I’ve been very poor at blog posting for the last month – we went to the UK for a couple of weeks on a house-hunting expedition in Devon and Cornwall (of which more later), and a quick catch-up with our respective families in Warwickshire. Sadly, while we were in the UK, a very old friend of ours died, so I returned to Turkey for a few days, only to execute a quick turnaround to go back for the funeral.
I am now back for a short stay before we head off to Prague next weekend for the Christmas holiday. We won’t be home until new year’s eve, and are planning to take part in Veganuary for the month of January, so I am getting ahead with a few things for the freezer, so that my resolve is not too severely tested on Day One!
I brought a few parsnips back with me, most of which are now nestling in the freezer, so I frugally saved the tops and tails for vegetable stock – of which large quantities will be required to make our January vegan soups, stews and risottos a pleasure rather than a bore.
The secret to getting a good colour and flavour to your stock is to brown the onions before you add the liquid and the rest of the vegetables and flavourings. This can be done in a hot oven in a roasting tin if you have large quantities, or just in a large saute pan or saucepan if you are making a smaller amount. I’ve opted for my largest saute pan, as it will allow the onions space to brown nicely and it holds quite a bit of liquid. If your stock is very strongly flavoured, you can freeze it in small amounts and just dilute it when you use it for your final dish.
Adding spices and herbs will give your stock body and warmth, as well as providing subtle background flavours in the finished product. A single star anise or a tiny piece of cinnamon stick in the stock will be almost imperceptible in a soup or gravy, but they each add a flavour component to the whole.
This is a great way to make good use of a few bits and pieces that are past their sell-by date. I am not giving an exact measurement for the liquid – just fill the pan to the top. I added about 1.5 litres, but that is simply the amount that my pan held – there is no need to be too scientific about it. Ditto, just add whatever vegetables and herbs you have – onion, carrot and some kind of celery are essential though, and a piece of leek gives a lovely sweetness. I use red onion if I have one, as it adds a gorgeous colour. Mushrooms provide a lovely earthy background and pea pods and a tomato add both colour and fresh flavour.
Really good vegetable stock
Takes about 1 hour
You will need a large saute pan, saucepan (or roasting tin if using the oven)
1 red onion (or normal brown one if that is what you have)
Tops and tails of parsnips if you have any
A piece of leek (you can use the scuzzy green part for this)
A piece of fennel
A couple of sticks of celery or the leaves/stalks from a small celeriac
A few mange touts or a few pea or broad bean pods
1 small tomato
A couple of mushrooms
A couple of slices of fresh ginger
Herbs: I added parsley stalks and a couple of sprigs of thyme and rosemary
Spices – any or all of the following:
1 star anise
A small piece of cinnamon stick
A few fennel seeds
A few juniper berries
A few peppercorns
A few cardamom pods
If you are planning to make your stock in the oven, pre-heat the oven to 200C. Fill the kettle and bring to the boil.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan or wide saucepan (or pour into a roasting tin – no need to pre-heat the oil). Roughly chop the onions and add to the pan or roasting tin, along with the parsnip trimmings (if using).
Cook over a medium heat (or uncovered in the oven) until the onions and parsnip are a deep golden brown, stirring frequently – do not allow to burn or your stock will be bitter. (If you are using a roasting tin in the oven and have plenty of space in the tin, by all means add the carrots, leek, fennel and celery at this stage too – but you do need everything in a single layer or it won’t brown).
Meanwhile, pound the spices with a pestle and mortar (leave the piece of cinnamon and the star anise whole).
Once the onions and parsnip pieces are brown, roughly chop the rest of the vegetables and add to the stock, along with the herbs and spices.
Top up the pan almost to the top with boiling water.
Simmer, covered with a lid (or a tightly-sealed double layer of foil) over a gentle heat, or return to the oven and simmer at 150C, for about 40 minutes.
Pour the stock through a colander set over a large jug (or another pan). Press the vegetables with the back of a wooden spoon to make sure you extract every drop of juice and flavour. If your pan or tin has any nice brown bits on the bottom, add a little hot water and scrape with a wooden spoon or spatula, then add to the stock.
Your stock should be fairly clear and a gorgeous deep golden brown:
Allow to cool completely before freezing. I usually freeze the stock in fairly small containers, so that I can just take whatever I need out of the freezer as I go along.