Stocks & sauces

Stocks & sauces

By
Adrian Richardson
Contains
15 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740668064
Photographer
Dean Cambray

Stocks

Stocks are the building blocks of good cooking. They form the basis of loads of sauces, as well as soups, stews and braises. Stocks are probably the most important items that are made in good restaurant kitchens, and yet most of us just can’t be bothered to make them at home.

It’s hard to fathom, really, because stocks are so incredibly easy to make. And a good homemade stock will really transform a dish – they’re certainly in a different universe to the commercially available cubes, powders and liquids that you find on supermarket shelves.

Stocks are also really cheap to make as they need so few ingredients. Apart from water, all you need are some vegetables, a few aromatics, such as peppercorns and herbs, and some fresh meaty bones. And at a pinch, the bones can even be left over from your dinner, which makes for a very economical stock indeed. In fact to make a good stock the only thing that you need in abundance, is time – up to three or four hours to extract the maximum taste and goodness. But it doesn’t have to be your time, because for the most part, stocks make themselves.

Realistically, though, because of the time required, it’s probably not a good idea to start off a recipe by making a stock. I suggest you cook up a large amount of stock and then freeze it in sensible batches (say 500 ml, or 1 litre) so you’ve always got some on hand for immediate use. If possible, try to have one white stock and one brown stock in your freezer.

White stocks and brown stocks are made from the same ingredients and in more or less the same way. The difference is that with brown stocks, the bones and vegetables are thoroughly browned in the oven before you add water. This browning makes for a fuller-flavoured and richer stock.

Here are a few tips for making great stocks:

Use good-quality ingredients – not the rotting carrots and mouldy old onion that you scrape up from the bottom of your fridge.

Fresh herbs are better than dried – with the possible exception of bay leaves.

Be generous with the ratio of vegies and bones to water. You want to really pack vegies and bones into your stockpot before you add any water.

Use the biggest stockpot you can fit in your kitchen cupboard. There’s no point in making stock in tiny quantities.

Bring the water to the boil slowly, skimming away any foam and scummy bits that rise to the surface.

Once it reaches boiling point, lower the temperature so the water barely simmers. If you allow it to boil for any length of time, your stock will become cloudy and taste bitter.

Skim your stock regularly to keep it clear of the fat and scum that rises to the surface.

Finally, remember that not all stocks are equally rich and tasty. If you use your leftover chicken carcass or beef bones to make a stock, then the result will not be as flavoursome as if you use raw meaty bones, chicken wings and even pig’s trotters. In fact some top-notch and really intense stocks even use another lighter stock as the liquid instead of water.

Sauces

If stocks are the starting point for many dishes, then sauces are the finishing touch. Who doesn’t love to slosh generous amounts of tasty gravy over the Sunday roast, or to liven up a grilled chicken breast or lamb chop with an elegant sauce? Sometimes meat just seems a bit naked without a bit of sauce.

Many old-fashioned sauces are thickened with flour, using a roux. But these days more chefs and home cooks prefer lighter and fresher tasting sauces, which are based on stock reductions. It’s true that I often whisk in a knob of butter to add a shine, or a spoonful of cream to add richness, but I think both of these are preferable to the slightly dull flavour you get with flour-based sauces. The only exceptions I make are with gravy, which I steadfastly believe is the ultimate comfort sauce.

I’ve included some of my favourite sauces in this chapter. Some of them are incredibly simple, like Nanna’s gravy, which uses the flavour you get for free from the bottom of the roasting tin. Others are more sophisticated and ‘cheffy’, such as jus and red wine reduction. I encourage you to have a go at a making a variety of different sauces. Your taste buds will thank you for it.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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