We don’t eat much meat because intrinsically we believe that animals belong in our hearts, not in our stomachs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t regularly buy meat. Almost exactly a year ago to the day, my cat Sushi was suffering from distressing symptoms that the vet diagnosed as the onset of renal failure. We thought her death was imminent. Rather than accept the vet’s unhappy prognosis, which meant subjecting Sushi to the ongoing stress of regular blood tests, injections and the daily oral administration of drugs for the rest of her life, I boldly decided that I would responsibly ‘manage’ her condition by fully taking care of her nutritional needs. It is no mean feat to hand prepare fresh, organic pet food from scratch, but that was what I committed to do and one year later (Sushi’s now 17), she’s completely free of symptoms and, as they say, “As happy as Larry.”
When people think the cost of organic food is too expensive and cooking is a bore, they need to also think about the future cost of healthcare for humans and animals once good health disappears - as it most surely will - when they choose to feed themselves and their pets chemically processed food made with heavily refined ingredients and artificial additives that essentially amounts to toxic crap. It’s this catastrophic dietary decision that makes so many people and animals sick and fat. Good for vets’ profits maybe, but not so good for a cash-strapped NHS when the lifestyle and dietary choices of an ageing population starts to catch up with them! Today I am out to prove a point. Even though my idea of pet food is freshly ground, organic, grass-fed beef, lamb and chicken made from meat cut off the bone by me, when you factor in a nutritious meal for four conjured-up out of the leftovers, 63 pence per portion for my pet food versus 45 pence for Lily’s Kitchen is, in my view, a monetary piffle. What’s 19 pence when I’ve saved £100’s on veterinary fees and my beloved cat’s quality of life?
Bone Broth, or homemade stock as we used to call it, has been hailed as a trendy new superfood by the Paleo/Primal fraternity, but in fact our ancestors always used to have a pot of meaty bones continually brewing over the fire. Our modern day equivalent would be to throw some good quality bones (they must be organic) and vegetables into a slow-cooker in the morning, go to work and come home to a beautiful, clear, savoury broth. The longer bone broth is slow-cooked, the more nutritious and gelatinous the broth. Yet, for the forward thinking cook, this is healthy, fast food at it’s best because it requires nothing more than shoving a few ingredients into a pot and walking away.
Renowned for healing the gut, fighting inflammation and strengthening bones and teeth, the numerous nutrients found in bone broth are easily absorbed and used by the body. However, today’s recipe is not just for the health conscious, it’s for foodies, cooks and those of us with darling pets to care for because from scraps and remnants, a few meaty bones, freshly filtered water and a handful of organic vegetables, Bone Broth With Vegetables is a fuss-free way to produce the most soothing, nourishing, warming ‘hug-in-a-bowl’ imaginable.
Last week Sushi’s monthly meat order coincided with me working at a wedding fair with Mirror Imaging at the weekend and because Perfect Roast Chicken is one of the simplest of meals for my husband to prepare in our absence, I ordered an extra chicken for us too. Whilst it isn’t always about preferring to eat vegetarian, it is always about consciously eating less meat and fully appreciating it when we do. For me this this means not throwing out what most people think of as waste i.e. leftover raw bones, giblets and the Sunday roast chicken carcass. And, when it comes down to it, the more variety of bones, the better the broth. Simmered long and slow in freshly filtered water with a handful of vegetables, these simple ingredients are the makings of another meal. All that’s needed to elevate the delicious resulting broth into a visually appealing, light yet filling lunch or supper is some finely chopped vegetables, seasoning and a generous handful of fresh parsley.
Not so much a recipe, more ‘waste not, want not’ opportunism, bone broth can be made from the remains of Perfect Roast Chicken, including the roasted vegetables you cooked it with, plus a few raw, organic meat bones and/or half a dozen raw organic chicken wings, a stick or two of celery, a carrot and an onion. This super cheap, super satisfying ‘superfood’ is so good, you’ll probably be left wondering why you never thought of making it before.
Bone Broth With Vegetables (Serves 4)
Ingredients - to make the broth
The remains of a Perfect Roast Chicken including the vegetables/herbs you roasted it with
Raw, organic lamb/beef bones or 500g raw organic chicken wings
1 organic onion, unpeeled and chopped into quarters
1 large or 2 medium organic carrots, scrubbed (no need to peel) and cut into thick wedges
2 sticks organic celery, washed and chopped into large pieces
Fresh filtered water - enough to virtually cover the bones/chicken carcass
Ingredients - for the vegetables (can be varied according to what’s fresh and in season)
30g organic butter or olive oil
I large or 2 medium organic leeks, tough green tops and roots removed, cut into fine dice
1 small organic sweet potato, peeled and cut into small dice (no bigger than a pea)
2 organic carrots, peeled and cut into small dice (no bigger than a pea)
2 medium sticks organic celery, washed, trimmed and cut into small dice (no bigger than a pea)
½ large organic courgette, washed and cut into small dice (no bigger than a pea)
100g organic frozen peas, defrosted
1-2 tbsp organic tamari
a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients - to serve
small bunch organic parsley, finely chopped
cold, roast chicken, cut or shredded into small pieces - optional
Instructions - to make the bone broth
Place all the ingredients into a very large saucepan (or you can use a slow-cooker, if you have one).
Add enough cold, freshly filtered water to virtually cover - push down any bits and pieces that are sticking out above the water line.
Set the pan over a medium-high heat and bring to boiling point. Keep your eye on it. As soon as the liquid starts to boil, turn the heat down to a very low setting and, using a metal tablespoon, skim off any scum that’s risen to the surface.
Cover with the pan lid and allow the liquid to simmer very gently for at least 2 hours - although 4 hours would be better. N.B. It is very important that the liquid does not boil rapidly at any time because this will make the finished broth cloudy rather than clear.
After a couple of hours - longer if possible - the liquid will have turned into a clear, golden broth and will smell really inviting. Allow the contents of the pan to cool down a little before straining the hot broth through a metal sieve into a clean saucepan. Or, if you’re not planning to use it straightaway, a glass bowl. Leave to cool completely, then cover and store in the refrigerator, where it will turn into a savoury jelly.
Instructions - to cook the vegetables and finish the dish
In a large saucepan, melt the butter (or gently heat the olive oil) then add the diced vegetables and stir everything together well to lightly coat the vegetables in the oil.
Cut a circle of greaseproof paper to fit the pan and press this down directly on top of the vegetables. Put the pan lid on and cook gently over a medium-low heat for approximately 8 minutes or until the vegetables are just soft - they should retain their natural, vibrant colour.
Bring the bone broth back to boiling point, then season to taste with Tamari, sea salt and black pepper.
Add the hot broth to the saucepan containing the vegetables and simmer over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
If using, add the diced chicken to the broth and allow to warm through for a further minute before ladling into individual pre-warmed serving bowls - making sure that the vegetables and chicken pieces are evenly distributed between each bowl.
Sprinkle over the chopped parsley and serve.
The broth will keep for up to 5 days covered in a refrigerator.
Before using jellied broth straight from the fridge, scrape off the top layer of fat from the surface.
You can freeze the cooled liquid broth in ice cube trays and then use the resulting frozen stock cubes individually to add depth of flavour to savoury sauces and gravies.
Carbohydrate 21g Protein 5g - per serving