I love stock. It took me a long time to get to this point. I used to hate the smell of it simmering away at home as a child. I would demand my mum turn it off as it “stunk” up the house. I think it’s the elimination of waste. The thriftiness of it. It’s like making my own breadcrumbs and how much better my meatballs or mac’n'cheese are because of it.
I think my change of heart towards stock came about when I realised it was the main ingredient (after rice) that made risotto. This happened at university when my best mate Claire, used to make our favourite pumpkin and bacon risotto on the evenings I would go round to her place to watch Friends, Sex and the City and Buffy (if I managed to stay up late enough for Buffy’s late 10:30pm screening time). Claire’s recipe was a fabulously simple one, perfect university food. A tin of good pumpkin soup, onion, oil, bacon friend till crispy, arborio rice, stock or water depending on what was in the cupboard. All very straightforward and tasty.
Fast forward 10 years or so and I’m living in here in Sydney, and discovering the difference a really good stock can make to basics like soup and risotto and other dishes. I don’t always have time to make my own stock, but I’m glad when I do. I always find it homely, and such a reassuring task.
There is no real recipe to make stock, and I’ve always just chucked in what I have. This week it was inspired by a Thirlmere spatchcock I found buried in the freezer, then thawed, a brown onion, a tomato, a bayleaf or two, couple of stumpy carrots, whole peppercorns all chucked in and covered with fresh water, bought to the boil, scum scraped off, then simmered for a couple of hours. I then strain my stock through a chinoise (just a fancy sieve) lined with muslin. Other times I just use raw bones, sometimes I roast them first, other times I don’t. All depends on the day…I always try to freeze half of whatever I make in an ice cube tray for use later. I find it easy to melt that way and much easier to store.
However the way I make my pumpkin and bacon risotto has changed. These days I use real pumpkins, and just roast them, then mush them, then stir through the risotto. I also use the BEST bacon I can find, and am proud to obtain it from my mate Tim at Urban Food Market. It’s now very rare that I would have tinned pumpkin soup in my cupboard!