Sunday, May 6, 2012

Starting with the base.. brown chicken stock

Well, all good journeys start somewhere. And, for most of us, you forget something, bump your head when putting the suitcases in the car, and all that jazz. But it doesn't matter, because you've started.

As preparation for my Meal 1, I decided to make some chicken stock. Heston waxes lyrical at just about any opportunity to tell you just how important a great stock is.

Now, I've made stocks before. It basically involves cooking onion, carrot, celery and the like a bit. Adding some form of meat / bones combination. Boiling it a lot. Scrapping off all the icky stuff. Throw away everything except the liquid. Tada!

This process is a little (lot) more involved. But then I watch Heston make his chicken stock in a pressure cooker and thought - "Hey! I have one of them!" And so chicken stock I made.

It's a simple, yet time consuming process.
  1. Roast chicken wings
  2. Slooooowly cook onion, then add carrot for another long slow cook, then mushrooms and garlic for more of the same.
  3. Add cooked chicken, plus pan deglazing, plus 2L of cold water.
  4. bring to simmer
  5. cook in pressure cooker for 2 hours
  6. turn off heat, wait until cold (many many hours)
  7. drain, filter and refrigerate
  8. remove fat, and store.
So let's see how that panned out.

Roasting the chicken wings. You're supposed to roast 2.5 kilos of these suckers. Heston must have a much bigger roasting pan than me, because that quantity took 2 pans. I also did a chicken carcass, which I got from the butchers cheap.
So they get roasted for an hour.
Mmmmm... roasted chicken bits.

While they are cooking you get started slow cooking the onion. That cooks on very low heat, for about 45 mins. I've done this before, no biggie. You then add the carrot, another (20 mins). and then 10 mins for mushrooms and garlic. It's all sliced very finely to maximise the surface area.

 What you don't do is walk away from the stove during this process. Not even for literally 2 minutes to explain a finer point of Roman mythology as depicted in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief to your daughter.  This will result in burned onions and carrots, and you dumping them and starting over.

So don't. leave. that. stove. Stir that sucker until its ready.

Then comes the put it all in the pot stage. It looks kind ordinary here.
You heat it, up and steam cooker that sucker for 2 hours, checking on it periodically to make sure it doesnt trip the valve - this means its boiling inside and will make your stock cloudy. (I did not know this about steam cookers).

Then you take it off the heat and the let whole thing cool down completely. It was about midnight by this time, so, I went to bed, and when I got up in the morning it was still warm. So it takes a while to cool.

Then comes the fun double filtering thing. First colander,  then wet muslin over a finer sieve.

So into the colander and much swishing of meat to get the juice out. Don't press too hard or you too will break your cheap slotted spoon. (sigh)
Ah, the blurry action shot from the high quality child/photographer who was helping.

After first filtering. The colour is pretty good, much darker than other stocks I've made before.

So on to the second filtering - wet muslin (newly bought from textile traders for the purpose. Pretty cheap, $4 a meter for double layer.) This works really well! I was actually kind of surprised what a difference it made.
All the stuff it filtered out. (It was kind of goo-like).
And so here's the stock, before chilling to get rid of the fat. It looks pretty good. Tastes like proper roast chicken, not chicken stock.

This threw me, and left me giggling. After chilling in the fridge for several hours ....

The fat just scraps off really, really easily.. because the stock itself is a total jelly! It even wobbled. After hearing all my giggles from the kitchen, husband even made me show him to prove it.

 Heston wrote (in the book) and spoke (on TV) a lot about using wings becase they are full of gelatine to thicken your stock, give it body etc but I wasnt expecting it to be a wobbly solid! It won't stay that way once heated of course, but it did give no small amusement when scooping it into containers for storage..

 All set for freezing, with a zip lock bag of 2 cups, and one of 300 ml also set aside for freezing.

Things I learned from this recipe:

  • I pull weird 'concentrating' faces when I am cooking.
  • I think my chicken wings could have stood to be a bit more brown. I think my oven is on the cool side. (Damn I miss my old oven.)
  • You cannot ignore the slow cooking vegetables for any length of time. Focus young one, and stir.... do not get distracted by Roman mythology.


I'll feedback more on this once I've tried it in cooking but at this stage I'm unsure. It tastes good, but it really is a whole evening of cooking (roughly 8-12pm) -and then another hour or so to filter and pack up for storage.

Decent (though not amazing) stock can be bought so cheaply and conveniently, that this might become one of those 'just for special occasions' things, since I am rarely going to have a spare evening on a weekend to make stock and achieve little else.

Will see once I've tasted it in situ though.

Edited to add (after trying it in a dish): Yes, the flavour in the sauce made from this was really exceptional (compared to anything I've done similar in the past). It gave real oomph to the flavour. Not an everyday addition, but certainly something I'd plan on including where possible in future.

Next post - salted caramel icecream!


  1. I enjoyed reading this! Can just about smell that tasty roast chicken stock. I'll be very interested to hear whether it does elevate what it's included in above something made with an everyday stock.

    Are you going to do a control recipe with readymade stock vs this fancy stock? Enquiring minds and all that...

    Great to see you have a photographer to help with the action shots, too! :-)

  2. I have made this stock a few times but I have two valves on my pressure cooker, one is for safety and one for pressure. do you mean that you set the cooker so no steam at all is coming out. or just cook like a normal pressure cooker with like pressure 1 or 2 hissing.

    I have just read heston at home and its a little unclear.

    1. It should be pressurised, but not steam coming out (maybe a tiny bit where the seal is, but that's it.)

      My cooker only has one valve with a lock. It's pressurised with the lock up and then a moveable valve to depressurise/let excess steam out. If there is steam coming out, it's boiling - not what you want. You want the higher pressure and temp, but no boiling. I hope that helps!

  3. Just came across your blog as I was looking for some Heston Blumenthal recipes.

    I've really enjoyed your writing style and honest comments about what worked and what didn't - it helps to see what problems that ''real'' people have following the recipes.

    Now to have a read of the rest of your blog

  4. In one of his cooking show, Heston sprinkle some skimmed milk powder onto chicken wings before roasting them in the oven. Did you try that?