How to Make Stock

It’s back to basics this week with a common ingredient for adding flavour to dishes – stock. You probably already know how to make stock from a stock cube, but did you know it’s surprisingly easy to make from scratch?

Stock is, quite simply, water with added flavour. Whenever you boil ingredients in water, some of the flavours (and nutrients) mix with the water. In fact, when you boil vegetables you’re pretty much making vegetable stock at the same time!

Most stocks, however, have more flavour than vegetable water. You can make stock more concentrated, in other words stronger, either by putting in more ingredients or by boiling off more water.

Let’s start with what kind of ingredients you can use for stock. As I said above, you can boil vegetables in water to make a vegetable stock. You can use any combination, but a classic is onion, carrot, and celery (known as a mirepoix).

You can make fish, chicken, or meat stocks by using the parts you might otherwise just throw away – the skin and bones. In fact, making stock is a great way to get the most out of your food.

Now for the method.

Start by chopping your vegetables. The smaller you chop them, the faster the flavour will mix with the water. However, if you’ve got plenty of time for your stock to cook, chunks of vegetables (about an inch on each side) are fine. Bones and skin usually don’t need chopping.

Cover your ingredients with water, and a lid, in a large saucepan or slow cooker. At this stage, it’s better to have too much water than too little. Too little water and your stock can burn, but you can always boil off excess water later.

Boil your ingredients for at least half an hour. As long as there’s enough water left, there isn’t really an upper time limit for making stock. It will just keep getting stronger the longer you boil it for.

Drain your ingredients. Remember to save the water – that’s now your stock! If you don’t think your stock has enough flavour yet, you can put it back in the saucepan and boil it very gently without a lid. (The fancy name for this step is reducing down.)

You can use your stock as soon as it’s cooked, but if you won’t be using it for a while, pop it in the freezer to keep it fresh.

And that’s it! Why not try it the next time you have some ingredients going spare? And come back later this month to find out how to turn stock into soup, or gravy!

How to Make Potato Salad

Just like the pasta salad from two weeks ago (link), potato salad has been a firm favourite of mine since I was little. I love the creamy sauce, with just a little tang to it.

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a saucepan
  • a mixing bowl
  • a spoon or two

and the ingredients:

  • potatoes
  • mayonnaise
  • salad cream (or vinegar)
  • spring onions

Start by chopping your potatoes into chunks (full instructions here). You can use any potatoes, but my favourites for potato salad are small, firm ones like new potatoes.

Boil your potato chunks for 20-25 minutes, or until just cooked. They should be soft enough to poke a fork into, but still firm enough to hold together when you mix them with the sauce.

Photograph of a saucepan containing cooked potato chunks

While your potatoes cook, slice your spring onion. (If you’re not sure how, check out the tutorial from last week here.)

Once your potatoes are cooked, drain the water off and allow them to cool. They don’t have to be completely cold, but if they’re too hot they’ll ruin your sauce. (If you’re in a hurry, try putting the potatoes in the mixing bowl on top of a freezer block or ice pack.)

Mix together your potatoes, spring onion, and equal parts salad cream and mayonnaise. (for a creamier sauce, use more mayonnaise; for a tangier sauce, more salad cream! And if you haven’t any salad cream, try mixing a little vinegar into your mayonnaise instead.)

Photograph of a mixing bowl containing cooked potato chunks, sliced spring onion, and a spoonful each of mayonnaise and salad cream

And that’s it! Potato salad is a great summer dish, for barbecues and picnics, or even to go with your favourite sandwich!

Photograph of a white dish containing potato salad

If you make potato salad with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Chop a Mushroom – into chunks or slices

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

We have a bit of a love/hate relationships with mushrooms in our house. By which I mean, two of us love them, one is indifferent, and one of us hates them.

Hand drawing of a pair of chestnut mushrooms, with the stalk and cap labelled

 

 

Mushrooms are a type of fungus, and there are actually a lot of different varieties. However, the ones you’ll see most often in supermarkets are closed-cup, chestnut, or button mushrooms.

