chicken stock

Before you begin: Freezing stuff

92047481_10158216893007154_3520284757785051136_oBefore you freeze anything at all, think about the quantities in which you may want to use it later. This applies equally to meat, fish, and to such things as demi-glace, jus, gravy, stock and pureed fruit.

Generally speaking less is better.

There have been many occasions when I have had to thaw twice as much meat as I needed, twice as much demi-glace (that really is a waste) and up to four times as much stock.

None of these should be re-frozen, and none keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Even soup should not be frozen in large quantities unless it is for a specific occasion. Plastic containers with a 2 cup or 500ml capacity are a good investment. Make sure they are stackable. I thought Mrs. Crockett containers were great when I first discovered them, now I realise that they are far too big.

IMG_2167If you get an over abundance of limes or lemons, squeeze them and make small ice cubes. Use them for margaritas, Damascus slings or thai dressings. So much better than fake/concentrate juice.

Pumkin soup


Queensland Blue* pumpkin, peeled and diced (quantities are difficult here)
3 – 4 large onions, chopped
Oil for cooking
Good quality chicken stock or vegetable stock
Nutmeg, grated
Cream, sour cream, or mascarpone
* If you want to be healthy and avoid cream, use home made almond milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan, add onion and sauté until tender.

Add pumpkin in batches, and cook a little, making sure not to burn the onion.

Transfer onion and pumpkin to a heavy casserole, add chicken stock, and simmer gently until the pumpkin is tender.

Puree the pumpkin and onion mixture in a food processor, or pass through the fine sieve of a mouli.

Just before serving, stir in cream, sour cream, mascarpone (or almond milk), being careful not to add too much. Add a little grated nutmeg, and season to taste.

*Queensland Blue pumpkins are hard to find these days as they have very tough skins. To substitute, use another blue skin variety.

Roasted (brown) chicken stock

I have never had a problem with chicken carcasses being placed straight in the stock pot without prior roasting. However Philip Johnson included a recipe for roasted chicken stock in his e’cco 1 cookbook, giving it as an alternative to traditional chicken stock. Gordon Ramsey, the bad boy of English cooking is unequivocal. White chicken stock, he says, is anaemic and to give it more depth of flavour, the first thing to do is to brown the carcasses. (He actually calls it Brown Chicken Stock.) I am sticking with Philip’s  name, (because a sauce made from browned chicken carcasses will not, technically, be a brown sauce). This recipe is a combination of both of theirs, plus mine. They both include raw garlic in the stock and I believe that raw garlic gives a harsh, unpleasant flavour. If I were using garlic, I would use garlic confit.

2 kg chicken bones and carcasses
1 carrot, diced
1 – 2 onions, roughly chopped
a few cloves of garlic confit (optional)
1 leek, well washed and sliced
2 tablespoons tomato puree
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoons white peppercorns
a few parsley stems
1 cup of white wine

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place chicken carcasses in a roasting pan and roast until golden. Take care not to colour the chicken too much as this will make the stock bitter.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the bones to a large stock pot and add remaining ingredients, except the wine. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface.

Pour off and discard any fat from roasting pan, then place pan over moderate heat and deglaze by adding the wine and stirring well to loosen the sediment. Pour mixture into stock pot and continue to simmer gently for 1 ½ hours, skimming occasionally.

Strain stock, cool and refrigerate overnight. Next morning, carefully remove any fat from the surface.

Freeze until ready to use.

Stock or Bouillon

It should come as no surprise to you that I consider good stock to be the single most important ingredient to have on hand in the kitchen; regardless of what the recipe says, a stock cube crumbled in water is no substitute and often adds unwanted saltiness. We are lucky to be able to buy commercially prepared stock these days and this is quite good. Always have chicken, beef and vegetable stock on hand, whether it be commercially or home made, and when a recipe tells you to add water, think about whether substituting stock would be an improvement. When Nanya boiled peas, beans or carrots, (never vegetables of the cabbage family, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts or cauliflower,) the water was always kept to be added to gravies or soups.

