(Please do excuse the title, but I hope after reading this post, you will be one *high five*)

Despite a year at a “finishing school”, most of my cooking has its strongest influence from both my mother and my late mother-in-law, and of course, from my own trial and error as a mother of five.

Secret #1

So I am sharing this secret to cooking delicious food with you: the key to yummy dishes is a very good stock.  Even when the recipe calls for stock cubes, don’t ever use them! Home-made stocks are simply the best and can transform the simplest dish into something deeply soul-satisfying.

You can also use these homemade stocks as the base to soups and a hundred other dishes. My favourite is this:

  1. Saute garlic and shallots in olive oil.
  2. Add 1 chopped tomato, a bay leaf and a teaspoon brown sugar.
  3. Add a glass of white wine.
  4. Add a cup of homemade chicken stock.
  5. Add clams.
  6. Add chopped parsley.
  7. Season generously with seasalt and freshly ground pepper.
  8. Serve with pasta.
  9. Optional: garnish with more chopped parsley and/or grated parmesan.

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Or if you feel really, really, lazy, just boil up some fettuccine or any other pasta or noodles for this simple dish:

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Secret #2

Here’s secret #2: the key to good stock is to have a wide selection of different vegetables to throw in with the bones. This way, the resultant stock is a rich and interesting combination of tastes….and is always different rather than boring same-same.

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  1. I always add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to extract the marrow from the bones;
  2. These are the vegetables I always add: carrots, onions, garlic and bay leaves;
  3. Favourites are celery, leek, pumpkin.
  4. If you want an Oriental flavour, add ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves and/or a chilli.

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Secret #3

My friends say, “I have no time to make stock”, but hey, it’s the simplest thing to do ever once you get into the mindset and have your kitchen set up.

No, you don’t have to go out shopping and buy tonnes of different vegetables either. Have a “stock bag” in your freezer for any odds and ends you generate in the course of your everyday cooking, stuff that you would normally compost or throw away.

This is in my soup bag, which I will use for today’s stock: frozen carrot gratings (from carrot juice), veggie stubs, half a tomato, half-eaten corn and various herbs. We had roast chicken yesterday, so this will all go into the stock pot with the chicken bones for a really yummy stock, which I don’t know what I would use for yet.