Cooking With Kurma

Kurma Dasa

Special Kitchen Ingredients

Cooking With Kurma > Ingredients > Vegetable Stock

Fresh produce is of primary importance to the serious cook, and, as a rule, the freshest ingredients are those made at home. A good vegetable stock is valuable item to get you started, and it's not at all difficult to prepare. Read on...

Vegies to make stock

Vegetable Stocks

There is a Vedic axiom Annam Brahma — “Food is God”. The Western counterpart may be “waste not, want not”. If you subscribe to either, or both of these mottos, you’ll be aware of the goodness of vegetable stock. It’s natural to save trimmings, outer leaves and stalks of vegetables to be simmered with seasonings into a pot of liquid nutrition. Don’t think of the stockpot as a reject pot, however. Only fresh and sound trimmings should be used.

Many recipes call for stocks - vegetable stock is the appropriate one for a serious vegetarian; my stocks mostly resemble Italian brodo rather than what comes out of French stockpots. For a start, they are vegetable-based; they are light, and are generally made fairly quickly — no longer than two hours. The stock is thus a delicate base, a reservoir of subtle flavours, or a background to other more prominent flavours in the dish.

The basic method of stock making is to put the ingredients into cold water and simmer very gently until all the flavours are extracted. The flavour can be adjusted and enriched by the addition of aromatic herbs. There are a few standard guidelines for making a good stock:

  • Choose a suitably large stockpot. It should be heavy-bottomed with a tight-fitting lid. Traditionally, pots for cooking stock are tall and narrow to avoid evaporation.
  • Your stock ingredients should be fresh — a stock will only be as good as the quality of the ingredients.
  • Chop your stock ingredients into similarly sized small pieces — the smaller the pieces, the faster they will flavour the water.
  • Remember that a stock’s flavour can be enhanced if the vegetables are first softened in butter or oil. Such cooking releases their natural sugars and allows their full flavour to be realised.
  • As a rule, although the proportion of water to ingredients is never exact, the closely packed ingredients should be covered by about 5cm (2 inches) of water.
  • Root vegetables should be peeled or scraped. Bring the water to the boil slowly. Once the stock is boiling, reduce it to a very gentle simmer. Vigorous boiling causes the ingredients to disintegrate.
  • Be careful with salt and pepper. Some cooks prefer to season after cooking because reduction in a stock that is pre-salted intensifies the salty flavour. It’s up to you. And keep in mind that peppercorns contribute to a cloudy stock. Cook the stock without stirring — this reduces clouding.
  • Strain your stock at the end of cooking, but avoid forcing the ingredients through a sieve. A stock should last, covered, in a fridge for a few days.

Here’s a list of suitable herbs, aromatics and vegetables suitable for a vegetarian stockpot, and specifically for the recipes requiring stocks. Note that “discretion is the better part of valour” — don’t be heavy-handed with strong-flavoured herbs.

Herbs and aromatics: parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano, dill, curry leaves, lime leaves, fennel fronds, bay leaves.

Vegetables: carrots, green beans, corn, celery, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, eggplant, asparagus, pumpkin, fennel root, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, cabbage, pea pods, squash.

Here are a few stock recipes from Cooking With Kurma, by Kurma Dasa:

Quick Vegetable Stock
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Makes about 3–4 cups (750ml–1 litre)

2 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks with leaves, chopped
2 cups trimmings from the following: broccoli, asparagus, green beans, fennel and lettuce
3 or 4 stalks parsley
a few sprigs aromatic herbs
1–2 teaspoons salt
4 cups (1 litre) water

Melt the butter in a heavy 5-litre/quart saucepan or stockpot, and stir in the yellow asafetida powder and the vegetables.

Sweat” the vegetables over low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the herbs, the salt and the water. Bring to the boil, partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain and use as needed.

Green Vegetable Stock
Cooking time: 2 hours
Makes: 3–4 cups (750ml–1 litre)

2 tablespoons butter
6 cups (1.5 litres) chopped fresh green vegetables
¼ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
8 cups (2 litres) water
1½ cups chopped fresh herbs, chopped celery stalks, beans, pea pods, etc.
1–2 teaspoons salt
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 or 2 cloves

Melt the butter in a heavy 5-litre/quart saucepan or stockpot.

Saute the vegetables and yellow asafetida powder for 20 minutes over low heat.

Turn off the heat and allow the vegetables to “sweat” with the lid on for 10 minutes.

Add the water and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then simmer for 1½ hours with a tight-fitting lid.

Strain. Refrigerate the stock and use as required.

Hearty Brown Stock
Bean soaking time: overnight
Cooking time: 2 hours
Makes about 2 litres/quarts

2 cups lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas,
or any dried beans soaked in water overnight
3 litres/quarts water
3 tablespoons butter
2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
1 cup squash or pumpkin
1 large carrot, chopped
¼ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
2 cloves
1 teaspoon shredded fresh ginger
1 bay leaf
2–3 teaspoons salt

Drain the water from the soaking beans. Place the beans in a large heavy saucepan with 2 litres/quarts water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are soft.

Melt the butter in a heavy 5-litre/quart saucepan or stockpot over low heat. Saute the vegetables along with the yellow asafetida powder for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover, and allow the vegetables to “sweat” for 10 minutes.

Pour the cooked beans and their cooking water along with another 1 litre/quart water into the pot with the vegetables.

Add the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil, then simmer for another hour. Strain, refrigerate and use as needed.

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