Homemade vege stock
Something indispensable in my ingredients supply is vegetable stock. Lentils cook in stock, couscous bloats itself in a bowl of stock, and to any number of meals, stock adds depth and comfort (particularly winter soups, stocks, stews, and anything else where solid chunks of food are surrounded by something saucy).
In the interests of shifting away from dependence on store-bought convenience items, I’ve started making my own – very basic – vege stock using a recipe from the River Cottage Veg cookbook.
Carrots, celery, onion, and garlic get chopped up in the food processor. Smaller chucks give their flavour to the broth more quickly, meaning less time on the stove (but they could be chopped by hand if you don’t have a food processor or you avoid bench top appliances). The shredded veges go into a big stockpot and are joined by parsley stems, bay, thyme and peppercorns.
This is all sauteed for a few minutes with some olive oil to soften the raw onion and get the flavours going.
A whole lot of water is added, to make an at-this-stage-really-not-very-enticing broth. But don’t judge on its looks, it has a good heart. This is brought to a boil, then left at a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile – as I plan on freezing the stock in 1cup/ 250ml portions – I get my jars cleaned up and ready. I use these quilted style, wide mouth preserving jars. If you are freezing things in jars, make sure you get the straight jars like these, and not the regular mouth jars with ‘shoulders’. This is because the regular jars are prone to cracking in the freezer due to the contents expanding, then putting pressure on the jars because of the ‘shoulders’.
Once finished simmering, it’s time to strain the broth. In batches, a sieve and cheese cloth help to strain as much as possible of the broth out from the chunks.
Once it’s all strained out, the stock goes into storage. I fill my jars to somewhere around the 1 cup/ 250ml mark, then leave on the bench (with an unfastened lid to keep out flies) until they have reached room temperature. Then it’s straight into the freezer.
My last batch was 6 litres of stock, meaning I finished with 24 of the jars to go into the freezer. When cooking, the jars come out from the freezer to the fridge the night before, or just onto the bench as early as I realise I’m going to be cooking with stock! Because of the wide mouth jars, the stock just needs to melt a wee bit before the contents can be tipped out of the jar still frozen, and then it’s only a couple of minutes on the stove in a sauce pan for the stock to boil.
It’s really fun to make, and if I had a bigger freezer I would stock up – ha ha – whenever all the ingredients are in season.
Here’s a lentils bowl – one of the go-to easy dinners around our home. Whatever tasty fresh stuff we have on hand on top of a bowl of puy lentils (they’re under there, I promise!) which were cooked in our homemade vege stock.