Once upon a time, most homes would have had a pot of bones simmering on the fire, usually to eke out the remains of flavour found in bones, and it would have been eaten as a broth with bread and even dripping.
But, over time, that yummy concoction became more of a flavour enhancer or, at least, a base from which literally thousands of meals can be prepared.
In this house, our wood-fired stove, which runs 24/7 during the winter months, has a pot of soup on all the time that rarely empties and, beside it, invariably, is a larger pot equipped with the makings of a delicate stock. By far my favourite is chicken stock, because it is the lightest meat-based stock around. It won’t dominate a meal, but will enhance almost everything it’s added to.
Vietnamese noodle soups are a personal favourite of mine, so chicken stock is always on the stove.
Try par-boiling your roasting potatoes in chicken stock, it will give your spuds a richness that will be sure to have you fighting for seconds.
And, for your next gravy, instead of using the vegie water, use chicken stock.
The fact is that all meat-based stocks rely on the cheapest cuts of meat and bones, the cost is next to nothing but the results are usually fabulous.
As a general rule, the meatier the bones, the stronger the stock will be. So, to start your stock, put your bones in a pot and fill it with water. Place the pot on the fire and bring to the boil. A scum will form on top after boiling for some time, which you can then skim from the top. Continue this until all the foam has disappeared. In the meantime, roughly chop up some carrot, celery and onion and add it to the pot. I season the pot at this time with a generous amount of salt. Reduce the boiling liquid by about half. That should take up to two hours, and it’s about now that you should skim off the fat. Lay some kitchen paper torn in half over the top of the liquid to lift off the fat, and continue this until all of it is removed. Taste for seasoning, and when the stock is to your liking, let it cool before portioning.
You can divide and store your stock in takeaway containers or for smaller portions use ice-cube trays.
MUSHROOM VELOUTÉ SAUCE
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan.
In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (don’t let it burn) and add the flour. Raise the heat to medium and stir the butter and flour together for about two minutes. You are making the roux. When cooked, it should have a pleasant toasted smell.
Whisk the simmering stock into the roux and keep heating and whisking. When the stock begins to simmer again, turn the heat down to low and cook until the sauce thickens. The sauce may take 5-10 minutes to get to your desired consistency.
Add the mushrooms and combine, stirring until the mushrooms are cooked.
Season with salt and pepper.
PORK HOCK AND VEGETABLE SOUP
For the Stock
- 1 meaty pork hock
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- A good handful of torn parsley stalks
- 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
- 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- Any vegies you like, finely diced
- 1/4 cup parsley roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup macaroni
- 1/2 cup soup mix
- Salt and pepper to taste
To make the base, place the hock in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. Skim the surface regularly to remove impurities. Add spices and the vegetables for the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer for another hour.
Once the meat is falling away from the bone, strain the stock into another pot and bring back to boiling.
Reduce to a simmer and add all the other ingredients.
At this point stir regularly to prevent the pasta and soup mix sticking to the base of the pot.
Dice up the meat into chunks and add it to the pot five minutes before serving.
SPICY TOM YUM GOONG
- 1.5L chicken stock
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced into 3cm lengths
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- Thumb-sized piece ginger, sliced
- 2 red chillies, sliced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 kg, peeled prawns with tails on
- 4 cups cooked rice noodles
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 1 handful fresh coriander, chopped.
- 1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
Bring the stock to the boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger and chillies. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes to let the spices infuse the stock.
Uncover and add the fish sauce, sugar and mushrooms. Simmer for five minutes. Toss in the rice noodles and prawns and cook for about five minutes until the prawns turn pink. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice, spring onions, tomatoes and coriander.
Taste for salt and spices; you should have an equal balance of spicy, salty and sour.
Tell your guests that the lemongrass and lime leaves are for flavour only and should be avoided when eating the soup.
The full feature appeared in Camper Trailer Australia #91 August 2015.