Last Sunday, I did that thing I always say I’ll do but rarely get around to. I kept the chicken carcass from the roast and actually made a great big pan of stock. I’m aware this is unremarkable, that I should be turning every bone, every prawn shell, every discarded root veg peeling into a couple of litres of broth. But life just isn’t like that sometimes. We don’t always have the time and the headspace for those more meditative kitchen jobs.
Whenever I cook a batch of dried beans, pod a whole bag of peas or make a proper custard, I’m always reminded how big the payoff is. You don’t just get to eat what you’ve made at the end of all that standing and stirring, you get the benefit of having devoted some time and attention to a gentle kitchen job.
Chicken stock has to be among the most satisfying things to make. A carcass, an onion, a stick of celery, a carrot, a few peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves. All that’s really required of the cook is to skim the scum off the top when it comes to a simmer, then stick it on low and leave it on the gentlest possible blip for three to four hours.
My pan of stock has found its way into all sorts of things this week, from an egg drop soup to a stocky pasta (pan of stock, lasagne sheets, lots of lemon and Parmesan) and a risotto with dried mushrooms. This recipe, where you’ll toast basmati in butter and then cook it in the stock, is so delicate and comforting. You might want a bowl of seasoned yoghurt alongside the rice and carrots, and if you have a hankering for some meat with it, pop a few lamb cutlets under the grill.