There are some culinary skills that rarely get attempted at home, despite their simplicity - and making stock from scratch is one for them.
As home cooks, we've all encountered stock before - this thin liquid flavoured with vegetables and sometimes meat or fish is great for adding a delicious, savoury base flavour to dishes. From soups to stews and silky risottos, so many dinnertime classics benefit from the lovely savoury base of stock.
While it's easy to reach for a cube and the kettle, making your own from scratch is simple - and a fantastic way to use up all your veggies and reduce your household's food waste.
Here are some top tips for making your own stock from scratch below. Your gravy game will thank you!
Grab your biggest pan
The best thing about stock is making a big batch in one go that you can use for multiple meals at different times so grab your biggest stock pot and get stuck in!
Freeze portions in zip-lock freezer bags or even ice cube trays, ready to grab from the freezer and pop straight into the pan for every soup, sauce and risotto you make for weeks to come. This will keep in the freezer indefinitely - but try to use it up within 9 months, as the flavours can change over time.
Assess your salad drawer
You can make stock from pretty much any vegetable. Onions, carrots, leeks, celery, fennel, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, even herbs are all perfect stock ingredients. You could also use broccoli, peas, beans - any savoury vegetables.
This is a great way to use up any sad veggies that are looking past their prime - empty out the bottom of your fridge, assess your wares, then chunk them all in the stock pot!
There are some veggies that all stocks will benefit from, though: onions, garlic, carrot and celery. Between them, these will give your stock a delicious, balanced savoury base from which you can build your tasty stock.
Fry off your base
Chop all of your veggies so that they're all a similar size (about 2cm cubed). Pour a good glug of olive oil into your pan and gently fry off the veg that take the longest to cook over a low heat until they start to colour: onions, leeks, celery, carrots and fennel will all benefit from this browning process.
Add your liquid
After 10 minutes, add the rest of your vegetables and herbs, along with any cooked meat bones (What's left after a roast chicken dinner will make a delicious homemade chicken stock), and a small handful of black peppercorns and cover with as much cold water as your pan will hold without boiling over.
Crank the heat up to medium-high and cover. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to bubble away for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain your stock
Once your stock's done infusing, strain your pot through a sieve to remove any chunks, lumps and veggies.
Once it's strained, give your stock a taste. If it's a bit on the weak side, pour it back into stock pan (after it's been cleaned) and reduce the liquid on the hob until the strength intensifies.
You can either use the stock then and there, or refrigerate or freeze it for a later date, saving you time further down the line. And there you have it - delicious, homemade stock that'll add bags of tasty flavour to dinners while emptying the salad drawer at the same time.
Just because you don't need these odds and ends doesn't mean they have to go to waste though! Cooked veggies from your stock base can be blended into soups, pasta sauces or even gravy to add flavour and texture. Delicious!
You can also try experimenting with different veggies, meat bones and herbs to see what flavour profiles you can create. A stick of lemon grass and a whole chilli in a vegetable stock will give the finished product some fiery, zesty flavours - the perfect stock for an Asian-inspired noodle soup!