It’s an uninspiring day, but I know one way to make my kitchen feel warm and delicious and wholesome. It’s as simple as making chicken stock.
Chicken stock is one of the cornerstones of my kitchen life. It boosts the flavour of so many things, making the taste richer and deeper.
It’s not difficult, but you need patience. I’ve talked about it before, but that was the cut-rate version – making it in a rush for necessity. Good in its way, and better than the alternatives, but not quite the right thing.
I’m a devoted MasterChef fan, but I never understood why they use packet stock. In more recent years, when they grab a packet of stock and pour it in the pot, they then add a mass of aromatics and flavours to try to turn it into something worth using. Why not start with water? Most packet stocks either taste like nothing or they taste artificial, and you have to do a whole heap to it to overcome all its disadvantages.
They make a big show of giving the contestants a hard time about making pastry themselves, when a good bought pastry is fine for most things. But then they use packet stocks, which really aren’t good for anything. (My one, desperate, backup is Massel stock cubes. They’re the only ones that don’t taste like a chemical cocktail).
But anyway, back to proper stock.
Get some chicken carcasses. You can get them from many supermarkets and most butchers and they are as cheap as you would expect. Obviously get the best you can. I get mine from a free-range supplier.
Put them on a tray and put them in the oven, and roast them for 20 minutes to half an hour on 200C. They should be browning nicely. This is not essential, but the roasting adds a lovely strength of flavour to the final stock. You could also add, or use on their own, chicken wings or chicken necks, also roasted.
In a big stock pot put:
A couple of sticks of chopped celery. The leaves are ok too
A leek, sliced and washed. Or any kind of onion you have – salad, yellow, shallots
A couple of big carrots, quartered
A couple of fresh bay leaves
Some parsley stalks
A few white peppercorns, whole
A teaspoon of coriander seeds (this is optional, but I like the hint of flavour it gives).
A good piece of parmesan rind (this adds to the umami flavour, that meaty savoury taste)
A few dried mushrooms (optional, but it also adds nicely to the umami flavour).
Add in the chicken bones and cover with water. You should be expecting 3-4 litres of stock from half a dozen carcasses.
Bring it all slowly to the boil and then let it simmer gently for as many hours as you have. I aim for a minimum of 3, but it’s often 5.
When you turn it off, give it a chance to cool a bit, and then pour it all through a fine sieve and discard all the vegetables, etc. I usually at some stage skim a fair bit of the fat off, but I don’t get too obsessive about it.
I put the stock in 1/2 and 1kg plastic tubs (like yoghurt containers or similar) and then it goes into the freezer until I need it.
Verdict: the most useful and wonderful thing in the kitchen