Regardless of whether it is freshly made or in cube form, stock is an essential part of many meals, particularly soups, stews, casseroles and broths. Of course, there isn’t always time enough to make one’s own stock, but when one can find a few minutes it is certainly a worthwhile undertaking. It has the power to bring food alive – it’s not difficult to distinguish between freshly made stock and the slightly suspect supermarket hexahedron.
The local butcher will forever be one’s foremost ally in the pursuit of cracking homemade stock. As you might have guessed, a frequent by-product of their line of work is a hefty supply of animal bones. These are virtually worthless in monetary terms – mere superfluities to most meat eaters – but they do make for jolly tasty stock. So, simply pop down to your local butcher and ask for some stock bones (pork, lamb, beef… whatever) and you’ll almost certainly walk away with a clutch of bones, full of delicious marrow ready to add richness to anything it touches. Now, that really is frugal!
The beauty about stock is that one can impart to it any flavour one desires, a characteristic that will be reflected in the recipe below. For instance, I wanted this particular batch to be as beefy as possible, so I omitted any trace of rosemary or thyme. It is always a good idea to be partially cognisant of what delightful dish you’ll be using the stock for, since you may find yourself with a flavouring that detracts from the resultant meal.
There is but one more tit-bit of advice I feel duty bound to impart – if the bones are two feet long and you intend to boil them, ask if they can be cut in half before you get home! As you can see, I had to make my stock in the oven and while this is a perfectly acceptable method, it is a little less convenient and the stock tends to be ever so slightly less flavourful. Still, whatever method you use your homemade stock will almost certainly be superior to stock cubes – it will also be a darn sight more thrifty!
Makes 2 litres
• 1kg beef rib or leg marrow bones
• 1 carrot
• 1 onion or leek tops
• 6 pepper corns
• 3 bay leaves
• Large sprig of thyme or rosemary (optional)
• Stick of celery (optional)
• Garlic (optional)
• 1 tsp salt
1. Make sure the bones are in manageable chunks if you intend to boil them. Pop them in the oven at 200C in a deep tin, to roast for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the bones to a large saucepan, pour over the water and add the carrot, onion/leek, pepper corns, bay leaves, salt and any optional extras. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for 2-3 hours minimum. Strain and use immediately, or leave to cool and freeze for use at a later date.
Cost: The best thing about this stock (and any stock) is that the bones are free! As such, all you’ll ever likely to need are a few odds and ends that you can actually save up in the freezer – don’t throw away those vital leek tops! Indeed, the entire batch of stock should set you back no more than 30-50p – how very frugal!