Three day beef stock, 12p
First, a disclaimer about the perceived profligacy of a three day stock: this was accidental, as I am a busy and unorganised soul. On Tuesday when I decided to make beef stock from the forerib bones and scraps of beef left from Sunday’s lunch, I didn’t imagine it would be a half-week affair. I started making stock, turned it off when I had to nip to the shops, forgot about it, reignited it the next day, and so on. And then, rather than use up the gas cooking it long and slow on the hob, I simply slung it on the bottom shelf of the oven and let it live there while I cooked other things. A loaf of bread? Great, another hour of stock cooking. Roasting sausages for the kids for a journey? Boom, another 40 minutes. And so on, and so forth, until impatience got the better of me and I stopped.
I started to panic that it may all end in Death By Stock. I was fairly confident about my constitution, given that I was brought up on Avgolemono soup made from the carcass of a Sunday roast chicken and a few fistfuls of rice, left on the back of the cooker for days on end as we helped ourselves, adding a jug of water here and there to break up the sticky rice mass that formed overnight. If eggs and rice and chicken at room temperature didn’t do me in in my formative years, a stock boiled to within an inch of its life could fancy its chances.
And to cut a long story short, Three Day Beef Stock was a resounding success. Soft, silky, milky, saline, meaty, an indescribable creamy consistency that those of you familiar with proper ramen bars will know why some of us obsess over them. Friends scorned me: ‘there will come a point where that stock won’t get any better’, they said. ‘Those carrots and bones can only give so much’, they said. Well, when I reluctantly finally strained and bottled it late last night, it was with the feeling I could have gone all week…
Those of you who balk at the thought of leaving a pot of meat and veg hanging around in the warmer months of Spring, or don’t use your oven as much as a house with two professional food writers might, can cook it as long or as little as you like. If you have a slow cooker, which apparently uses less energy than a lightbulb, fling everything in for 10 hours and see what happens – but I’m convinced part of the magic is the gelatinous jelly layer that forms as it cools, that I melted down again, and again, and again. There are no hard and fast rules here. Just, folks, boil your bones. And boil them some more. And some more. Things can only get better.
Three Day Stock (made 6 x 250ml servings at 12p each – granted this doesn’t include the bones, which were leftovers, and the cooking time, which would be impossible to calculate for every kind of energy tarriff, so I hope you take it in the spirit it’s meant…):
Bones (I used beef forerib but any bones will do – for cheap options try pork rib bones or chicken wing bones)
1 large onion (mine was a 210g whopper), 11p
2 or 3 carrots (200g), 10p
2 stalks of celery (40g, optional, don’t worry if it’s not something you have kicking about), 7p
6 fat cloves of garlic, 11p
a fistful of parsley (5g-ish, I keep the stalks in a freezer bag and use them for stock), 14p
2 bay leaves (optional but delicious), 16p
a few generous pinches of salt, <1p
a good pinch of pepper, <1p
Roughly chop all of your veg without peeling it, and toss into the pan. I don’t bother to peel my garlic cloves for stock, and Nigella once commented that she doesn’t peel her onions either, so if you’re slightly lazy sometimes, this is where to get away with it all. Add your bones and cover with water, and then a few inches more.
Bring to the boil and boil vigorously for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour, adding more water if required, then remove from the heat. Cover with a lid, large plate or foil to retain as much heat as possible, and allow to cool completely.
Leave in a cold place overnight – I popped mine on my front doorstep. Nobody has ever stolen a pan from my doorstep, and there have been quite a few left out there over the years. Not even the foxes.
The next day, pop it back on the heat and bring to the boil again to bring it back up to temperature and banish any nasties. Either simmer for another hour, or throw it in the bottom of your oven if you’re planning to use your oven for anything else (make sure your pan doesn’t have a plastic handle or it might not have a handle at all by the end of it).
Repeat these steps for the next few days, two or three, always bringing it back to a vigorous boil first, and adding extra water when required. If it tastes weak, add more salt. Stock needs a terrifying amount of salt. You’ll be fine – you’re not going to drink it all at once anyway. Then strain into another pan, pour into jars, allow to cool, and enjoy. I made 2 litres in 4 jars and bottles, one for the fridge and three for the freezer…
Tips: If you have a large pot of anything boiling on the back of your hob, like stock, balance a sieve over the top and use it as a steamer – you might as well, seeing it’s emitting a world of delicious steam over there. Use it to steam greens, broccoli, kale, any veg you like. If you don’t have a sieve, fashion one from tin foil with some small holes stabbed in it. Wrap a couple of layers of tin foil around the bottom of a bowl and scrunch it tightly to form the base shape, and make some holes with the tip of a sharp knife. Balance it on top of your pot, and voila. A temporary steamer.
Bones leftover from Sunday roast. Basics onions 80p/1.5kg. Basics carrots 75p/1.5kg. Celery 80p/450g. Basics garlic bulbs 35p/2. Fresh parsley 80p/28g. Bay leaves 80p/10. Basics table salt 25p/750g. Basics black pepper 40p/25g.
Jack Monroe. I’m on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe