At present I am trying to develop the perfect gravy. Gravy, as I suspect we all know, begins and ends with a really good stock. Now I consider myself to be incredibly privileged because Vasey, the chef from No. 4 Peterville (a truly wonderful restaurant in St Agnes in Cornwall), shared his recipe with me some time ago when I wrote a piece about opening a restaurant.
I have never published a guest blog on bun scuffle before but this one is worth it. Vasey writes as he speaks and as he cooks – with energy, enthusiasm and honesty. He has no time for niceties and Nola, his partner in life, No. 4 and everything else, describes this piece as “more of a rant than a recipe”. I hope you like it as much as I do.
At the heart of every good kitchen there’s a freezer filled with little plastic containers of stock and in particular the ‘mother stock’ – veal .
I think of Veal stock as a labour of love which is weird when you consider all you’re doing is roasting bones, boiling the shit out of them , taking all the good stuff out and boiling some more shit out of them. But consider the results and the improvement that a dash of veal stock would add to your Sunday lunch , you start to see the love part of this labour.
If you read Keith Floyd’s book ‘Floyd in the soup’, within three pages he’s sung high praise of the darkened gloop, implied his readers are idiots for not having a freezer full and written out his own recipe for it and if this isn’t inspiring enough check the front pages of any cook books and they’ll all rant lyrical on the importance of stock.
I said that this is not really a recipe and it’s not because the way we make stock at No.4 we end up utilising things like vegetable peel and fish carcases; this means that nothing gets wasted and that we’re always armed with tasty stocks and bases for many of our sauces and soups.
Now at home you’re less likely to have large quantities of useable stuff around , especially veal bones , in fact we don’t even have veal bones kicking around (space issue). But if you speak nicely to your butcher I’m sure he’ll have some or will be able to gather some to hand.
5kg Veal Bones
3 white onions roughly chopped
1 stick of celery chopped
A couple of carrots
Any discarded bits of leek (or any other hardy vegetable for that matter)
Bay leaves and a couple of sprigs of thyme
Enough water to cover bones
Get your largest roasting tray and your largest pan. Stick the veal bones in the tray with a little oil and seasoning, whack the oven on full bore and roast the bones, turning a couple of times. After about 30-40 minutes the bones should fill the kitchen with meat perfume and tasty marrow should be popping up from the top of the bones. At this point if there’s any meat left on the bones feel free to apply to mouth. Once the bones are golden and smelling fantastic put to one side and stick the chopped veg into the tray, shake so that they cover in meat juices. Roast the veg for about ten minutes and splash some wine into the tray and scrape up all that lovely tray residue and stick into your pan with the roasted bones. Try to avoid getting too much fat from the bones into the stock.
Cover the bones and veg with water and bring to the boil, then simmer until reduced by half (labour of love remember) you will be rewarded with the best smelling kitchen around.
As a rule I skim my stocks but I’m not massively anal about drawing a little fat into it, fat is flavour after all. So once the stock has reduced by half discard the bones add in the red wine and reduce by half again .
The rest is up-to you depending on how sticky and jus-like you want your stock. I, like ‘Fergus Henderson’, am not a fan of mega sticky jus, but if you do want this you can keep reducing it until you have a coma inducing sauce to wow your friends with. Or you can go half again and have a pretty decent base to work with. Add a hunk of butter and you’ve got a shiny liquid that will take your roast that little bit further.