Is there a vegan cook out there who doesn’t have a horror story about working hard to exorcise some recipe of meat, only to end up with a pale and ghastly version of the original? Because let’s face it– great vegan cooking is not easy work. You need to put that creative muscle through a pretty tough workout to get results that are not just good but spectacular.
And there’s no harm in taking some help where it’s available. Today I want to share with you one tool in my flavor arsenal that I turn to when I want to pack a punch into a recipe without too much work. My golden, delicious vegetable stock infused with layers of flavor from herbs, spices, vegetables and even fruits.
Now I know that the world hasn’t been waiting with bated breath for my vegetable stock recipe but trust me when I tell you this stock can take a dish from ordinary to sublime. Stocks, in general, are a great way to infuse flavor into just about any recipe, from soups, dishes with a gravy or curry, to a vegan beef stew or a bean curry, and rice dishes like pilafs, biryanis and risottos. And this stock certainly does the job.
I like to brown my vegetables first which gives the stock not just a great golden color but also tons of flavor from the caramelized onions, garlic and vegetables. I also add to it a couple of simple spices — allspice and peppercorns– although if you were making this stock mainly for an Indian dish you could add other spices too, like cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
The stock is very little work– it practically cooks itself, although you do need to spend a few minutes at the beginning sauteing the vegetables. And although you can definitely rough-chop the vegetables, don’t cut them into very large pieces– you want the water to be able to draw as much flavor out of them as possible. On the other hand don’t go overboard and mince the vegetables either.
One quick tip before I give you the recipe– you don’t have to pull out all your best vegetables when making a stock. Scraps and odds and ends left over from cooking other dishes are perfectly acceptable. I sometimes freeze asparagus stalks– the hard ends you can’t eat — and celery tips and apple peels. You can even add onion and garlic skins, although you might want to stay away from anything that would add bitterness, like citrus peels.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped into 1-inch bits
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped into 1-inch bits
- 6 button mushrooms, halved or quartered if very large (optional)
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled or unpeeled, cut into half if large
- 1-inch know of ginger, cut into strips
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 allspice corns, crushed slightly
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 10-12 cups of water
- 2 sprigs rosemary (1 tsp if using dried rosemary). Other savory herbs are fine too, like thyme or sage. Herbs like mint, coriander and parsley are not great in stocks.
- Heat the oil in a stock pot. Add the onions and salt and saute over medium-high until the onions start to turn golden-brown at the edges.
- Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute. Add the rosemary, bay leaf, carrots, celery and mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the water-- the less water you add, the more flavor your stock will have. I prefer adding about 12 cups, but you could add less.
- Bring the stock to a boil. Cover with a lid, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the stock cook, undisturbed, for an hour.
- Turn off the heat. Let the stock stand until cool and then strain through a fine-meshed sieve or a sieve covered with cheesecloth. Press down on the vegetables to release any liquid in them.
- Voila! Your stock is ready. Refrigerate and use as needed.