26 February, 2007

Beef stock

Some throw-away comment from Rosa on Friday inspired me to ask in the butchers if they had any beef bones. They gave me a large plastic bag-full for free, so I spent Sunday stinking out the kitchen with a simmering pot of beef and scum.

Having never made beef stock before, the first thing I did was track down a recipe. All my classic cookbooks failed me. I found no mention of it in Mrs Beeton's Household Management. Edouard de Pomiane simply uses it, he has someone to make these things for him, probably in these new-fangled 'cubes'.

Getting a bit more contemporary, an excellent book mum gave me for christmas, Living and Eating by John Pawson and Annie Bell (which is a bit of a snob's bible to all you need to know) told me that there was a virtual PhD in stock-making available it could attain such artistry, and then proceeded to only give me a recipe (which I made with good results just after christmas) for chicken stock. Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall got me all excited by having a reference to it in the index of The River Cottage Cookbook, but it turned out only to refer to its existence as a recipe. Finally! Gary Rhodes came up with the goods in his New British Classics book. Here's his recipe in summary (from memory):

  • 5kg beef bones
  • 6.5-7 litres of cold water
  • 3 onions
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 leek
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • salt

Roast the onions slowly for two hours or so. The Roast the beef bones at 200oC for half an hour. Ten minutes in, chuck the roughly chopped carrot and celery in with the bones. Put everything in a big pan. Bring it to the boil and keep it there for 8 hours, skimming the scum off the top every now and then.

I ballsed up the thyme and chucked in some dried stuff, that I then skimmed off twenty minutes later. I also ballsed up by not having a large enough pan to fit all that water in.
By about midnight last night it was ready, if a little too reduced, even. I strained off the lumps, and took the bones out of these. Then I pureed the remainder into a further stage opf soup, that made a grinding noise with the blender as the bits of gristle and bone whizzed round (I had to hack the some of the roasted bones in half with a butcher's cleaver - no simple task for a first-timer). Two minutes later, this final by-product was in the Council compost bin, which marks the territory of our doorstep like the piss of a randy old alcoholic fishmonger. Can't wait for summer!

By 1 am, I'd finished pouring it into various containers to cool, and sort the skimmed-off matter to get some second servings of stock, true blemished skimmings and purest beef lard (pure except for a bit of thyme and leek).
I'll let you know if it was worth the effort when I actually make something.

The chicken stock has made some really really nice stew with a recipe from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diary, which I got for christmas and am spending the year reading so that I can appreciate the food and get inspiration for seasonal cooking.

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