Basic chicken stock

Ingedients:

1 Onion
Carcass of a chicken, roasted or raw, meat stripped from it.
Light oil, or chicken fat
1 carrot
1 stick of celery
1 bay leaf
Small handful of parsley (this is good for using up thick stems)

Intensively reared birds have very little flavour – the bones have grown far too quickly – so this is both an incentive to buy a good free range animal and a way of getting more value from it. Don’t add salt or pepper during cooking. Salt is unnecessary at this stage and you are better able to control the amount in the final dish if you use it directly into that dish, while pepper is simply better added fresh when you cook.

Method:

1. Roughly chop the onion and slowly fry it in a big saucepan or pressure cooker, stirring occasionally until it has a good colour. If you have roasted the chicken, you will have chicken fat to use as the frying medium, which will add yet more chicken flavour; otherwise, use a light vegetable oil.

2. Add the chicken carcass, cut or torn up into small pieces and brown these. If you are using a raw carcass, this will need more cooking than an already cooked one.

3. Add water to cover and then all the other ingredients – the carrot, celery and herbs. Bring to the boil.

4. Remove any dark-coloured froth with a slotted spoon and discard – this gets rid of tiny impurities that make the broth cloudy and can taint the flavour. If you want the stock to be very clear (for instance, if it is being used for a clear chicken broth), occasionally add a few spoons of cold water to get a few more of the impurities to form into the froth and skim this as it forms.

5. The liquid now just needs to extract all the flavour from the ingredients so either put a lid on the saucepan and place it on a very low heat for an hour or so, or put the lid on the pressure cooker and raise it to pressure for about twenty minutes.

6. Strain the stock into bowls (I usually get about two good-sized bowls from a medium sized chicken. Cover and let cool and put in the fridge as soon as possible. Use within three days or freeze.

You should also end up with a thin layer of chicken fat on top of the bowl, which helps to act as a seal against bacteria so leave it in place until you come to use either stock or the fat itself. Once chilled, this layer can be lifted off nearly entire and either used in cooking (it has a good flavour itself, when fresh) or discarded.

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