Homemade Vegetable Stock

Vegetarian cooking presents a problem when it comes to stock. In the absence of any meat, it can be difficult to prepare a truly rich stock, the foundation of any cuisine. But, of course, it is the animal fat that makes it ‘rich’, and for many people that is too high a price to pay. One of the best vegetarian stocks I have ever sampled was that of Chef Norbert Kostner, the Executive Chef of the famed Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Although Norbert is from Switzerland, he has lived for several decades in Bangkok. He has adopted and adapted the fine nuances of Asian tastes and flavours. He kindly shared with me some of his ideas for his superb vegetable stock and I have made a version suitable for home kitchens. To get assertive flavours, he suggested a ratio of 3 litres of water to at least 5 kilos of vegetables.

Although the use of such a quantity of vegetables may sound extravagant, we must remember that we are distilling essences here and, moreover, it is a fraction of what it would cost to make a meat stock.

I have found that slightly browning the vegetables in the oven before simmering helps to impart flavours to the stock.

Since this vegetable stock recipe is easy to make, I suggest that you make a fairly large quantity, as it freezes quite well and is essential to have on hand. Again, if you don’t have the time to make stock from scratch, there are some acceptable commercial vegetarian stocks available now. Make sure you choose well.

Follow these directions but by all means experiment and always aim to suit your own taste. If you find the amount in this recipe too great for your needs, make half.

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Ingredients

  • 50 g (2 oz) Chinese dried black mushrooms
  • 1 kg ( lb) carrots, peeled
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1 kg ( lb) yellow onions, peeled
  • 1 kg ( lb) mooli (Chinese white radish), peeled
  • 225 g (8 oz)cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways and seeded
  • 1 kg ( lb)tomatoes
  • 4 leeks
  • 225 g (8 oz) shallots
  • 6 spring onions, trimmed
  • 6 slices fresh ginger
  • 10 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns(optional)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2.75 litres (5 pints) water
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce

Method

Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then drain them, saving the liquid. Squeeze out and save any liquid from the mushrooms and strain the liquid. Set aside. Coarsely chop the mushrooms, caps and stems.

Coarsely chop the carrots, celery, onions, mooli, cucumber and tomatoes. Wash the leeks, discard the green part and coarsely chop the white portion. Peel the shallots. Preheat the oven to 220°C/450°F/Gas 8. On a baking tray, put the spring onions, ginger, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, mooli, leeks and shallots, and brown for 20 minutes. Add the cucumbers and tomatoes and brown for another 8 minutes. Put the vegetables into a large pot, add the peppercorns, salt, water and soy sauce. Cover and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Using a large, flat spoon, skim off any foam as it rises to the top: it will take about 10–20 minutes for all the foam to rise. Bring the stock to the boil, then turn the heat down to a moderate simmer and cook for about 2 hours.

Strain the stock through a large colander and then through a very fine mesh strainer, and let it cool. It is now ready to be used or frozen.

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