It’s amazing how I can always walk into my Mum’s house and within minutes she can have a meal cooking on the stove. There’s not much my boys could ask for that they couldn't be eating within the hour. I used to wonder how she did it so fluently and without fuss.
It’s not hard to work out why mum is so incredibly efficient. She ran a business full-time and raised three extremely active children; we played instruments, numerous sports and attended dancing classes. She had to be organised and constantly on the go.
Today I am starting with one of the most nutritious and versatile ingredients you can always find in her freezer which is a classic Chicken Stock (broth). She vows that this ingredient can enhance any dish as well keeping the next cold or flu at bay. Once we have mastered this stock, we will be able to move onto some delicious winter staples and some quick family meals. But first we have to tick the basics off the list.
It is a fact that the yellow fat from the chicken holds immune boosting powers which are released into a properly prepared chicken stock. There are also many minerals in the bones that are also released into the broth such as; calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. This calcium is easily absorbed into your body, which is perfect when fighting osteoporosis or weak bones. It is also the perfect way to enjoy ginger and garlic which are also amazing immunity boosting foods.
The basic Ingredients you will need for 'Marisa’s Stock' are:
One Organic or free range Chicken
1 Stalk of celery
Half a Leek
2 Ripe tomatoes peeled and seeded
1 Sweet Potato
One Small piece of ginger/garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons salt
There are two methods and two different outcomes with this recipe. You may decide to make a chicken Soup to eat that night or keep it as a stock to store in the freezer.
They both start the same way; place your chicken in a pot with eight 8litres of water, ensuring the whole chicken is submerged. Bring to the boil and once all the scum starts rising to the surface you will start to scoop it off. Once you see that there is not as much (or none) coming up, you can chop all your vegetables in cubes and add to the water. Add ginger (optional) and salt and simmer for two hours. Remove chicken from the soup and discard all skin and bones. Chop up chicken and return to the pot. This will give you a delicious Chicken Soup. For a nutritious stock you would leave the veggies whole and simmer with the chicken for min 2.5 hours. Then separate the broth from the veggies and chickens via a colander. You could freeze the stock in small containers, bags or ice cube trays - and have them at hand for future dishes.
To test if you have cooked your stock long enough, place the liquid in the fridge overnight. The next morning it should be gelatinous (lumpy jelly). The gelatin is a cooked form of collagen, which actually makes up half of the protein in our entire bodies. So you are truly body building when you consume this broth. A hot steamy mug of broth is packed with protein and will instantly make you feel warm and content on a cold winter’s day.
If you are freezing stock, you will have all the leftover chicken and vegetables. When my kids were babies, I used to make this weekly and use the veggies as puree diluted with this nutritious stock. If I knew I was making only baby food from a batch of stock, in the last half hour of cooking, I would add other vegetables such as zucchini or cubed pumpkin. You can just make up different flavours by mixing different combinations. As they got older, I would vary between using a chicken or a lamb shank and adding this delicious soft meat to their purees and later chunky soups.
Alternatively, I have often used the leftover chicken to make ravioli or Asian style wontons that can then be added back into the stock with bok choy, mushrooms and a splash of soy. This is a fabulous winter meal! If you would like some suggestions for these fillings please leave a comment below.
The most popular dish in my house that is made with stock is 'Nonna Rosa's Pastina'. My boys enjoy this weekly at their great grandmother’s house. I think it is the Italian version of 'Mac and cheese'. All you need to do is simmer risoni pasta in some stock, add 2 squares of Kiri cheese per person and a tablespoon of butter and cook. Then you place in big bowls and Nonna always adds a splash of cold milk to cool it quickly. My boys absolutely adore this comfort food, and Nonna loves making it for them.
This winter you will be able to find in stores Marisa's Kitchen delicious 'Chicken, Vegetable and barley Soup'. This soup is made from a traditional chicken stock and is 100% preservative free. A simple way to ensure you are looking after your body is to always have one of these in the freezer.