This blog was originally published on www.boroughmarket.org.uk.
All good food starts with the ingredients. In this blog series I’m setting out to illustrate this by finding the best seasonal produce led by Borough Market’s traders.
January is the month we are all supposed to become healthy – take up jogging, giving up sugar and alcohol. But being healthy doesn’t have to mean eating a meagre diet of raw vegetables and seaweed (although these are two of my favourite things), it means eating a diverse and balanced diet. Infact shocking your body with extreme eating habits can have adverse effects when you return to your normal mode of eating. My healthy january will include wine, steak and almond croissants (a personal favourite), I just won’t be drinking or eating anything excessively. My advice is to respect yourself and listen to what your body needs. Most importantly – feel good about the food you put into your body.
Before this months trip to the market I tweeted to my @tomsfeast followers “Off to @boroughmarket to find ingredients for January’s blog. What kind of recipe shall I write – comforting or healthy?” The almost unanimous response was BOTH! And how right everyone was. It was foolish of me to separate the two from each other. The first dish that came to me was bone broth. The health worlds new panacea or answer to all ailments from skin quality, to resetting your whole immune system. Essentially bone broth is stock or clear soup as we’ve always known it, although the emphasis when cooking is put on health rather than flavour. The goodness (collagen and vitamins) from the bones are best extracted through a very long boil, more than four hours for chicken bones and eight to twelve hours for beef. In order to extract a good amount of flavour you don’t need to boil them for quite as long. For my bone broth recipe I wanted to come up with something a little special. Especially as I had all of Borough Market’s fine produce to hand. I arrived at the market early on a tuesday morning and headed straight to Monmouth for a coffee.
Standing on the high street pondering what I might make, I spotted the Jamon in Brindisa. Jamon bones are a stupendously flavourful ingredient. They form the base of a number of Spanish stews, and paellas. Jamon Iberico bellota is a superior ham that is reared in the wild on a diet of acorns. Bellota means acorn in Spanish but also denotes this specific product. There are two other lower grades of Jamon called cebo (reared in captivity and fed cereal) and recebo (reared in captivity part of their life but given access to acorn pastures). I would recommend the Jamon that is Bellota to assure that it’s had the best life. It costs a lot but the quality is exceptional. Reared on a diet of acorns the Iberico pig fat contains monounsaturated fatty acids which are actually good for your health.
Coffee in hand I raced across the road to buy bones and get advice on Spanish broths. Jerome was at the Jamon stand and advised me to grill the bones for extra flavour (good advice if you want to make a dark stock). He also said they would be nice boiled up with chicken carcasses. “Ginger pig next stop!” I thought.
Next door in Ginger pig I bought four chicken carcasses, the butcher explained to me that they were free-range and reared in Leicestershire by Richard and Gerald Botterill on Lings View Farm. “The Cornish Game is quite slow growing.” He said “Reared for 100 days, unlike most commercial free-range birds that are slaughtered at 60. They’re fed home grown cereals plus the grass and herbs from their outdoor surroundings. They’re hung for a week guts in which gives them a slight hint of gaminess. You’ll get a truly brilliant stock from the carcass”. “Perfect”! I said
Every good broth needs a base of fresh, seasonal vegetables to lift and balance the flavours. I strolled to Elsey and Bent, a greengrocers situated in the corner of Three Crown Square, opposite the Borough Market information centre. Owner Gary Voight started work in the market 35 years ago on his Dad’s veg stall and he’s still there today! Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall taught me the essentials of making a good stock, he says that every stock must contain the holy trinity of stock vegetables – onion, celery and carrot. I like to use (what I suppose we could call) the famous five – and include leek and mushrooms to add a savoury complexity from the mushroom and further sweetness from the leek.
To finish my shopping I nipped across the square and down the walkway to Spice Mountain. I wanted to add some new flavours to the broth so I asked the shopkeeper Eleanora for some advice. She offered me some nigella seeds and ajwain lovage seeds (which has a strong savouriness and thyme like flavour). Eleanora stated that Nigella seeds are good for you so I did some research on my return. Ingrid Naiman who studies Eastern medicine says nigella seeds are the most revered medicinal seeds in history. The seeds aid digestion, are antimicrobial and restore normalcy and balance.
I also bought some Himalayan pink sea salt which is thought to hold many health benefits too. Himalayan Salt comes from salt mines in Pakistan that were covered with lava two million years ago. As a result it contains the same 84 trace minerals and elements that are found in the human body. Happy I had all I need to make a healthy and comforting start to the year I headed home to make broth.
Jamon and chicken bone broth
Easy to make, cheap and delicious, bone broth is a comforting and healthy pick me up, full of easily absorbable nutrients. When bones are cooked for a long time the collagen is dissolved in the water and turns into gelatin which creates a desirable viscosity in the broth that is filling, unctuous and savoury. Collagen is also known to be very good for the health. It is believed that collagen improves skin and hair quality, relieves joint pain and helps keep a healthy gut. Drink the broth alone as a warming beverage or use as a base for making stews, soups and rice dishes.
1 jamon bone or 800g beef bone
4 chicken carcasses
The rest of the ingredients are all optional, pick and choose as you please, although there’s no harm in them all being in there!
1 small onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 small leek, roughly chopped
3 chestnut mushrooms
1 head of garlic, cut in half across the middle
10 parsley stalks
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 tsp ajwain lovage seeds
Sea salt to taste
1) Rinse the bones in cold water, removing any blood, then compact into a saucepan. Add the other chosen ingredients. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and immediately reduce to a gentle, trembling simmer.
Bone broth expert Marco Canora says to place the stock pan half off of the heat element in order to help the liquid circulate inside the pan.
2) Gently simmer for four hours, skimming off any impurities that form on the top. If the water level drops, top up with cold water. This will also help to extract more impurities.
3) When the broth is cooked, remove the bones and vegetables with a large spoon. If there is any meat left on the bones pick it off and save, place the remains in the compost. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Season with salt to taste and drink hot.
The stock will keep for up to five days in the fridge.