One of the (let’s be honest, rather many) obstacles to me becoming a vegetarian – as opposed to a passionate lover of all kinds of veg – would be what do to about stock.
I often toy, more than idly, with the idea of abandoning meat for all the good ethical & environmental reasons – but also love the richly layered flavours, velvety texture and million uses for a good chicken stock.
In the past, whenever I have made veg-only stocks, they’ve always been watery and bland affairs. But recently, prompted by dinners for total vego guests, I have begun making a kickarse vegetable stock, given a huge lift in flavour, texture and colour by first roasting all the veg until seriously caramelised.
It’s so simple – chuck whatever veg you have in the fridge into a pan, slather with heaps of olive oil, turn up the heat and blast it in the oven. My latest batch, pictured here midway through the roasting, included pumpkin with skin on, carrots, shallots, red onion, garlic, lots of celery, a bunch of spinach stems and a tomato. Once they’re lovely and roasted almost as dark as you can get them without burning, remove from the oven and toss into a big pot of water with the usual peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt.
I simmered it for a good few hours, reducing by a third and then topping up and reducing again, then straining it. The result is a gorgeously dark golden stock full of flavour and a very light sheen of olive oil.
This stock was perfect for Friday night’s vego dinner for eleven.
The starter, smoking barrel number 1 (stay with me, I’m clutching at headline straws here!) was a mighty good caprese-style salad with burrata, that decadent mozzarella ball filled with cream, that you break into luscious pieces and plonk down with slices of ripe tomato, torn basil and some salad leaves; I dressed it with the usual balsamic & good oil. SB # 2, dessert, was a high-fat free-for-all known as Karen Martini’s baked lemon cheesecake with pistachio & biscuit base… we’re talking ricotta, cream cheese, goat’s curd – hmm, must add that to the festival of cheesecake from last week.
Returning Now to the point – stock came in with this pumpkin risotto courtesy of the River Cafe (first cooked for me very recently, like so many good things, by the Empress…). It is delicious and easy. So moreish, in fact, that a guest who “doesn’t eat pumpkin” (and who was somehow swindled by his wife, I believe, into thinking this was sweet potato – a whole other post coming up on food aversions!) happily hoed into a second helping. The stock, I reckon, certainly helped give it some oomph and silkiness.