Recipe: Chicken Stock

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I always used to find making your own stock a huge hassle, and it still takes me a while to get psyched enough to spend hours tasting and adding ingredients. But when you’ve got bones from a leftover meal hanging around, it just seems wasteful to throw them away. Then I discovered the joys of a Dutch oven. Hallelujah! So here’s my recipe for a basic, European-style chicken stock.

Ingredients – makes 2L stock

Bones from one whole chicken, or any amount of bones you have to hand. I normally use about 750kg of bones and leftovers for this. You could even use leftover chicken meat for this, though I’d say that’s better kept for an amazing cold sandwich!

Leftover chicken skin, or wings/neck clipped by your butcher. Mine trims it down for me, so I keep these bits and any extra skin he trims off.

Vegetable peels (save these up over a week or two, mostly from onions, garlic, carrots and other soup-y vegetables)

2 large onions, sliced

1/2 head garlic, roughly chopped

6 sticks celery, roughly chopped

3 large carrots, roughly chopped

Fresh herbs of your choice – I normally use bay, thyme, oregano and a little parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large saucepan (or Dutch oven), start by caramelising the chicken skin over a low heat. Extract all the fat, and this lends a wonderful flavour to the entire stock. Throw in all the scraps of skin and once they’re crisped, you can either leave it in or snack on them!

Add the chicken bones to the fat, to caramelise them as well. You could alternatively roast the bones in your oven with the vegetables, but this way you keep all the flavour in one pan. The bones should sizzle nicely, and when you smell the flavour getting deeper, add the vegetable peels and the vegetables as well, and sauté for a minute or so.

Add enough cold water to completely cover your bones and vegetables – in my pan, it’s about 3L. Add an extra litre of water than the amount of stock you want at the end, so there’s enough room for it to cook down and absorb all the flavours. The important part is to keep your bones completely submerged, so adjust amounts accordingly.

Bring to a boil, and turn it down to a simmer. At this point, you’ll start seeing some scum appearing at the top – just use a slatted spoon to get rid of it. This should ensure that your stock is clear and free of impurities, since the congealed proteins rise to the top along with unnecessary fat.

Keep it at a simmer, and keep pouring the scum out. Add the herbs once you’ve got rid of most of the scum, and keep the stock at a simmer.

Check it regularly for seasoning – about every 15 minutes, but add the salt only when it’s about 90% done. For some reason, adding salt too early can make stock too bitter, so I’ve found this is the best way for me to do it. Add herbs, vegetables and other seasonings as you’d like at this point.

Tip: I flavour stocks for different cuisines at this point, adding soy sauce and Shaoxing rice vinegar for a Chinese stock; lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar for a Thai stock; chillies, oregano and pepper for a Mexican broth, etc. Experiment with your favourite cuisines and flavours to customise your own stock!

Once it’s almost ready, add the salt and taste it one final time. When you’re happy with it, pass it through a fine sieve and then leave it to cool completely. It should be clear and shiny, and taste like a dream. You can either use it immediately, or freeze it for later (be sure to label it with the date and the type of stock). Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Apple Pie Chia Overnight Oats

It’s getting too hot in Budapest to eat warm porridge every-day, so I have turned to my trusty Pinterest for solutions. Mainly to prevent me getting a croissant from the bakery every day, which while magnificent in every way, is arguably not the best way to keep healthy. Arguably.

Pinterest did not disappoint! Hipster-tastic as it may be, I’ve made overnight oats with great success in the past and I love them. Not only are they super easy to put together, since you just mix everything in a large jar or Tupperware box, but in the summer, they’re so refreshing and delicious since they’re cold. It’s also great for the non-morning types out there, like me, since you just spoon it into a bowl and devour in your zombified state. The added bonus of being able to add your favourite fruit, nuts and seeds and make it as healthy as you can ain’t too shabby either!

I found this recipe, which I amended to suit my own taste and made lactose-free. I’ve heard mixed reviews about cutting out lactose altogether, and while milk is going to be easy for me to drop since I’m not so keen on the taste, I can’t abandon dairy products. Just can’t do it. Even the thought of a grilled cheese is making my mouth go dry. But where possible, cutting down on your lactose intake or substituting for other products can be beneficial for your health, especially if like me, you’re trying to be more healthy without giving up the food you love.

It just so happens that a health food shop near the office is closing down and having a half-price sale, so I took the chance to clear out their stock of almond milk, calendula flowers and cane sugar!

For the first time ever, I bought and tried chia seeds. They’re widely praised as a superfood, high in fibre, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, potassium and Vitamins B1, 2 and 3. They’re high in anti-oxidants, low in carbs and high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are difficult to come by in fish-deprived, landlocked Hungary. Alongside all of that, they’re grown organically and are gluten free. So far, so fantastic!

The only catch is its price – a tiny 200g packet costs the same as an incredible taco lunch! But I’d read so much about how beneficial chia seeds are, I decided to skip tacos and go for something healthy. Just this once.

