As soon as the weather starts to get colder my attention turns to the serious business of stock making. Beef, veal, lamb and pheasant stocks are among my arsenal of winter cooking. With a bowl of stock in the fridge or the freezer, as stock freezes very successfully, many dishes can be created out of virtually nothing. A rummage in the store cupboard and an onion will produce a rissotto, a left over pie or a hearty soup.
I made a pheasant and bacon pie the other day from leftover pheasant, some smoked Cumberland streaky bacon, an odd shallot, and left over mashed potato. Served with roast parsnips. It was so comforting and autumnal, and transformed with the robust pheasant stock.
Beef stock is a fairly big undertaking, only for the number of hours it needs to simmer. What may seem daunting is actually very little work when you realise stock needs hardly any intervention from the cook at all. The big pot sits bubbling away for a whole day creating a fabulously homely smell as it slowly gives up it the deep flavours that bone stocks create.
As the stock needs at least 6 hours of simmering I tend to make as much as I can in any one go. This will usually cause a storage problem. Once the marathon simmer is done and you have strained the stock, put back into a clean pan and boil like fury until the stock reduces down to a third of the original volume. The dark gelatinous stock is a special ingredient. I can't help but feel a sense of pride as I add the precious stock to any sauce or casserole, knowing that there is such a loving process behind it.
This concentrate can be frozen in small quantities, allowing you to take a smaller and more concentrated stock and either dilute with wine or water to use as you wish.
A good haul of beef/veal bones from your butcher
A couple of onions left whole, take the outer skin off, but don't peel
1 or 2 carrrots whole
A leek peeled but whole
2 or 3 celery sticks washed
1 tsp peppercorns
Thyme, as many parsley stalks as you can get your hands on, 3 bayleaves
Preheat the oven to 200C
Place the bones in a roasting tin with whole onions and carrot and roast for 20 minutes until just browning
Tip into a big stock pan and cover with cold water.
Bring to the boil and skim off any scum which may arise.
Turn down to a simmer and leave for six hours.
Allow to cool for an hour and drain.
If reducing to jus, boil until reduced by two thirds