Madame Saisons: Stocking Up
by Sarah Ugazio
If there’s one thing we can all agree food should be right now, is that it’s got to be hot! Steaming porridge, simmering soups, roasts and ragus are all the rage, if not a vital requirement to keep us thermally stable.
While weekend slow cooking is a fabulous excuse to have the oven going strong as an additional heat source in the home, mid-week dishes have got to defrost our chilled cores, and fast. While being a Master of Pasta promises quick home cooked dinners throughout these winter months, one may want to ease off carb loading from time to time as summer, and bathers, will return, eventually.
Filling your fridge with quick cooking proteins, such as fish or thinner cuts of meat allows for a quick sear or stir fry to be speedily served. But to really up your flavour game while keeping it fresh, do as any decent chef does – simply have great stock on hand. Not the salty dissolvable cubes nor watery tetra packs. We’re talking about rich, homemade flavour-bursting liquid, a secret weapon for your tastebud toolkit, arming you this winter to elevate simple dishes from dull to delicious.
Add a few spoonfuls to deglaze pan juices, whisk in a knob of cold butter until melted and emulsified and voila – a rich sauce for your steak. Using a decent liquid flavour base, soups become superb, poaching poultry and fish become a gourmet quick dish, or even blanching veggies such as silverbeet or spinach takes dinner sides to pro level.
While restaurants may make several types of stocks for various sauces, the home cook can go a long way with either chicken and vegetable, or both. A big batch, portioned into airtight containers and ice cube trays, can easily be made ahead and whacked in the freezer for up to three months. One of the most basic yet underappreciated kitchen staples, good stock is easy way to elevate your mid-week meals without things becoming a complex culinary affair. ■
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UMAMI VEGETABLE STOCK
Ingredients: Makes 10
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 1 Tbs Olive Oil
- 1 Tbs Butter (omitted for a vegan recipe version)
- 2 Medium brown onions
- 1 Leek, washed and coarse green tops removed.
- 5 large carrots,
- 3 Celery stalks,
- 1 Skin from whole pumpkin (reserve skin offcuts normally thrown away when next cutting up a pumpkin, store in freezer until ready to use)
- 1 Clove garlic, bashed
- 5 Dried Shitake mushrooms*
- 5 cm Dried Tas wakame*
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 4 Parsley stems
- 1 Sprig of thyme
- 3 Peppercorns
Heat the butter and oil over a medium heat in a large stock pot. Sauté onions and leeks for 3 mins. Add carrots, celery, pumpkin skins and garlic, sauté for another 5 mins. Add remaining ingredients. Pour 3 litres of water over vegetable mix and bring to the boil, then turn down heat and simmer gently for 1.5 hours. Strain liquid through a large fine sieve or muslin lined colander. Store in airtight containers in fridge (up to one week) or freezer (up to 3 months)
Notes: *Shitake mushrooms and wakame (a type of dried seaweed) will give a rich savory flavour to the stock.