 Campbell’s make a chicken consommé and a beef consommé, sold as canned soups, and these are excellent, as in both the stock has been reduced to a jelly and then clarified. They also make chicken, beef, fish and vegetable stocks, which are very acceptable.

 Stocks add depth to dishes. They transform soups, sauces, gravies, casseroles and a host of other dishes from ‘thin’ and uninteresting, to tasty and satisfying. The three basic stocks are chicken and beef, often called ‘bouillon’, and fish, which is often referred  to as ‘fumet’. You will notice that a fish fumet is made using white wine, although if the fumet is destined to be fish soup, the wine can be added later when the soup is being made.

 The technique for making beef stock is different from that of ‘white’ chicken stock.  It is the same, however, for roasted chicken stock. With beef stock, the beef, bones, chicken carcasses and some of the vegetables are usually roasted with a little oil or fat in a baking dish for an hour or so before being added to the stock pot. This procedure helps to colour the stock, and if it is not done at this early stage, no amount of simmering later will achieve the same result. Veal bones are often used, either with beef bones or on their own. Mushroom skins or stems and brown onion skins add colour. If making an ox-tail consommé, the beef bones should obviously be ox-tail. You will notice that demi-glace is really nothing more than a very sumptuous beef bouillon simmered very slowly for a very long time until it has reduced to sauce consistency.

 Chicken stock is very easy to make, especially now that boned chicken breasts and thighs are more popular than whole chickens and most specialty chicken shops are trying desperately to get rid of the carcasses. Unfortunately some of them are mincing all their carcasses for pet mince; while this is great for the pets, it could become a disaster for cooks. Whole chickens can be used, but this is obviously expensive and quite unnecessary. If using a whole chicken, always supplement it with extra carcasses.

Chicken stock

Bought chicken stock in Australia has improved dramatically over the years and now Campbell’s and a few others are good to substitute. But the reality is, you really can’t beat homemade stocks and they are very easy – as long as you’ve got the space in your freezer to keep it, which is a constant problem for us.

Chicken frames, as many as you can comfortably fit in the stock pot
1 – 2 onions, roughly chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 – 6 sticks celery roughly chopped
A handful of parsley
Water to cover
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the frames in a large stock pot, add the onion, carrot, celery and parsley and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, then cover and allow to simmer over very low heat for 5 – 6 hours if possible.

Strain, pressing the bones with the back of a spoon, to release all the juices. Transfer to a clean container and allow to cool. Refrigerate as soon as possible, then leave overnight until stock is completely cold and all fat has risen to the surface. De-grease the stock carefully. This is particularly important if you are making a consomme. The stock should be a thick jelly. Reheat just enough to liquefy the stock and pour into airtight containers, some of which should be no bigger than 250ml capacity.

Freeze when cool.

You will notice that I never add salt to chicken stock. I prefer to season the dish to which the stock is added.

Vichyssoise (potato and leek soup)


6 – 8 good big leeks, carefully washed
8 big old potatoes
Oil for cooking
A good quantity of rich chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A little lemon juice, if required

Finely slice the leeks, white part only; peel the potatoes, and cut into manageable portions.

Heat oil in a heavy based frying pan, add the leeks and sauté until tender. Remove the leeks into a large saucepan or casserole, add potatoes to pan and toss in the remaining oil, allowing them to cook just a little. Add the potatoes to the leeks, cover with chicken stock, and allow them to simmer gently until the potatoes are tender.

Puree the potato and leek mixture in a food processor, or pass through a mouli. Return to a clean saucepan, and add additional chicken stock until the soup is the required consistency. Add a little lemon juice if required. Season to taste.

Vichyssoise is traditionally served cold, though it is delicious hot as well. Remember, though, that if it is frozen, it will lose its smooth consistency, which can only be regained by reheating. So if you intend serving it cold, it should not be frozen.

Before serving, stir the cream into the soup. Be careful not to add too much, which will make the soup unpleasantly rich. Alternatively, serve the soup as is, and add a swirl of cream to the bowl.

The flavour of a good vichyssoise is determined by the quality of the chicken stock, so if possible, use homemade stock