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Mealtime multi-tasking

The great thing about cooking a roast (other than its obvious deliciousness) is that you can get three meals out of one joint of meat. There's the magnificent feast of the roast itself, which I can always guarantee my picky children will fall on; then there's the leftover meat for using in a pie, pasties or sandwiches (I always cook twice as big a joint as I need, for exactly this purpose); and finally, the incredible stock which elevates a homemade soup or risotto from the ordinary to the sublime. Even if you don't have time to make stock there and then, it's always worth squirrelling away the carcass and bones in your freezer to use when you next think you'll be pottering around the kitchen and can keep half an eye on a bubbling pot of stock. By the time I get round to making stock, I usually have a wide variety of bones in my freezer, from duck legs to lamb shanks and various roast dinner scraps, hence the resulting stock is rather multi-layered in its flavour - which may not please purists (lamb stock in a chicken pie??!), but if you're just looking for a flavour hit in your next risotto/soup/casserole, then carry on reading.

I believe millennials now refer to stock to as bone broth, and claim all sorts of health benefits for consuming the stock as it is. Certainly, it's warm and comforting, and if you are feeling below par, it would be just the thing to sooth a delicate stomach and keep you hydrated. Personally, I'm more likely to keep my precious, homemade stock to add a touch of magic to the next risotto, soup or gravy; but either way, it's minimal effort for maximum result: just throw your collection of bones into your biggest saucepan, add a peeled, halved onion (I like red onions for their fuller flavour, but anything onion-like will do - even shallots are fine, if that's all you have lurking around), a separated head of unpeeled garlic, several bay leaves, some peppercorns and a handful of whatever veg you have in the fridge - carrots, celery and tomatoes are all fabulous, but there's no need to be too pedantic here. Then top up with water, bring to the boil, and let it all simmer away for a few hours until the stock is well reduced. Strain into a jug, and season with sea salt. I usually then decant my stock into 500 ml tubs, and freeze until needed.

This is the River Cafe's excellent instructions for chicken stock, if you want a template to refer to:


  • 1 chicken carcass or about 1.5 kg of chicken bones, fatty parts removed
  • 1 head of celery - inner white heart only
  • 1 red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and halved
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 3 litres water
  • sea salt to taste

Put all of the ingredients, except the salt, into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away for at least an hour. Skim off any scum if necessary. Strain into a jug, season with the salt then cover and leave to cool. Makes about 2 litres.

Last updated 08:58 on 18 October 2019

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