When I was little, I used to read all these books about witches. I guess there must have been some kind of fascination there. Or maybe I understood that witchcraft and cooking were somehow closely related. After all, they key to both is combining the right recipe, the right ingredients and a third undefinable factor… let’s just call it magic. Now that I’m older and have come to the disappointing – but also rather comforting – realisation that flying a broomstick and casting spells are officially off the agenda, the real-life equivalent of brewing a magic potion in my cauldron is still well within reach. Making your own chicken stock is a bit of work, but it is very rewarding. If you happen to have one, I really recommend using a pressure cooker. It will significantly shorten the process and give you clearer and more aromatic results.
Ingredients for about 2 litres of stock:
2 kg chicken wings (if at all possible, try to get free-range)
a large carrot
3 big onions
3 cloves of garlic
a handful of dried porcini mushrooms
2 stalks of celery
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cover a large flat baking tray with baking paper and lay out the chicken wings. If you have two baking trays this will be twice as fast, otherwise you’ll have to do it in two batches. Trust me, 2 kg is a lot of chicken. Roast the chicken wings for 30 minutes until they’re a light golden brown, turning them over with a pair of barbecue tongues after 15 minutes.
- While the chicken is roasting. Slice all your vegetables. Heat a layer of oil in your pressure cooker and sweat the carrots, celery and onion until completely soft. Add the soaked and washed porcini mushrooms and the flattened garlic cloves and turn off the heat.
- After roasting, put the chicken wings on some kitchen paper to get rid of the excess fat.
- Add them to the vegetables in the pressure cooker and fill the pan with cold water until the bones are just covered.
- Bring up to a gentle simmer and skim off any foam and impurities that rise to the surface.
- Put the pressure cooker lid on the pan, turn the heat up to maximum and bring up to full pressure. Once it’s reached full pressure, turn the heat down to low and pressure cook for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, release the pressure, take the lid off, lift out the chicken wings with a slotted spoon and pour the rest of the stock through a sieve and into another large pan. Discard the vegetables, but save the chicken wings!
- Cover the soup pan with foil to make sure there’s no chance of rain getting inside and leave outside for the night (if you have a large fridge you can also just put in there overnight). If, due to some obscure reason, your apartment is the only flat in your building which does not have a balcony, put the pan on your neighbours’ balcony when they’re not looking.
- In the meantime, you can salvage the meat from that heap of chicken wings. This is a fun and relaxing little chore. Take your time, put on some good music and really get your hands in there. Throw the bones, cartilage and skins on the discard pile and collect the scraps of meat in Tupperware containers.
- The next morning, retrieve your pan from said balcony with equal stealth and scrape off the yellow layer of fat that has now formed on the surface. Don’t be surprised if your soup has turned into a giant mass of jelly by this time. During the cooking process all those bones and pieces of cartilage will have released all that lovely, healthy collagen into the soup, causing it to become gelatinous when cold. It’s good for your skin, hair, nails and digestive system, so don’t be afraid of a little jiggle. Once heated, the soup will instantly become completely liquid again. Transfer the skimmed stock into a large plastic bottle using a funnel and use within a week, if stored in the fridge. If you want to be able to store and use the stock over the course of several months, just freeze it in small batches.
- Now you are left with (perhaps slightly less than) 2 liters of incredibly tasty (and healthy!) stock and two containers full of tender, shredded chicken meat, enough for several days. The stock has not been salted so you can use it in a varieties of ways and just season it to suit your recipes. The stock is delicious on its own – just heat a small amount, add a little salt and sip from a mug – but can also be used to make a really flavourful risotto or paella, a creamy chicken ragout, as a base for any kind of soup, you name it. Likewise, there are so many different ways to use the shredded leftover chicken meat. Blessed be your kitchen and get creative!