In the last two posts we looked at two different ways to make a competent chicken stock. But have you ever tried to make a vegetarian stock? You might be surprised by the results. Here’s how to make a very simple tomato consommé:
Take a batch of ripe tomatoes, chop them up very roughly and marinade them in the ‘fridge with a handful of sea-salt. Several hours should do the trick. Take them out of the ‘fridge and 'half-crush' them up in your Magimix, using a few jabs of the pulse button. The salty tomato pulp is placed in a muslin-lined sieve and placed over a large bowl, and the whole shooting match put back into the ‘fridge to drip over-night.
In the morning you’ll have a bowlful of clear tomato ‘water’, with the most delicate flavour. You might serve this, say, in small cups (chilled over ice, with a sprig of basil) as a trendy amuse-bouche for a summer dinner party. You could, of course, also add extra flavourings at the dripping stage- aromatics such as rosemary, thyme, basil, shallots or garlic might work well. Your friends will be amazed, delighted and amused.
My researches into vegetable stock-making reminded me that I had a copy of Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option languishing at the back of the book shelf. Massive fan of Mr H, and along with Richard Olney, currently one of my all-time favourite food writers. I should use The Vegetarian Option more often as it’s packed full of ideas- encouraging stylish ways with the vegetable. There should be so much more to vegetable cooking than the dreaded pasta and lentil bake.
There’s a brilliant recipe for a vegetarian bouillon which Simon Hopkinson discovered at L’Espérance restaurant in Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay:
You take 100g carrots, 100g leeks, 100g celery, 100g white button mushrooms and 250g white onion (peeled and chopped and the mushrooms thinly sliced) and mix them up in a large bowl. Get hold of three clean Parfait preserving jars and fill each up half-way with the vegetable mixture. Place a garlic clove, bayleaf, chopped parsley sprigs and a few black peppercorns into each jar and top up with the remaining vegetables. In goes a dash of good sea-salt and water, so that it stops about 2cm from the top of the glass jar. The jars are then sealed and placed in a deep pan of cold water until the water almost reaches the lids.
You are going to cook the jars a bit like the way you might cook a traditional Christmas Pudding. The water is brought to a very gentle simmer and the pan left (with the lid on) for two hours, topping up the level with boiling water from the kettle when you think it needs it. To prevent the jars from shattering, you will need to use either a diffuser or a folded piece of thick cardboard placed directly underneath each jar in the pan.
The bouillon is cooled and then strained through a muslin-lined sieve in the normal way. Thinking about it, this is a traditional cooking technique as used in Olde England- jugged peas and jugged hare immediately springs to mind.
The Bouillon can be served ‘ice-cold’ with a garnish of diced ‘jewel-like’ vegetables floating on the top. Simple, satisfying- and genuinely elegant. If you’re clever I expect you can think up alternative ways of using it- perhaps as an interesting re-interpretation of a Bloody Mary, with vodka and Tabasco? Either way, the bouillon can be frozen and used to pep up soups, stews and sauces.