It's rather chilly on the mountain today and rain clouds are looming. Perfect excuse to crack out the woolly socks, the snuggly jumpers and the stock pot. There is nothing like walking into a house that has a soup or stock simmering away on the stove. Walking in from outside, being hit with that homey smell will warm the soul from the nostrils out. But, a stock of course has a myriad of uses aside from making the eyes roll back upon inhalation.
Any professional kitchen will start the day making various stocks, many left to cook all day or overnight. In French kitchens, stocks are referred to as fonds de cuisine or "the foundations of cooking." Stocks are indispensable when making sauces, soups, risottos etc. By using offcuts of meat and vegetables, bones, seafood and aromatics, a liquid bursting with flavour, aroma, colour and nutritive value is born.
Stocks are incredibly cheap to prepare and use up kitchen scraps that would normally be thrown out. In this kitchen, I save up all of the carrot tops, onion tops and bottoms, parsley stalks, mushroom stalks, celery leaves, bones from roast dinners, supplement with bones bought from the butcher and pop them all into a bag and freeze it, ready for a day like today. Then its just a matter of throwing it all in a big pot, covering with cold water and simmering gently for as long as possible. The water should be just moving, not bubbling.
A proper commercial stock would then be checked for clarity, strained, filtered, defatted and probably reduced to a glaze or jelly. In this place it gets no such treatment and it's lucky to survive past the first night of checking to make sure it tastes ok (read gorging on huge chunks of bread dipped in stock). What's left is made into risotto or soup, and even sometimes a small portion makes a run for it to the freezer to be used for gravies and sauces.
A risotto made from great stock needs little other than a generous amount of butter and good Parmesan grated over the top. A handful of fresh herbs, some fresh sweet corn and a slush of dry white wine will catapult it to a new level again. You just got yourself a top notch meal that costs around $4, and feeds up to 8 people (if those serving sizes on the arborio packet were realistic), or 4 people and a little bit left over in this household.
Toasting the grains - essential for a good risotto...
The little bit left over...