Basic Home-made Vegetarian Stock

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes about

    2.75 litres

Appears in

Vegetarian cooking presents a problem when it comes to stock. In the absence of poultry, fish or meat, it is 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.

Although vegetable stocks tend to lack robustness they can still serve our purpose. 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 (5 pints) of water to at least 5kg (11¼ lb) 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 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 prepare 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.

If you find the amount in this recipe too large for your needs, make half.

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Preparation Time: 35 Minutes
Cooking Time: 3 Hours

Ingredients

  • 50g (2 oz) Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 1 kg ( lb) carrots, peeled
  • 4 celery stalks, trimmed
  • 1 kg(2 lb) onions, peeled
  • 1 kg(2 lb) mooli (Chinese white radish), peeled
  • 225g (8 oz) cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways and seeded
  • 1 kg(2 lb) tomatoes
  • 4 leeks
  • 225g (8 oz) shallots
  • small piece fresh ginger, 5 x 6cm (2x3 in)
  • 6 whole spring onions, trimmed
  • 10 unpeeled and crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2.75 litres (5 pints) water
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce

Method

  1. Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then drain them, reserving the liquid. Squeeze out and reserve any excess liquid from the mushrooms and strain. Set aside. Coarsely chop them, using both caps and stems.
  2. Coarsely chop the carrots, celery, onions, mooli, cucumber and tomatoes. Wash the leeks, discard the green part and coarsely chop the white portion. Wash again to get rid of any remaining grit. Peel the shallots but leave them whole. Peel the ginger and cut into slices 5 x 1cm (2 x ½ in).
  3. Preheat the oven to 220°C, 450°F, gas mark 8. Place on a baking tray the spring onions, ginger, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, mooli and leeks, and brown in the oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the cucumbers and tomatoes and brown for another 8 minutes. Turn the vegetables into a very large saucepan and add the peppercorns, salt, water and soy sauce. Cover and bring to simmering point.
  5. 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.
  6. Bring the stock to the boil, then turn the heat down to a moderate simmer and cook for about 2 hours. Skim off the foam from time to time.
  7. Strain the stock through a large colander and then through a very fine-mesh strainer. Allow it to cool thoroughly. It is now ready to be used or transferred to containers and frozen.

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