How to make great stock

With the days getting shorter and the evenings darker and colder, it’s a good idea to ‘stock up’. Here are four top stocks you’ll find indispensible this winter:

Chicken stock
The most convenient way to make chicken stock is to use a leftover carcass with any root vegetables and herbs you might have at home, but for maximum flavour and a cleaner tasting stock, buy a pack of chicken wings or thighs.  Note that it’s not necessary to peel any of the vegetables or even onions. In a pot, place the chicken, carrots, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley and enough cold water to more than cover the ingredients mentioned. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 2 hours, skimming off the fat with a spoon when necessary to keep it clear. Pass through a sieve and allow to cool before refrigerating (up to 4 days) or freezing (up to 3 months).

Beef and lamb stock
The key to lamb and beef stock is in the roasting of the bones. Again, bones left over from a Sunday roast would work perfectly, but for best results buy rib or neck bones. Roast the bones for about 1 hour at 220°C, turning halfway. Sautéing the vegetables and adding a touch of white wine and some tomatoes may seem unusual, but the end result is complex and intense. Sauté onion, carrots and celery, then add the tomatoes and wine (75ml to 1kg bones). Reduce by half. Add the bones and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 3-4 hours, skimming as you go. Pass through a sieve and leave to cool.

Fish stock
The addition of fennel is the key to a tasty fish stock. You’ll need about 1kg of fish bones and skin to make 1 litre of fish stock. Again, it’s not necessary to peel the vegetables. Add the skin and bones, carrots, onion, celery, fennel bulb, whole peppercorns, bay leaves and parsley to a pot of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for ½ hour. Strain, and leave to cool before storing.

Crayfish stock
Brush leftover crayfish shells with olive oil, then gently crush them. Roast for 30 minutes at 200°C. (Make sure you have your extractor on or open your windows as the smell is not pleasant!). Put the shells in a stockpot along with onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves and parsley or thyme. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1-2 hours. Strain and leave to cool.

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