These mushrooms have already had some of the prep done for you. All that’s left are the stalk and cap, so you can eat the whole thing!

 

 

 

You don’t even need to wash mushrooms; in fact it’s best to avoid getting them wet. Not only will it make them feel kind of slimy, it makes it very easy for mould to grow on mushrooms. (Mould growing on mushrooms has always amused me, a little fungus growing on a big fungus, but I digress.)

Hand drawing of the cap of a chestnut mushroom, showing the inside

 

 

 

If your mushrooms are getting a little old, however, you may want to peel them. It’s actually easiest to do this with your fingers! Start by pulling the stalk off the mushroom. You can then reach into the middle of the mushroom and get hold of the edge of the skin, close to where the stalk was. Then, gently pull it off.

 

 

 

To chop your mushrooms, it’s easiest to start with them lying on their caps. For chunks, you can just quarter them.

Hand drawing of a chestnut mushroom showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

If you’d rather have sliced mushrooms, start by chopping them in half. Then place the mushroom on its cut side as you slice it. I like slices about half a centimetre (1/4 inch) thick.

Hand drawing of a halved chestnut mushroom showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked, but an overcooked mushroom is rubbery and chewy. To fry mushrooms, simply heat them in a frying pan for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes! It really depends on how well-done you like your mushroom.

How to Make Pot Roast Vegetables

Whether you’re making Sunday lunch, Christmas dinner, or just a warm winter treat, pot roast vegetables are melt-in-the-mouth delicious!

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • an oven-proof dish
  • an oven
  • oven gloves

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 4 medium carrots (about the length of your hand)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 potatoes (about the size of your fist)
  • ½ large or 1 small swede
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 parsnips
  • dried mixed herbs
  • salt
  • oil

 

Start by turning on your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180° (160° fan).

Chop your carrots, onions, potatoes, and swede into chunks. (You can find more detailed instructions here: carrots, onions, potatoes, swede)

Put your chopped vegetables into your oven-proof dish.

Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, and swede

Add salt, oil, and herbs to the dish. You just need to cover the vegetables in the dish, like in the picture below.

Pot Roast Vegetables 2

Stir or shake your seasonings and vegetables together. Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, and swede, lightly coated in herbs and oil

Place the lid on your dish and put it into the oven. It will take about two hours to cook from here.

Chop your sweet potato and parsnip into chunks. (More detailed instructions here: sweet potato, parsnip)

After your dish has been cooking for about an hour, add your sweet potato and parsnip chunks. Give your veggies another good stir or shake together, but be careful – it’s hot!

Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, swede, parsnip, and sweet potato, lightly coated in herbs and oil

After another hour in the oven, your dish will be ready to serve! Serve it alongside whatever source of protein you fancy – it goes fantastically with a huge range of meat and veggie options!

Photograph of a brown serving dish filled with roasted carrot, onion, potato, swede, parsnip, and sweet potato

You can roast a huge variety of vegetables, this recipe is just the start! Feel free to play with the seasonings too – try adding pepper, or using sage, rosemary and thyme instead of a pre-made mix of dried herbs.

If you make pot roast vegetables with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Chop a Swede – into chunks

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Hand drawing of a swede

 

 

 

 

Swedes, also called rutabaga and occasionally turnips, are a tough root vegetable with surprisingly bright yellow flesh. They’re a great winter vegetable!

 

 

 

Starting from one end of the swede, chop off a thin layer of the thick skin or dried up flesh. Then cut off a slice about 2cm (a little under an inch) thick.

Hand drawing of a swede showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

The skin of swedes is very tough, so it’s best to peel it off. I find it easiest to do this one slice at a time – lay the slice of swede on your chopping board and cut downwards around the edges. For some of the slices, you may need to angle your knife a little. Just remember to keep your fingers out of the way.

Hand drawing of a slice of swede showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Keep cutting off and peeling slices until you’ve got as much swede as you want to cook. (You can get swedes in quite a lot of different sizes; the big ones will often last for two meals.) Chop each peeled slice into chunks about 2cm (a little under 1 inch) on each side. Remember we want the chunks to all be about the same size, so that they cook at about the same time, and absorb any flavours from herbs, spices, or sauces evenly too.

