About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008
The Gift
A couple of weeks ago, I made a small batch of chicken stock for a project I had in mind, which involved pumpkin as well. You can imagine my surprise then, when I came home after work to find a very delicious pumpkin soup waiting for me. I didn't have the heart to say anything about my intentions for those ingredients, after all, a good bowl of soup is its own reward. So last weekend, it was back to the chicken shop and out with the stock pot again.

There is something elemental about making home made stock, the delicious smell that permeates the kitchen, the way the stock pot just shivers, for a good stock is never boiled. I love how stock makes good use of those parts of the bird that otherwise seem so disposable, frames, wing tips, giblets and hearts, not forgetting the feet, which add unctuousness, allowing the stock to set at even room temperature. The way herbs like parsley, thyme and bay leaves cast their magical spell upon the brew.

Usually the first thing we do with a new batch of stock, is dip in a ladle, as we are in too much of a hurry to even drain it, having been teased and tortured with the redolence of chicken for a couple of hours, pour it into cups that already contain home made noodles and hungrily devour the soup. It's funny that, what was a minute ago stock in a pot, is instantly transformed into soup as soon as it's in a bowl.

Even though food manufacturers produce stock cubes, powders and even liquid stock in tetra packs, there is never that same depth of flavour that comes from creating your own, which has always puzzled me. Stock is so easy to make, so how is it that food companies never get it really right? In my cup, I can taste the essence of chicken, but that flavour is always absent from commercial products.

As we drank down our soup, my wife and I chatted. She told me that she was going to visit her fiercely independent aunt, who lived alone and wasn't feeling well. I put some stock into a bottle and asked her to take it with her, sort of the Jewish penicillin thing. The next day, her aunt called me and went to the trouble, in her very broken English, to tell me how much she enjoyed her chicken soup.

I've cooked over the years some mighty fine things and been paid all sorts of compliments, but I was surprised at the kick I got from my wife's aunt's pleasure from such a simple gift. It is cooking at a basic level, nothing fancy, just slowly drawing out the goodness and flavours of the composite ingredients. Sometimes in our rushed and pressured world, it is easy to forget just how important and nourishing the basic things can be and how they can connect us to each other.
  posted at 8:41 am

At 2:10 pm, Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

There is something completely satisfying about turning bones and water into a rich stock. It always seems like magic. I make stock from raw bones and carcass, but also after I roast a chicken, with the roasted carcass, which gives a completely different flavor. Sometimes I make "Chinese" stock, with ginger and scallions instead of carrots and celery. How nice that your gift of soup was received in such a lovely manner.

At 5:33 pm, Blogger Vida said...

Give yourself the credit you deserve Neil, not a simple gift but a gift given from the heart made with the most precious ingredient "TIME", well done!!! Vida x

At 9:59 pm, Blogger plum said...

I think chicken soup in its simplest form is one of the most wonderful comfort foods in the world. Very little compares!

At 4:13 am, Anonymous Christie (Fig & Cherry) said...

Neil, that is so sweet. What a joy to read. Thank you.

At 12:16 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi lydia, you are so right, it was one of the most satisfying kitchen tasks there is. Love all your riffs on the theme, I will have try the Chinese version, ginger is a favourite with us.

Hi vida, time is definitely one of the most precious gifts one can give.

Hi plum, dead right. I'm actually lucky to have any stock left to work with after my wife and daughter have their fill!!!

Hi christie, my pleasure.

At 7:44 am, Blogger katiez said...

Absolutely nothing can beat homemade chicken soup...
Well, almost nothing....

At 10:38 am, Blogger kazari said...

It seems like i've been making roast chicken a lot lately (we've been able to buy some beautiful small ones). And I always keep the carcasses to make a 'roasty' stock.
It makes such a difference!

At 12:52 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This is really a gorgeous story! It is true such a gift and the thank you seem out of proportion but when you get to the heart of it, the gift is really the thought that counted.
And when you don't feel good, simple chicken soup is just the best.

At 9:13 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

Home-made chicken stock is a whole different creature from bought stock and tremendously satisfying (and easy!) to make. I was recently reminded of just far a chicken goes when we first had the roasted bird, then toasted chicken mayo sandwiches with the leftovers, and then a heavenly chicken noodle soup made with the carcass. Bliss!


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