Monday 31 October 2011

Stocking up for winter – part 3 Fish

                                 Line caught fish        photo by Gary Smith

Making fish stock - like chicken and beef - is very simple and easy. Although the other stocks take a long time to cook, it’s better not to  simmer the fish stock for too long as the flavour becomes bitter. 

When making fish stock, use the whole fish carcass and head (see nutritional benefits below).

If you have a good fishmonger, who has a good fishing ethic, ask if he/she has some fish bones for you to make your stock. Fishmongers normally throw the carcasses away and they might be happy to give them to you. But make sure the fish carcasses are not from an oily fish - these contain high levels of unsaturated oil and, during the long cooking process, the stock can become rancid and the house will stink. Otherwise, when buying a whole fish, ask the fishmonger to fillet it for you and separate the bones and head in another bag.  

The line caught sea bream carcass after being filleted
The chopped vegetables and black peppercorn to add
to the stock minus white wine
Bring water to boil turn the heat down and skim off
the scum that rises to the top
the simmered stock
Separate the flesh from the bones. Sieve the stock in
a glass bowl. Let it cool and refrigerate or freeze.
For a lovely hot cup of fish stock add the separated flesh.
Sprinkle it with fresh dill and sip it with enjoyment.
Fish Stock
 Fish stock is a very nutrient-dense food and should be included in our diet as often as possible.


Cold filtered water (about 2.5 litres)
3-4 carcasses*,  fish heads and bones
1/4 cup white wine
1 celery stick, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 onion, cut in half
Several sprigs of coriander, parsley and celery leaves
Sea salt or Himalayan salt (optional)

*you can also make it with one fish carcass, if that is what you bought for the day. Simply adjust the rest of the ingredients accordingly.


Place fish bones and head in deep pot and cover with cold water. Stir in the white wine and sea salt (optional) bringing it to a gentle boil.   As the water first begins to boil, skim off any scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat to a simmer for 2-4 hours. Let it cool and then strain into containers. Refrigerate for two days or freeze for several months.

Nutritional benefits

Fish stock: it is full of bio-available minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, that are very important to our health. Fish head contains fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, D, E and K; and iodine which provides a great support to the thyroid glands. Pubmed, the data bank for medical research publications, published a study conducted in 2011 showing that almost 70% of the people tested were found to be iodine deficient. A traditional belief is that fish stock contributes to virility.

Till next week!

Monday 24 October 2011

Stocking up for winter – part 2 Beef

Grass-fed cows

Red meat - especially beef - still carries the stigma of being the cause of heart diseases and other illnesses due to its cholesterol. But it is not the cholesterol in beef that is a problem; it’s the quantity eaten by people. The reality is that we need cholesterol! It is vital for the production of hormones, for the function of the nervous system and the integrity of our digestive system. Vitamin D, sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone), steroid hormones (we need them to deal with stress), and bile salts/enzymes to break down fats - they are all made from cholesterol.

Cholesterol is an important ingredient for repairing the body. When the arteries in our body are weak and develop fissures, cholesterol is used to repair them. Cholesterol is needed by the cells for their structural integrity. It also acts as an antioxidant.

As Sally Fallon puts it: “Blaming heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming a fire on the firemen who arrives to put out the flames”.

So, back to the beef stock. I make it in a very similar way to chicken stock. I leave mine to reduce a lot, so I can make it into concentrate ice cubes. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, the stocks and soups we buy in shops are never the best option, as they can be laden with MSG, and artificial flavours. Not even the organic ones are a match for homemade stock. It contains natural gelatin which helps digestion, protects against gastrointestinal illness and assists with the healing of intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colitis and others.

The ingredients
brown the meat in the oven for 25 min
add the vegetables and spices and bring it to boil,
turn the heat down and let it simmer...
...for 6 hours or more. Let it cool.
Take the meat out of the pan.
Sieve it, separate the fat, refrigerate or freeze it
in ice cubes as below

With the leftover oxtail meat, I made an oxtail pasta sauce
and had it with my friend Janaina who came over to
discuss projects.

Beef stock


800g-1kg of oxtail or any knuckle, marrow or foot bones from grass-fed cows*
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
3 garlic cloves
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or any white vinegar
parsley sprigs
thyme sprigs
2 bay leaf
½ teaspoon black peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Roast the oxtails for 25 minutes, until thoroughly browned, turning once.
Put the roasted bones and cover them with cold filtered water in a large stainless steel pan. Bring to the boil.

Deglaze the roasting pan with a little water, scraping with a wooden spoon. Add this liquid to the pan. When the stock comes to a full boil, skim off any foam that rises to the top.

Add the carrots, onions, celery, parsley, thyme, bay, peppercorns, and, if you wish, salt. Use salt cautiously if you intend to make a reduction later, as it becomes saltier as it reduces.

