Nigel Slater’s aromatic broth recipes | Food

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There is a pot of broth on the back ring of the hob, only the occasional blip-blip reminding me of its beatific presence in the kitchen. A simple thing, water infused with onions, sweet roots and woody herbs – and of endless opportunity. Making stock is something I very much enjoy. Without recourse to a chicken carcass or a beef bone, the task becomes a challenge, but also an opportunity, to produce a kitchen basic that can be both subtle and complex.

Soup that is clear and bright, but with enough clout to warm the soul is rarely far from my mind in winter. The basic stock made, the fun begins. I introduce citrus notes in the cold weather, a few sticks of lemongrass or a lime leaf or two. Perhaps garlic for depth, or a reassuring note of warmth from ginger or chillies.

If my broth is destined to appear with mushrooms or seafood then I might add leeks, the sweetest of the allium family, or a whiff of aniseed. I have always treated stock, a simple broth, as a basic building block and a plaything. Once the broth is seasoned, then I can raid the larder for noodles and dried mushrooms and the fridge for greens and herbs. As I said, a pot of endless opportunity.

An aromatic broth

I suggest an hour’s simmering at most. Unlike a meat broth, nothing good will come from cooking for longer.

Makes about 2 litres

carrots 250g
celeriac 250g
sunflower oil 4 tbsp
shallots 200g
ginger 90g
garlic a whole head
black peppercorns 15
star anise 2
bay leaves 3
leeks 200g
lemongrass 3 stalks

Peel and roughly chop the carrots and celeriac. Warm the sunflower oil in your largest saucepan. (I use a deep-sided iron casserole.) Add the carrots and celeriac and cook over a moderate heat, stirring from time to time. Peel and roughly chop the shallots, stir into the vegetables and cook for 10-15 minutes until everything has browned lightly at the edges.

Peel the ginger and slice into pieces no thicker than a pound coin and add to the softening vegetables. Cut the garlic in half horizontally and add to the pan with the peppercorns, star anise and bay. Roughly chop the leeks and wash them well. Chop the lemongrass and add with the leeks to the vegetables. Pour in 2½ litres of water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for an hour.

Strain the broth through a colander and discard the vegetables and aromatics, they have done their work. The broth can be kept in the fridge for several days.

Mussel and mushroom broth

Serves 4

shitake mushrooms 150g
groundnut oil 2 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves
spring onions 5
aromatic broth 1 litre (above)
coconut milk 400ml
mussels 500g
pak choi 150g
mussels 500g
coriander a small bunch
lime juice and fish sauce to serve

Thickly slice the shitake, no thicker than 5mm. Warm the groundnut oil in a large, deep pot, add the mushrooms and let them sizzle for 2-3 minutes. Peel the garlic and add to the shitake, stirring from time to time, until the garlic is fragrant and pale gold.

Chop the spring onions, discarding any thick, dark leaves, and add them to the mushrooms, letting them soften for 2-3 minutes before pouring in the stock and coconut milk. Bring to the boil then turn down to a calm simmer.

Scrub and check the mussels, discarding any whose shells are chipped or cracked and those that do not immediately close when tapped on the side of the sink. Add the mussels to the pan and cover tightly with a lid, turning up the heat and leaving for 2 minutes or so, until the shells have opened.

Tear off the smallest, most tender of the pak choi leaves and drop them into 4 soup bowls. Ladle the hot soup over them, then add the mussels and season with lime juice and, if you wish, a shake or two of fish sauce.

Broth, winter greens, rice noodles





Serve in deep bowls: broth, winter greens, rice noodles.



Serve in deep bowls: broth, winter greens, rice noodles. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

When it comes to serving the soup, I find it easiest to divide the drained noodles and greens between the bowls, keeping some aside for second helpings, then ladle the well-seasoned broth over them.

Serves 2-3

rice noodles 200g
greens 200g, such as choy sum or chrysanthemum greens
aromatic broth 1 litre (previous page)
enoki mushrooms 100g
fish sauce 2-4 tsp to taste
small hot chillies 2
mirin 1-2 tbsp

Cook the noodles in deep, lightly salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet (probably about 8 minutes), drain and refresh in cold water.

Bring a deep pan of water to the boil, salt lightly, then add the greens and cook for 2 minutes, drain, refresh in cold water and set aside.

Bring the stock to the boil. Add the enoki, and the chillies, finely chopped or halved as you wish, then season to taste with the fish sauce and mirin. Lower the temperature to a simmer, then add the drained noodles and greens. Check the seasoning and correct where necessary and serve in deep bowls.

The Observer aims to publish recipes for fish rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide

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