Drag your cooking into the 18th century
Follow these rules to get your stock right, and you’ll take your sauces and soups to a new level
nouvelle cuisine to thank, this time for reminding us of the key principles behind a really good stock. Chefs of this persuasion reduced cooking times and specified the vegetables to be used.
A number of golden rules appeared. Start with cold water, keep skimming any grey scum that comes to the surface. While bones and shells take up to two hours to release their flavour and collagen – this is what gives finished sauces body and shine – vegetables and fish only need 30 minutes. Onions, carrot and celery add sweetness in a short time: a good trick is to hold back some vegetables to add for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Simmer rather than boil to keep the stock clear.
Another overlooked problem is the type of water used. It took me a little while to work out why my sauces at the pub were not as shiny and clear as when I made them at home. Eventually I filtered the water I used, and they were perfect.
It is worth remembering the three different phases of making a stock. Browning the meat or the vegetables at the beginning will create sweetness and complex flavours known as the Maillard reaction, which will then translate to the stock ready to be concentrated. The long simmer with the meat, vegetables and bones is the exchange period when the flavours and gelatin transfer to the liquid. The third stage, if applicable, is the reduction, which must only be done once the contents have been sieved and the liquid is clear.
Obviously, at home there is no need to be so prescriptive, but these tips should still help.
However, if you follow these guidelines you should have access to a beautiful stock even if you are in a hurry during the week. This will help to drag your cooking, kicking and screaming, into the 18th century.
Stephen Harris is chef-patron of The Sportsman in Seasalter,
Kent, whose many awards include the No 1 spot in the 2018 Estrella Damm Best Gastropub Awards