Time: 1 to 2 hours, depending on cooking method.
These are the ingredients for a basic vegetable stock. You can add any other vegetables you have to hand. I find it’s a good use of old veg and packets of herbs that are going limp in the bottom of the fridge but are not yet rotten enough to throw away. Received wisdom has it that you should go very easy on the cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli) and roots such as turnip, mangold, swede and rutabaga. My feeling is that it’s all a matter of taste. If you like them, use them. If you don’t, you probably wouldn’t use them anyway, even if I told you to.
- 3 large carrots
- 3 large onions
- 1 leek, green parts and all
- 2 sticks of celery (with the leaves, if they have them) or 1 small celery root
- 1 small turnip
- broccoli stems or a stump of cabbage
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs each of fresh rosemary and thyme (or a tsp each of dried)
- a few fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
- the stalks from a bunch of parsley
- 1 handful dried green or brown lentils
- 10 black peppercorns
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- Plus (if you want): any other fresh or dried herbs, corn cobs, mushrooms, beans, potato or potato peelings, swede, etc.
- Chop the carrots, turnip, celery, leek and onions into 2 or 3 pieces. There is no need to peel them, but you can if you want. The onion skin will add colour to the stock.
- Put into a large pan with the remaining ingredients and about 3 pints (1½ litres) water.
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. If you have a pressure cooker, 15 minutes will do it.
- Strain through a sieve or colander, put the liquid back into the pan and discard the vegetables. I generally line a colander with a square of muslin, then once all the vegetable chunks are cool, gather up the muslin and give it a good squeeze. This releases lots more tasty juice, as well as packing the vegetables into a relatively dry, fibrous lump that is easier to dump in the bin than a pan full of soggy vegetables.
- Boil quickly until you have about 1 pint (½ litre) of stock. You can use it straight away or freeze it (ziplock bags are good). If you reduce the stock a bit more you should be able to fit it all into an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, store the cubes in a bag and use them as you need to. A couple of these are ideal for finishing off a stir-fry, thickened with a bit of cornflour.
Oh, and another thing. If you’re not going to be using the muslin trick, it might be a good idea to put your dried herbs, peppercorns and cloves into one of those tea balls. I’ve never liked using them to make tea, but they’re very handy here. This prevents your stock being marred by lots of unattractive plankton-like particles.