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Stock for Soups and All Things Good from “The Cook's Book"

Chicken Stock Recipe from The Cook’s Book

I think I’m in for trouble – big time trouble. After working ungodly hours non-stop for hmm, let’s see now, 8 years… for the first time in my career, I am able to leave work at 6:30pm. I’m not even sure how I should be describing this new found freedom. My work hours are not normal. When I was working in Hong Kong, I had to stay up till the wee hours to "sonsult" with the US SEC, which is 12 hours behind HK. 18 hour work days are the norm rather than the exception. Investment banking and corporate finance I have realised aren’t all that jazz.

Tired of the rat race, I thought I’d take a “break” and went for an MBA. Getting an MBA is like drinking water from a fire hose in the first year and being a car salesperson in the second year. Besides getting lots of tight deadlines, I also traded in for 4 hour sleep a day and endless group work. Can you see why France and its promise of 35 hour work week seem so enticing?

I’m lucky to be working where I am currently. There’s a lot to like about the company, my colleagues, the flexibility, the benefits etc. I won’t write about my current work (don’t want to get dooced, except that I was managing 3 projects, one of which is the company’s 5th largest client. I thought the company was taking a big gamble to entrust a freshie with a big account, but I wasn’t ready to prove the boss wrong either. So, instead of working “a normal job”, I’m working double, triple, whatever it takes. I worked some weekends and sometimes talked about it in my sleep. Anyway, the frenzy is now over. The projects ended smoothly, like a knife through butter.

Now I have free time, on an epic level.

I’m delighted with the big chunk of time after work. I’m knitting, I’m painting, I’m reading and I’m cooking up a storm. I’m currently cooking from The Cook's Book. The book is arranged by types of ingredients (meats, nuts and fruits), courses (soups, desserts) and also features cuisines, such as Mexican, Japanese and Middle Eastern cooking.

I like the step-by-step instructions that are complimented by step-by-step pictures. The pictures are big and clear. I think I will buy a flat fish from a fishmonger because now, I can gut, trim, skin and bone one… or at least I can see how it should be done. The recipes seem do-able, even the more complex recipes. I figure that if a cookbook can convince an amateur like me to buy a whole fish scales and guts intact, it’s pretty good.

With the extra time I have tonight, I made not one but two stocks for those warm-me-up-in-winter soups.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg raw chicken bones
  • 3 litres of water
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 leek coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot coarsely chopped
  • Preheat oven to 200 degC or 400 degF.
    Place bones in a roasting pan and roast for 20 mins.

    Take the chicken bones out and put them into a big pot.

    Pour any fat from the pan and add 500ml (17fl oz) of the measured water.
    Bring to boil and scrape up any burned residues.

    Pour the deglazed liquid over the roasted bones in the pot and the remaining water.
    Bring to boil. Skim off any foam and add the vegetables.
    Simmer uncovered for 3 hours, or until the bones disintegrate.
    If the water level drops below the ingredients, top it up.
    Strain the stock.

    This beef stock is my adaptation of the chicken stock. The color of the beef stock is darker and smells like licquorice.

    Beef Stock

    Ingredients:

  • 1kg of beef bones
  • 3 litres of water
  • 1 onion whole
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 leek
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bouquet garni*
  • Preheat oven to 200 degC or 400 degF.
    Place bones in a roasting pan and roast for 20 mins.
    Stick cloves into the onion. (The cloves should stick out.)

    Take the beef bones out and put them into a big pot.

    Pour any fat from the pan and add 500ml (17fl oz) of the measured water.
    Bring to boil and scape up any burned residues.

    Pour the deglazed liquid over the roasted bones in the pot and the remaining water.
    Bring to boil. Skim off any foam and add the vegetables.
    Simmer uncovered for 3 hours, or until the bones disintegrate.
    If the water level drops below the ingredients, top it up.
    Strain the stock.

    * Bouquet Garni is a bundle of herbs used to flavour “wet” dishes such as soups and stews where we remove the herbs after the dish has finished cooking. The classic combination of herbs is bay leave, thyme and parsley. You can tie the herbs together using string or put them in a muslin bag. I did not have fresh parsley. I used bay leaves, thyme and rosemary in this beef stock.

    Things I Learnt about Stocks:
    Making our own stock is easy.
    A good stock takes time to make. Don’t rush it.
    All the good stuff in the ingredients is in the stock. Don’t bother tasting the ingredients: they’ve become bland.
    When making stock, make a lot of it. In this day and age, we can freeze the stock in portions.“Stock up for a rainy day”.
    Use a “chinoise” (type of funnel for stocks: looks like a Vietnamese cone hat) and a ladle that fits to squeeze out as much stock as we can. Every bit of stock counts.
    A good stock makes a good soup.

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