Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's in stock

I'd made a point of finishing off all the soup recipes before the warm weather arrived, but there was still one recipe from the soup chapter that remained uncompleted: brown meat stock (p85). The thing is, I had to have something to use it for, so I scoured the remaining recipes and found that beef stock is required for tomato sauce (p103).

The next step was to get myself some beef bones. They don't have them at the supermarket (or not at this time of year, at least) so I made a mission to the butcher in Barrington on Saturday, where I got a bag of meaty bones without any difficulty.

I got the bones home and set about making my stock. I arranged the bones in a roasting dish and put them in the oven until they were nicely browned, then transferred the bones to a stock pot and added water. I used a small amount of water to rinse out the juices in the roasting dish, before pouring it into the pot with the rest.

I brought the water to the boil, then added chopped celery, peppercorns, a bay leaf, some thyme and a sprig of parsley. That was all the effort required for the time being - I just had to let it simmer for six hours. It was already mid-afternoon when I got the stock on, so it was well into the evening before it was finished. I'd originally planned to make the tomato sauce that evening, but it soon became clear that I would run out of time.

When the stock was finished, I strained out all the bones and bits, and placed the stock in the fridge to cool. In the morning, the stock had set into the apparently desirable jellyish texture, and there was a thin layer of fat over the top, which I scooped off and threw away.

It wasn't until Monday night that I got around to making the sauce. I began by cooking onion, garlic, bacon and celery in a saucepan. When these were cooked through, I stirred through flour, and cooked that for a minute or so before mixing in some tomato puree, and a little sugar.

At this stage, you're supposed to take the sauce off the heat and allow it to cool slightly before gradually stirring in boiling stock. Since I didn't really understand the reasoning behind this, I only did it in token fashion, leaving the pan off the heat while I heated the stock.

As I gradually stirred in the stock, the thick tomatoey paste in my saucepan became fairly liquid. That was expected, as the next step is to simmer the sauce for 45 minutes, or "until sauce consistency". It actually only took about half an hour, during which I discovered that the pasta containers in my pantry (usually full of various pastas) were almost entirely empty. Luckily I found some that would do, and cooked it when the sauce looked like it was nearly ready.

I spooned some sauce onto my pasta and topped it with a few torn up bits of basil from the garden. I realised at this stage that I'd forgotten to season the sauce (yes, again!) and had to add a little seasoning on top to stir through.

The tomato sauce was ok, but not brilliant. I didn't much like the flour-thickened consistency, and it seemed quite sweet for a pasta sauce (which admittedly could be improved if I paid more attention to seasoning). It certainly wasn't worth the time it took to cook: I'd much prefer a sauce thrown together in 15 minutes, using a can of tomatoes and whatever else I've got on hand. That's just my preference, of course. You'd have to try this sauce yourself to see whether it suits your taste or not. Meanwhile, I've got to come up with some ways to use the rest of my beef stock!

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