Monday, 14 February 2011

The foundations of Cookery - This Chap's Opinion

Good food, like a good house is built on sound and solid foundations as bad food, like a bad house, is constructed on weak and unstable foundations! In this busy, work-obsessed country I am constantly confronted with new and ingenious ingredients put forward by food companies to cut the time it takes to cook a meal. Of course this increases the convenience of but sadly this is at a cost to the food’s flavour and integrity. Nowhere is this more true than in the increased use instant stock, tinned stock, stock cubes, stock pots and its other sterile relatives.

It horrifies me to see one of the most famous chefs in the country (who should know better) advertising an instant stock and claiming that it beats the real McCoy. In my opinion this is thoroughly misleading and makes me sad as meat stock is so easy to make! I hope that any chef who is reading this would agree with me on this point. If I am paying good money for a meal I demand real meat stock rather than the powdered, cubed and over-salted muck that occupies the dried goods section of the supermarket and I would make a point of criticising any restaurant which fails to meet this criteria! 

I went to a dinner party the other day where, on this subject, one of the guest complained that they simply did not have the time to make stock from scratch. I am sorry but this is plain bullshit! Yes it is a lengthy preparation but it is so low maintenance that you could easily do 100 other pressing things whilst it is cooking. So it really comes down to being plain lazy or lack of desire to make it yourself – you can make as many excuses as you like but never say that it require too much of your time!

For those who are interested, I hope that you will try the very basic recipe given below for a simple light chicken stock. I promise that once you have made your own and tried it next to a shop purchased product that you will never go back! You will be able to taste the difference between the homemade stock and bursting with the flavours from the meat bones and vegetables used as opposed to the highly concentrated and salty taste of the instant product!

I will be brief on this point but to clarify the importance of this ingredient, at its essence, a good home-made stock is the backbone of most savoury cooking – this is the reason that the French word for stock is ‘fonde’ (literally meaning foundations). It has so many uses, freezes easily and costs next to nothing to prepare. Take a glance through your cookery books and you will see how often it is used to perform a number of different functions so go on, give it a go!


1kg Chicken Wings
Glug sunflower oil
Salt and pepper

2 Leeks (cleaned and roughly chopped)
2 Carrots (roughly chopped)
2 Sticks of celery (roughly chopped)
Handful of peppercorns
Enough water to cover ingredients


  1. Heat the oven to 200ÂșC, place chicken wings on a shallow baking tray and toss with the oil and salt & pepper.

  1. Place the wings in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

  1. Remove the wings from the oven and place in a large saucepan or stockpot, adding the vegetables and peppercorns and cover with enough water to just about submerge the ingredients.

  1. Place on the smallest gas ring and bring to the boil.

  1. Turn the heat right down to its lowest setting, cover and leave for 2-3 hours.

  1. Strain through a sive/colander/chinois into a large bowl to remove bones and vegetables then leave to cool.

  1. When cool skim off the layer of fat that forms over the top of the jellified stock and then either use immediately or melt again and portion in suitable containers for freezing.

There! It couldn’t be simpler! Once you have mastered this technique you can apply it to all manner of other meats such as veal, beef, pork and even lamb! So what are you waiting for? Get cracking and get your arse in the kitchen!

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