Saturday, January 3, 2009

Snow Day!

I have a confession to make and I am rather ashamed of it. I am going to come clean and get it out in the open. I am a bouillon cube user.

I know that vegetable stock is one of the easiest and cheapest things to make, and that it is 100 times better than cubes. I have made stock in the past and I realize that it is so much tastier. I know that cubes are probably full of artificial fats, flavourings, colours, and the dreaded MSG, but somehow I just never get around to making it....until today!

I have been planning it all week, and today is the day. I want to simmer it slowly for a few hours, which requires me to be home and it couldn't have been a better day for hanging around the house. It snowed so much last night and it just seems the perfect day to make something slow and savoury which will fill the house with aromatic loveliness.

So here is my veggie stock recipe. Keep in mind that this shouldn't be followed with scientific precision. Adjust the amounts and even the ingredients to suit your taste. I stay away from anything too strong like cabbage, asparagus or peppers, but feel free to throw in some leeks, shallots, parsley or other herbs. I make my stock with skins on most of the vegetables, so using organic produce here is the best way to go.

My Veggie Stock (not from a cube)

2 onions, skins on (unless they're muddy), chopped into quarters

3 carrots, washed but unpeeled, cut into thirds

3 celery stalks, rinsed, cut into thirds, plus the pale green leaves from inside the heart

Fronds from one bulb of fennel

4 cloves of garlic, skins on, slightly crushed

1 piece of ginger, peeled, about the size of a ping pong ball

5 fragrant bay leaves (please smell them before you throw them in, do they have a smell? If they've been sitting in your cupboard since the 80's they most likely do not. Get rid of them and buy yourself some more from a quality spice store.)

7 peppercorns (because I like the number 7, adjust to your taste)

1 good branch of rosemary

a few branches of dried thyme (I always dry mine from my summer garden and use it on the branch which contains a lot of flavour)

1 scant tbsp coarse sea salt (or less, it's better to adjust salt at the end of cooking, adding too much at the beginning can spell disaster)

Put all of the ingredients in a large pot, mine holds about 4 litres I think. Cover the vegetables with water so they have a nice amount to swim around in. Bring to a boil, once boiling reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Enjoy the smell! When you feel it's finished simmering have a taste and adjust the salt if you need to.
Cool the stock in the pot. Strain out the vegetables through a mesh sieve into a bowl and discard them. Transfer the stock to containers and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for a few months.

Use this liquid gold in soups, stews, pilafs, risottos, or anywhere you would use a bouillon cube and enjoy the difference.

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