By alexandrawilson on 13th January 2017

The foundation of almost every worthwhile dish is a carefully constructed stock. It’s the very bones of deliciousness and something that is criminal to overlook. There’s a certain respect and thriftiness to making your own stock, honouring the whole animal in a Fergus Henderson, nose-to-tail sort of way. The fact is, utilising the spent carcasses, bones and trim rewards you with a very unique flavour that can’t be replicated. There’s a sixth sense that lights up when you taste a proper stock and salty stock cubes just can’t deliver the same results. Long low simmering pries the most treasured, robust flavours from animals. The old saying goes “the flavours in the fat,” but it’s the marrow, that fatty goo hidden within where the good stuff is really lurking.
Obviously, I don’t expect to be saying anything new here. This, of course, is kitchen 101, the stuff you learn in your first few months of catering college. However, stock has perhaps never been so highly prized as it is in 2017.
Noodle soups have hit the UK food scene like unabating waves. First Vietnamese pho, then Japanese ramen, and by all accounts right now it’s Malaysian laksa that seems to be on the trend treadmill for it’s time in the sun. Ramen was perhaps the big one, the dish that hooked food obsessives in a way that had them deciphering their bowls of tonkotsu (pork both) ramen from their shoyu (soy sauce) based ramen. No two stocks are alike, and finally we are at a time when the dining public are starting to notice.
The British dining public have never been more open minded to far-flung flavours and exotic, regional dishes. As we speak, authentic Mexican taco stands are abundant in London, US barbecue has hit mainstream peak success, and an elusive Hawaiian dish has begun rising in cities up and down the UK. Now is not the time to underestimate that room full of diners.
We’ve spoken on this blog before about how sipping on takeout cups of bone broth has been a rapidly rising trend for those adhering to a paleo diet (all those gym obsessed, cross fit lot usually) as well as those buying into all that clean eating tosh. But whether it’s those takeaway coffee cups filled with broth, or customers turning to warming noodle soups that sit low on the calorie count, these cold winter months are peak diet season and a time to maximise the return you can bring on a simple, but well mastered stock.
In his new book, Appetites, Anthony Bourdain explains how he covers his mirepoix and bones in tomato paste ahead of roasting, a stock preparation that delivers a huge amount of intensity and increases the amount of brown, crisped up Maillard bits. We’d do well to look at the subtleties of a good clean pho broth too, the delicate blend of star anise, cinnamon and coriander deliver something that can be very fragrant and light, but brought to a reduction empowers you with something that’s suitably bold and diverse.
A good stock has the ability to save a dish that’s lurking in the realms of mediocrity and is often the key to bringing a dish together whether it’s a Bolognese sauce, or a simple cacio e pepe. So next time you step back to analyse a dish, make sure your stock is the first area you focus on.