Stock: The Cook’s Best Friend

I’ve just put two tubs of homemade chicken stock inside the freezer as it’s the best thing to have in the kitchen. It’s great for risotto, polenta and soups and much nicer than the powdered stocks with chemicals and added salt. It’s simple to make and currently in my freezer there’s beef stock, chicken stock and roast duck stock. It’s so simple to make, it’s literally just the bones, bits of leftover meat and the meat juices added to a pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. Strain through a sieve, let it cool and freeze it – job done.

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One thing I’ve learned is homemade stock is good for is gravy. Here in Italy no one makes gravy, occasionally a red wine jus but for us Northern English people, gravy is the ambrosia of the gods.

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I’ve been on the earth for numerous years now and in this last month I’m been proud to say I have learned the art of making good gravy. This is all down to the acclaimed chef Paul Ainsworth. I’ve attempted gravy in the past and it’s always been a horrid brown mess, but Mr Ainsworth was on the TV in December showing how to make the perfect Christmas gravy. I took his advice and since then there’s been no stopping me.

Last evening we had roast chicken, with red cabbage and potatoes and my chicken/garlic gravy. To make the gravy I used: 1 pot of chicken stock from the freezer about 450 ml, some frozen sofritto ( cubed onion, carrot and celery) 4 garlic cloves the meat juices from the roasted chicken and a splash of white wine.

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Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, I take the wings off the bird and add them into the pan too. Season with white pepper and let it simmer for a further 5 minutes then pass through a sieve. Add the liquid back into the pan and add a spoonful of flour to thicken it, stir until there’s no lumps and that’s it, all done, chicken and  garlic gravy.

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The next day I just add the bones and left-over meat to water; after picking a few titbits off for the dogs and simmered, sieved and stored in two trays until it’s needed next time.

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Fusion. Not Confusion.

Another food post I’m afraid.

This week I was wondering what to make for lunch and a quick look in the fridge revealed a cauliflower, chicken thighs and some caciocavallo cheese: Caciocavallo meaning ‘cheese on horseback’ is a sheep or cow’s milk cheese that is good for melting. I’m not keen on it melted on toast, I still prefer a mature Cheddar, but it’s good melted on pizza or as I’m about to find out, on cauliflower. I set the iPod to play and Poly Styrene’s album Translucence starts to play, the opening bars of Essence give me an idea so I grab a little packet of Moroccan spices I got a few months back and my mind starts to go into creation mode.

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First I separate the cauliflower florets and pop them into boiling water to blanch for 5 minutes. Next the chicken breasts are placed into an oven-proof dish and have a dusting of black pepper, cinnamon, Himalayan salt and garlic salt followed by a drizzle of olive oil. Next I make a spiced paste for the cauliflower. To a bowl I add a tablespoon of honey, 3 teaspoons of the Moroccan spice, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds and the juice of half a lemon.

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The oven is set at 180 (fan) and the chicken breasts are covered with tin foil and popped inside. The cauliflower is drained and covered in the spice mix and then placed into an oven-proof dish and placed inside the oven to roast alongside the chicken. After 20 minutes I remove the chicken and drain off any juices and put these aside to freeze for a tasty base for a brodo, soup or risotto.

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The chicken needs just 7 minutes cooking uncovered to crisp up the skin, so I slice some of the cheese and place it on top of the cauliflower and return it to the oven.

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After resting the chicken for a couple of minutes the cheese has melted into the cauliflower so the final job is just plating up, sitting down and eating it. It made a great midweek lunch with enough cauliflower left over to freeze or to have the following day.

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