A handful of months have passed since I last posted on this blog. We’ve had a few things going on here, namely, I separated from my husband.
But enough of that, I’m soft-balling myself back into writing on the blog (I have been writing other things on the side), with a food post.
It’s silly that I don’t write about food as often as I do, because it’s a huge part of our lives. Huge, in that I give a rather large shit about what we eat, what we shouldn’t be eating and what I feed the kids. I don’t believe that anything I make is a revelation, although I do often get told that my kids are very lucky getting to eat what they eat.
Following the organisations on social media that I follow, it is impossible to ignore trends such as bone broth popping up on my feeds. I won’t give you a history on this food stuff, as I’m certain you have Google there at your fingertips.
Coming from the background that I come from – a mother and a grandmother who have always valued a good carcass, and the importance of using as much of the animal as you can – I’ve found it hard to ignore the role that the less desirable parts of meat have in the flavour of food.
A lot of people become squeamish at fat marbled through meat, or at having to eat meat from bones. All that cartilage and sinew – yuk! For the record, I love those bits. Fat tastes amazing, and there’s nothing better than chewing on a tasty bone, crunching the cartilage off the end and finding a bit of marrow in some curried lamb. And don’t even get me started on my love of chicken livers. Most definitely yum!
Bones have so much flavour and nourishment, which you can release by boiling them down. Once all of that cartilage has dissolved into a gelatin stock, you’re no longer dealing with that icky, crunchy stuff. Instead, you’ve got an ingredient with masses of flavour, which you can add to a huge variety of cooking – soups, casseroles, stews, curries. Basically anything cooked in a pot.
But sometimes there just aren’t enough bones around in your average packet of meat. I purchase a good kilo of beef bones from the butcher. It costs £1. I gently boil those bones, usually with some salt and a splash of vinegar. I boil them for as many hours as I can by starting them off on the hob and transferring to the oven at around 140oC. I will typically boil bones all day, and overnight on a very low heat in the oven. A good few hours is usually adequate.
Once done, I remove the bones and discard, and then strain the liquid into a bowl via a sieve. That liquid – call it stock, call it broth, call it bone juice – whatever, is full of dissolved gelatin, vitamins and minerals from the bones, but most importantly, flavour. You can use it immediately in your cooking, or it can go in the fridge (once cooled), where it will set into a gel, and can be used as stock at your convenience. It can even be frozen. If you refrigerate your bone juice, it will be easy to access the layer of fat at the top. You can scrape it off to use in cooking, or discard it if you’re a fat-phobe (I’m not).
I make a gorgeous orange soup with this stock. It goes like this:
- An onion, roughly chopped.
- Some garlic, roughly chopped.
- 2 or 3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped.
- A large piece of swede, peeled and chopped.
- A tin of chopped tomatoes.
- Homemade beef bone juice – I usually have A LOT, and most of the liquid in the soup is this.
- Half a teaspoon of smoked paprika (optional, I use it because I love it and always have some in my kitchen).
- A splash of oil or butter, or whatever greasy lubricant you like to use for your cooking.
- Double cream (optional).
Find a suitable, heavy-based pan, get the burner on medium and get your greasy lubricant in. Chuck your onions in for a few minutes until they sweat down, if you’re feeling particularly cheffy. Otherwise, chuck all the chopped veg in. Give it a stir. Chuck the tinned tomates in. Give it a stir. Add your bone juice. Give it a stir. Add your salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Give it a stir.
Add a bit of water if it looks like it’s lacking in fluid. Keep it on a medium heat until you’ve got a good temperature in the soup, and then turn it down to a simmer. I simmer my soup until all of the veg are soft.
Once soft, I take a hand-blender and massacre the soup into silky-smooth heaven. Give it a taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. And you’re done.
If I have cream, I add a dollop, but it’s wonderful without. My younger son Fraser is a total meat savage like me, and is rather partial to chewing on bones and crunching at cartilage. He adores this soup, and it’s been a hit for his lunch in a Thermos flask at nursery, where he has been recently rejecting your bog-standard sandwiches.
So there you go, a new post, some easy, cheap food and a new year.
Do you use bones in your cooking?