Turn the heat to low and simmer very slowly for 6 hours or more. Sieve it. Allow the stock to cool completely; remove fat from the surface (you can keep it to use for cooking later) and refrigerate/freeze.

The stock is ready to use as it is, or it may be reduced further to create a glaze or sauce.

Store the stock in the refrigerator for 5 days and freeze the rest, if you are not planning to use it within 5 days or so.

Stock that is left for longer than a week in the refrigerator can be reboiled and safely used.

*You can make buffalo, lamb or venison stock in the same way as beef.

Nutritional benefits

Red meat: is a great source of complete protein. Beef contains taurine and carnitine, which is needed for healthy eyes and a healthy heart. It contains CoQ10 which is essential for our overall cardiovascular health. Beef provides excellent minerals like magnesium and zinc, and vitamins like B6 and B12 which are vital for a healthy nervous system and production of red blood cells. The meat will provide vitamin A and D, which are essential for protein utilisation and mineral absorption by the body. From the animal’s bones used for the stock, you get plenty of calcium, and the components of cartilage give you healthy cartilage and bones. 

Till next week!

Monday 17 October 2011

Stocking up for winter – part 1 Chicken

Free range chickens make better and healthier stocks
Meat, chicken and fish stocks are essential part of my fridge/freezer. Fresh stock can add delicious flavour to your meal as well many health benefits. You can make a good stock using beef, lamb, fish, poultry, game, pork and only vegetables. They give different flavours and different nutritional benefits. It is a very good idea to alternate between different types of stocks to obtain different nutritional compositions from each one. A good homemade stock is extremely nutritious and contains the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables that are very easy for our bodies to absorb. Adding wine or vinegar during cooking helps to draw the minerals into the stock.

For many years homemade stock has been replaced by cheap substitutes and an important source of minerals has been removed from people's diets. The natural gelatin has been replaced by thickening agents and the natural protein has been replaced by vegetable hydrolysed protein containing free glutamic acid or MSG. 

This week, I’ll show you how I make my chicken stock (I had some left over parts given to me by my butcher). With winter on our doorstep, having this “natural penicillin” in a bowl is very handy. I have written about the benefits of chicken soup in a previous post here.

You can make a big pot that you can use in various dishes. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t take time to make (only the time it stays on the cooker). If you make the stock with the whole chicken, you’ll also have the meat to use in other dishes afterwards.

If you don’t want to buy a whole chicken, ask your butcher if he/she has leftover parts that they won’t use. My butchers from Meat Naturally, Patrick and Farza, are always happy to give me pieces for free. You can also freeze them and cook the bones straight from frozen.

So, let’s make stock! It's so easy!

Some of the ingredients. The onion, apple cider vinegar,
salt and pepper didn't make to the photo shoot
Cover the chicken pieces with cold filtered water.
Add the vegetables. Bring to a boil, remove the scums
that rises to the top. Let it simmer...
...for at least 3 hours
When the stock cools down, strain the liquid into a
container or...
...put them in an ice cube tray.
The meat I separated from the carcass...
...I added in the stock with some potatoes, carrots and
fresh coriander. A great tonic for the prevention of colds
and flu.

Chicken Stock

The gelatin, the protein from the cartilage and the connective joints melt during the slow simmering process  and gives the stock its body and rich flavour.
Use only organic or free range chicken and vegetables, if possible.


Cold filtered water
A whole organic or free range chicken or a carcass fresh or frozen – if you can get the chicken feet or neck, even better
1 organic carrot, chopped
1 organic onion, chopped in half
1 bulb of organic garlic, chopped in half
1 organic celery stick, chopped
½ teaspoon of peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
A bunch of fresh thyme and parsley
Salt and pepper


Start with fresh bones. They should smell fresh and have a healthy colour. Rinse them in cold water and place them in a big pot. Cover with cold water, making sure that all the bones are covered. Let it boil on a high heat, skim off the fat and impurities, then you turn down the heat to low and let it simmer – if you are cooking the whole chicken you should leave it for 6 hours or more. If cooking only the carcass, leave it for 3 hours or more. The longer you cook it the richer and flavoursome it will be. You can add more fresh herbs 10 minutes before finishing. This will provide additional mineral ions to the stock.

Remove all the chicken and pieces with a spoon. Let it cool. If you are using the whole chicken remove the meat from the bones. The chicken meat cooked in the stock is delicious and can be eaten with vegetables, in soups, salads, sandwiches etc.

Strain the stock into a large bowl and keep it in the fridge. The fat that will rise to the top and solidifies you can skim off. Keep the stock in covered containers or freeze them in ice cubes. The stock will keep for five days in the fridge or several months in your freezer.

You can have your stock daily, as a hot drink with some fresh herbs sprinkled on it. Or add it to your soups, casseroles, rice/risotto, noodles and whatever you like.

