So we’re almost done with Ramadan, an Islamic holy month originally intended for self-restraint, reflection and connecting with the loftier meanings of life, but traditionally has become a month of getting together with close friends and family and feasting away on tasty traditional Arabic dishes. One of the staples of a Ramadan meal is a soup starter, meant to ease one’s palate and stomach into accepting the inevitable gastronomic onslaught that follows. This means that the need for chicken stock to make the soup is of paramount importance to the success of a Ramadan kitchen. Last year my wife and I mistakenly used store-bought stock cubes and used them in almost every soup and every dish; a good friend has since shown us the error of our ways, stock cubes are really bad for you. And they don’t taste half as good as the real deal. So our Ramadan cooking has become punctuated with sessions of making chicken stock, and we’ve become pretty good at it. Below I’ll share with you how; it’s not at all difficult and is a very healthy and tasty replacement to the evil cubes.
This recipe should yield about 2 liters of stock
You will need about 2 chickens or 1.5kg of chicken raw skin, bones and trimmings. For the whole chicken alternative it’s probably easier to have it quartered and cleaned so that it can fit better into the pot, but don’t throw away any bones or skin in the cleaning process, it’s there that most of the flavor will come from.
1 1/2 large or 2 medium celery sticks roughly chopped
1 large onion peeled and chopped roughly
2 small to medium carrots chopped roughly (no need to peel)
A handful of parsley
One or two bay leaves
A tablespoon of coarsely crushed black peppercorns
Two cardamom pods and two drops of mastic (do not use if making stock for continental European dishes)
Just throw everything in your very large pot, cover with water (at least 2.5-3L) and bring to a boil, once boiling, lower to a simmer and leave it on the heat for 3-4 hours uncovered. Skim away any foam that appears on the surface. Once it’s cooked, remove the big chunks using a slotted spoon and then run it through a colander (for extra clear stock, line your cloander or sieve with a paper towel). The stock you’re left with can then be frozen and stored in the freezer for months (or days in the fridge). If you’ve used actual chickens and not just trimmings just stick them in the fridge or freezer for future cooking.
There’s another faster method where the chicken and the aromatics get browned first, I haven’t tried it, but it does sound mighty tasty too! Here’s a link.