Hand drawing of a slice of swede showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Swedes are very hard, so they can be difficult to chop. Make sure you’ve got a good, sharp knife, and you may want to practice your chopping skills on carrots and potatoes before you tackle a swede.

These swede chunks are perfect for roasts, casseroles, and stews. They take about 2 hours to cook in an oven at Gas Mark 4 (180°C, 160°C in a fan oven). You can also boil swede, although I’d recommend cutting it into smaller pieces. Once they’re cooked, swede chunks should be soft enough to easily poke a fork into.

A photograph of casseroled swede chunks on a grey plate

How to Chop a Parsnip – into chunks

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Parsnips are a funny-looking vegetable – they’re a bit like carrots but much paler and their shape is kind of exaggerated. Parsnips are quite soft for a root vegetable, and they have a unique flavour. In this tutorial, we’ll be making parsnip chunks.

Just like with carrots, it’s best if you can avoid peeling your parsnips to preserve the mineral content. Rinse them off under clean running water, and give them a scrub with a clean washing-up brush if they need it.

Chop the very top and bottom off the parsnip. When you chop the top off, check for for brown discolouration inside. If there is any, just chop a little bit more off the top.

Hand drawing of a parsnip showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

(If there are any other blemishes, you can cut a small ‘V’ shape either side of the blemish to get rid of it, just like with carrots.)

The shape of a parsnip makes it a little harder to cut chunks all the same size. Remember, we’re aiming for chunks about 2cm (a little under an inch) on each side. So I would start from the skinny end of the parsnip, like in the picture below.

Hand drawing of a parsnip showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

When you reach the top of the parsnip, place it on its flat surface to cut it into thirds or quarters, depending how wide it is. Hand drawing of a parsnip chunk showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Chunks of parsnip are great in roasts, but they’re good in casseroles and stews too. Because they’re soft, parsnips only take an hour to cook in an oven at Gas Mark 4 (180°C, 160°C in a fan oven). Once they’re cooked, parsnips should be soft enough to easily poke a fork into.

A photograph of roast parsnip chunks on a blue-grey plate

How to Chop a Sweet Potato – into chunks

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Sweet potatoes are a fun alternative to ordinary potatoes, or just a great vegetable in their own right! They’re softer than carrots and potatoes, so they cook more quickly too.

Although you can eat the skin of a sweet potato, it is very tough and tasteless. So this is one of the very few vegetables I would peel. This means we don’t need to check the sweet potato over for blemishes – they’ll all come off with the skin. Some people like to use a peeler, but I prefer to use a simple kinfe method which I’ve explained below.

Start by chopping the very ends off the sweet potato. Sometimes these will be little pointy root ends, and sometimes they’ll be flat (see picture below).

Hand drawing of a sweet potato showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Next, cut the sweet potato in half widthways. This gives you a flat surface to rest the sweet potato on while you peel it. Cut thin strips of skin off from the top to the bottom, making sure to keep your fingers out of the way.

Hand drawing of half a sweet potato showing peeling guidelines (grey dotted lines)

 

Once your sweet potato is peeled, there are a couple of ways to chop it into chunks. The first is, like with potatoes, to just keep halving until you reach chunks about 2cm (a little under 1 inch) on each side. You could also start by cutting slices about 2cm thick, and then chopping each slice into chunks.

 

Sweet potato chunks

Whichever method you choose, try and make sure your chunks are all about the same size. This lets them cook at about the same time, and absorb any flavours from herbs, spices, or sauces evenly too.

These sweet potato chunks are perfect for roasts and casseroles, and take about 1 hour to cook in an oven at Gas Mark 4 (180°C, 160°C in a fan oven). Once they’re cooked, they should be soft and sweet. Beware of overcooking them though – they’ll still taste good but they tend to fall to pieces!

Photograph of roasted sweet potato chunks on a white plate