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Chicken stock is a boost to our immune system and stimulates the appetite.  It contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, silicon, phosphorus and sulphur, which our body can easily absorb. It also provides natural chondroitin and glucosamine, which are important for our joints and to treat arthritis.

It supplies the gelatin that helps the lining of the intestine and the digestion  of dairy products. It is recommended for people who suffer from Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, leaky gut, colitis and other digestive problems.

Carrot (Daucus carota): is high in carotenoid, an antioxidant compound associated with many healthy benefits. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids present in our retina), which is why carrots are famously known for being good for your eyes. The carotenoids and vitamin A contents found in carrots are fat-soluble vitamins - when eaten with a little fat (olive oil, coconut oil, ghee etc) they are better absorbed by your body. Carrots are great for juicing and often chosen as part of detox programs. They also provide good levels of vitamin K, fibre, vitamin C, biotin, vitamins B1 and B6.

Garlic and onions: previously mentioned here.

More stock recipes to come...

Till next week!

Monday 10 October 2011

The Fat Duck remains plump

The Fat Duck restaurant sign
Molecular gastronomy is not my choice of everyday food. I don’t like toying with the idea of changing molecular structures of something natural. As you may all know, I like real real foods! But I must confess that I don’t say no to a meal at the Fat Duck and other restaurants of the same type, just because they are cooked with scientific precision.

My first taste of molecular gastronomy was five years ago when Dean took me to the Fat Duck as a birthday surprise. I was over the moon! The food wasn’t the best I’d ever tasted, but it was for sure the most incredible gastronomic experience I’d ever had. There was a theatrical atmosphere surrounding us. Both Dean and I were repeatedly surprised, from the moment we were served the first dish till the last. The meals were full of magical stunts . The staff made you feel so at home that you felt like sending them Christmas cards every year.

Heston Blumenthal loves his food science and he uses it - very well - to revive  food from the past. Five years on, I am back with my friend and chef Teresa Corção. Molecular gastronomy is much more commonplace these days and I thought that, being a “pro” myself, that I wasn’t going to be fooled again. But as it turned out I was as excited as during the first visit. And watching Teresa’s sheer amazement with the experience was fantastic.

The set menu had shrunk down from 17 course meals to 14. The famous bacon and egg ice cream is not there anymore but the white mousse green tea, vodka and lime dipped in nitrogen liquid (-196 degrees) that looks like a meringue is still there – it  gives a lovely sensation of citrus cleansing your palates as two white smoke puffs come out of your nose.

We met a Brazilian chef, Ivan Brehm, who works in Heston’s creation team and with whom both Teresa and I have a friend in common, Gabriel Vidolin. Ivan invited us to take a peek at the kitchen, which was nearly the same size as mine.  I’ve never seen a quieter team of chefs (more than 20) in such hectic but harmonious environment. Ivan told us that everyone in Heston’s kitchen (chefs, sous-chefs, trainees, kitchen porter etc) is treated really well.

Both Teresa and I left the restaurant, 4 hours later, feeling like real fat ducks. Heston, I don’t know how you do it and I am not a big fan of total food transformation but I must congratulate you for your genius.

Thank you Teresa for a wonderful time!

Teresa can't wait to get in
Our first nibble - aerated beetroot with horseradish cream.
Waitress "cooking" the mousse green tea, vodka and lime
meringue in a minus 196 degrees in a liquid nitrogen...'s made with precision.
Red cabbage gaspacho with mustard ice cream.
The famous snail porridge! sounds strange but is delish!
The amazing moss forest...
...was the most beautiful display.
Jelly of quail, crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait
oak moss and truffle toast.
"Where are we now?" Asked the waitress.
"In Alice wonderland", she said!
The rabbit golden watch is melted in a hot cup
of water...
...transforms into a beautiful consomme.
"Mock turtle soup" (mock turtle egg, turnip mousse
with a swede puree and enochi mushrooms).
A little golden picture in a plate...
...that made Teresa almost lick her plate.
"The sounds of the sea" - while you listen to sounds of
the sea, you enjoy seafood, edible seaweed
on a bed of sand like made with tapioca.
Teresa took it very seriously!
Salmon poached in liquorice gel, artichoke, vanilla
mayonnaise and golden trout roe.
Caramelized apple, fennel, rose and candied lemon.
Whiskey wine gums. You peeled it off the
map and they taste so different from each other
- a mature oak taste. I loved it!
The sweet shop bag. Beautifully put together.
"Like a kid in a sweet shop". Teresa eating
the queen of hearts - white chocolate and
fruit compote.

The healthy benefits

The surprise, the giggles, the laughter, the excitement and a great time with a friend made this experience a joy! I believe that our metabolism works better when we are happy eaters!

Till next week!
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