They’re available in all health-food shops, and since Hungary’s a bit organic food-obsessed (always a good thing!), there are lots of different brands and options you can go for.

Overnight oats are very simple – basically mix equal parts of oats (not instant; for this we need the old-fashioned variety) with liquid. This can be either milk, almond/soy/rice milk, yoghurt or water – or any combination of these. Alongside this, you can add whatever nuts, dried fruits, seeds or spices you like. The only tip I would give here is to be careful when using fresh fruit with dairy products, since leaving them together overnight may make the oats curdle and become too sour, because of the acidity from the fruit. If you prepare small amounts and eat it quickly though, there should be no problem.

This recipe involved more bowls and steps than I could be bothered with, and at 9:30pm when all I could think of was my lovely warm bed, I wanted to make the process as quick as possible.

I peeled and grated one large apple (feel free to keep the peel. I like to, but this one was getting a little brown so I composted the peels instead), to which I added about a teaspoon of cinnamon, some nutmeg and a pinch of allspice.

It’s easiest to just mix everything together in the airtight container they will come together in, so to a large Kilner jar, I added a cup of oats, a cup of almond milk and two tablespoons of chia seeds. Add the apples, any seeds or nuts (I added pumpkin seeds and raisins) and mix it all together well. Add a little extra liquid to allow for the oats to expand a bit more.

Close your container and leave it in the fridge overnight. I think this jar will last me about 3-4 breakfasts.

Disclaimer: I was tired and not focussing on the image quality!

 

The next morning, take out as much as you’d like, adding a bit more almond milk to loosen up the mixture, and honey if you’d like, and enjoy! That’s it! The spices give everything a wonderful apple pie flavour so even though what you’re eating is fantastic for your health, it doesn’t taste like it!

Enjoy, tell me how yours turned out!

 

 

Herby Goats Cheese Twists

I love pastry. Flaky, golden, crispy pastry. I also love sharp, tangy, fresh, crumbly goats cheese. I recently had both of those in the fridge at the same time, so I decided to combine them to make a little snack. Who doesn’t find they need a little pick-me-up after work, while they make dinner? And who secretly wishes it could be smothered in beautiful cheese?

Mmmm cheese.

So I decided to make some herby goats cheese twists, to keep in a Tupperware box and slowly and carefully polish off over the course of a week. Let it be on record that this was my intention. I made 20 twists for the two of us to share over the course of a week. That’s plenty, I thought. Besides, both cheese *and* pastry are filling so we’re hardly going to want to stuff our faces before our lovely dinners, right?

They were gone in 2 days. Did I mention these things are damn good? Well, they are. Damn. Good. Make double. Freeze half if you have some restraint. If not, just go nuts, no one will know.

Ingredients

1 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 packages frozen puff pastry defrosted but still quite firm
Egg wash made by beating 1 large egg with 2 tbsp water

340g pack of ready-made puff pastry, defrosted but cold and firm. (Take them out of the freezer, leave in the fridge for a day to get rid of any ice/water, and that’s plenty of time.)

1 handful finely grated Parmesan (or grana padano if it’s the end of the month and you’re itching for payday!)

60g soft goat’s cheese – this can be a mix of French, Danish and Welsh goats cheese. Ask your supermarket’s deli, or your favourite deli, for recommendations of light, tangy, sharp soft goats cheese.

Optional: small handful of sharp, extra-mature cheddar cheese, grated. This should give a nice contrast in texture to the soft goats cheese, so feel free to even use a matured, hard goats cheese.

2 tsp dried oregano

Small handful of fresh oregano and thyme

1-2 tsp paprika or chilli powder

Fresh black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with paper.

Mix the goats cheeses, seasoning and herbs together in a bowl, until it’s soft and whipped thoroughly. It should be very easily spreadable and as light as you can make it.

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Roll out the puff pastry to about half its thickness, so it’s longer and wider. Cut it in half widthwise.

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Using a butter knife or a sandwich spreader, spread the goats cheese-herb mixture over half the pastry, going all the way to the edges.

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Sprinkle the hard cheese, if using, over the soft goats cheese, and ensure it’s evenly spaced.

Carefully place the other half of the pastry on top of the half with the cheese on it, and press down with your fingers on the edges.

Place on a tray or chopping board and put it in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to allow the pastry to firm up some more and allow the cheese to set a little more.

Remove from the fridge and using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice the pastry into ribbons roughly 1 inch-wide.

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Holding the ribbons on either side, carefully twist it roughly 3-4 times and place on the baking tray. You can also do this by holding one end on the counter and twisting the other. Arrange the twists on the baking tray so there’s a bit of space between them so they don’t stick.

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You can brush the twists with an egg wash if you like – 1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp water. Return to the fridge for roughly 10 minutes, then remove and put it straight in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until they look beautiful, your kitchen smells like a dream and you can take the suspense no longer.


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Remove, wait until they’ve cooled enough to handle and devour. Enjoy!