My dear friend Matt from Cookrookery sent me a link to one of his regular reads: 101 Cookbooks, and specifically to this great post on homemade bouillon. The original recipe comes from Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Preserves Handbook.
The idea behind this recipe isn’t really new in the sense that great cooks have been using concentrated blends of flavors to season dishes for centuries. Scrolling down through the comments, sofrito–that wonderful blend of peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs–is the most often mentioned.
This isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s something I hadn’t thought of–instead of making and then trying to find fridge or freezer room for vast quantities of liquid stock, why not just puree the vegetables, preserve with salt, and freeze a concentrated paste instead?
So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m tweaking the recipe in a few ways–using lots of the veggies I have in the crisper (the last of the garden parsnips, carrots, and celeriac) as well as the stalks from a fennel bulb, three crushed cloves of garlic, some frozen sliced leeks, and a handful of dried Red Pear tomatoes.
Instead of chopping and pureeing the veggies raw, I’ve roasted them with just a little olive oil. I didn’t use parsley because I’m out of my own, and the grocery store offering was a tiny, stemmy, wilted bundle. I didn’t use cilantro, either–even though I’m fond of it.
I did break up and use a couple of dried hot and sweet red peppers in the mix–no seeds, though, so it won’t be too spicy.
What appeals to me about this recipe is that it doesn’t call for simmering the veggies in water and then tossing them (or feeding them to the worms–mine have got quite a feast already). You keep all the fiberful parts and it doesn’t take up a ton of room.
I’m also guessing it tastes better than much of what you can get either in cubes or cans at the store (at this point in the post, I hadn’t yet tried it). I’ve tried a number of vegetable bouillions, and they never impress me.
Much of the time they’re dominated by one particular flavor that doesn’t always work in recipes or they’re not flavorful enough. My favorite to this point has been the Rapunzel Sea Salt and Herb cubes–though they’re quite expensive and large–I often end up only using half because using a whole one tends to make a dish over-salty.
I can imagine making variations of this recipe using all kinds of seasonal vegetables and herbs–maybe even a little citrus zest–depending on what’s on hand and seems good.
Based on my initial taste-test of this recipe (the way I made it–roasting the veggies and pureeing with salt–about 1/3 cup fine sea salt), I’m pretty happy.
It has a nice deep and balanced veggie flavor–not too heavy on any one element. Commenters who did the “raw” version complained that the garlic flavor was too strong–I’m guessing the roasting helps this problem–as well as making it more of a paste than tiny chunks (though it’s still a little bit chunky).
Some of the other commenters on the 101 Cookbooks site wondered about adding nutritional yeast (autolyzed yeast extract is a common additive in commercial bouillons), and I thought about adding the good Lewis Labs brewers yeast I have on hand, but I didn’t–that can be added separately if I want that deeper flavor.
But a warning–it is salty. I added a little less than a teaspoon to a cup of boiling water and drank. It was delicious, but considering I don’t add much salt to my cooking, it was definitely a sodium-rich experience.
But salt functions as a preservative here so the bouillon keeps longer, so it’s probably necessary. Overall, I’m counting this a great new flavor technique in my cooking!
Local ingredients: parsnips, carrots, celeriac, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, leeks.