• Celery trimmings
• 2 teaspoons salt, about 20 grinds of black pepper
• 3½ pints/2 litres cold water
Put the chicken thighs into a small roasting tin and roast in a hot oven, 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 for 35-40 minutes. Then tip the roasted thighs into a large saucepan.
Add the other ingredients then add the cold water. Over a fairly high heat bring the water to a gentle simmer – NOT a rolling boil – and simmer the contents of the pan gently – you may need to turn down the heat beneath the pan, for 2-2 ½ hours, the pan half covered with its lid for the first 1½ hours of cooking time.
Take the pan off the heat and cool completely. Then strain the stock. Discard the contents of the sieve or colander through which the stock has strained. If you like, pick the chicken from the bones of the thighs, but its flavour will have gone into the stock. When settled, skim off any fat. Either store the stock in plastic bottles in the freezer till required – be sure to label the bottles – or use within two days.
For this amass as many varieties of vegetable trimmings as you can. The choice is yours. I suggest:
• 2 onions, each quartered
• Trimmings from peeling 4 carrots
• Trimmings from 2-3 leeks – be sure there is no earth on the leeks or any of the vegetable trimmings
• The ends and base of a bulb of celery
• The outer leaves and ends of 2 bulbs of fennel
• 2 Jerusalem artichokes
• Small bunch of parsley stalks, bashed
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 broccoli stalks
• 1 bashed lemongrass stalk
• 3½ pints/2 litres cold water
• 2 teaspoons salt, about 25 grinds of black pepper
Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan, add the water and, over moderately high heat bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer gently, the pan uncovered, for 1 hour. Then take the pan off the heat, cool, and strain the stock into a measuring jug.
Discard the contents of the sieve or colander through which the stock has strained. Store the stock in the fridge, in a covered container for up to two days.