Things have been pretty hectic at work lately. It means I have been treasuring the quiet time at home all the more.
Tonight HWWLLB was out for a meeting, and I had the house to myself. Simon and I hung out in the garden for a while, just puttering a bit, knocking butterfly eggs off the baby kale leaves and that sort of thing. I harvested a nice bunch of curly Russian kale for dinner and ate it with a plate of noodles with white bean sauce. It was so simple, and very satisfying.
Once it got dark, I decided to do a little sewing, since I've had a small pile of mending waiting for me for some time. While I did that, I also put on a big pot of vegetable stock. I really like making my own vegetable stock - the kind that comes in a box is so salty and flavorless, and so expensive. I know some people think it's a pain, but I find home made vegetable stock to be really easy, particularly just letting it simmer on the stove while you do other things (like sew or read a book). The way I make it - full of colorful veggies - is much richer than clear veggie broth, and extremely nutritious. It's a great substitute for chicken or even beef broth.
Here's how I make it:
rich vegetable stock
1 big freezer bag full of vegetable trimmings
1 big stock pot full of water
salt and pepper
Whenever you're cooking and have to cut up vegetables, peel carrots, roast squash, etc, keep the trimmings. Just keep putting them into a one-gallon freezer bag until the bag is full. Some of the kinds of things you should definitely save for your veggie stock are:
onion ends and bits
sweet potato peels
squash skins - particularly after roasting
kale and collard stems
The only things I don't like to add are potato peels and bits, because they make the stock too starchy for my taste. Traditional veggie broth recipes usually call for little more than carrots, celery and onions. Making stock this way you get an extremely nutritious, colorful broth that makes your soups much richer. You can easily water it down if you want a lighter taste.
Anyhow, once the freezer bag fills up with scraps, it's time to make stock. Dump the contents of the bag into your biggest stock pot and cover with water, leaving a couple inches of space at the top of the pot. You can throw in whatever spices you like - I always put in plenty of salt and black peppercorns, and sometimes bay leaves, juniper berries, or whatever else looks good. Cover and bring to a boil.
Once the pot is boiling, give it a good stir and turn it down to low heat to simmer, covered, for at least 1.5 hours. I usually go to 2 hours. Once that's done, scoop out all your floppy veggies and toss them into the compost. If you want a more concentrated broth to thin with water when you use it, keep simmering and cooking it down til it reaches half its volume (this will also save some space in your freezer).
When you're done simmering, let the broth cool, then strain it and place it into freezer-safe containers (I love to recycle big yogurt containers for this - one container holds 4 cups of broth, which is just right for lots of soup recipes). Label with the date and put them in the freezer til you're ready to use them.
Of course, vegetable stock is great for making soup, but I also find that rice tastes incredible cooked in it instead of water. The same is true for quinoa, cous-cous and other grains, and I'm sure they are more nutritious cooked this way, too.