I thought I drew a pretty sweet duty list in school this week. Nothing too strenuous, no late night sweeping floors, no oven scrubbing, not even wash up after demo. Just some salad leaf picking in the glasshouses, which is always a joy, and stock duty. I have done both lots of times.
Chicken stock duty – a few carrots, onions, some celery. No peeling, no skilled or angled chopping required. Plain and simple, which I am grateful for, since it is an 8am duty. Toss it all into a tall saucepan with a few chicken carcasses, top up with water, simmer gently for a few hours and hey presto you are on your way to a really good homemade stock.
This was all rosy until I was handed a bag of about 50 chicken hearts and was asked to squeeze the blood clots out of each and every one of them. Gag. ‘Really? You cannot be serious?!’ “The heart adds really delicious flavour to the stock but the blood makes it bitter”, my teacher explained. There was no more chopping to be done, apparently, and any attempt at puppy dog eyes were completely fruitless (no surprise there though – 9 weeks in, I think I’ve bags down to my chin at this stage!)
So, I took each little heart, one by one, and over the kitchen sink I squeezed the black bloody clots out. Gag. Need I remind you, I had rolled out of the bed just 10 minutes earlier. In that moment, the clean and exact lines of excel spreadsheets seemed so, so far away, but so much more agreeable. Breathe and dig deep. I persevered with the first 10 hearts and my stomach stopped doing somersaults. And you know, I actually kind of got into it! As a matter of fact, it was all quite therapeutic in the end! Am I weird??? Anyway, see pictures and recipe below…….
No, I am not that weird! I didn’t take any photos of this one – it’s safe to scroll down for the stock recipe only.
Handy Tip! Make lots of stock in one go and freeze it in plastic recyclable milk cartons. You will always have it on hand when a casserole or soup is needed, especially useful with the colder nights setting in.
Hot Tip! If you need the stock in a hurry, pop the container into the dishwasher on a very quick cycle a few times and it will thaw out in no time.
One more tip! If you don’t feel like making stock on a Sunday night after your roast chicken that afternoon, just freeze the carcass until you need it. Don’t throw it out!
Although I haven’t exactly sold it, I assure you, I will be making this stock again, of my own free will, hearts and all! You guys are probably made of stronger stuff than me. It is full of goodness, once your chickens are, at a minimum free-range, or, even better, organic. It is fundamental to soups, broths, stews and sauces and the homemade version tastes so much better than the shop-bought stuff.
Recipe from Ballymaloe Cookery School
This makes approx 3.5 litres (6 pints/15 cups)
- 2–3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard – save the liver for a different dish)
- 1 onion, sliced 1 leek, split in two 2 outside celery stalks 1 carrot, cut into chunks
- a few parsley stalks and a sprig of thyme
- 6 peppercorns
Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon. Simmer for 3–4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.