I come from a Kenyan region that is infamously known for loving soupy meals. In reality, that is a polite way of saying that if we are not making all-in-one-pot meals, we are adding a lot of water to our stews. Google ‘Kikuyu Food Memes’ and you’ll get it. Growing up in this culture ensured that I could not stand stews without a generous amount of soup. I have also managed to convince the people around me that lazima chakula ikue na supu (it’s required that the food has soup).
This brings me to my second building blocks post, homemade chicken stock. I accidentally stumbled on chicken stock one time we had some Kienyeji Chicken. The chicken was so tough; I had to cook (boil) it for an extended period than usual. Safe to say, I had added all manner of aromatics and spices to the chicken to enhance its flavor as it cooked. After finishing up, I decided I had not put in that much time & effort cooking the chicken to let people drink the soup, so I kept most of it in the fridge. In the following days, everything I made had a hint of the chicken soup (stock) that had now become a gelatinous mass of flavor. From peas and potatoes stew, beans stew, to braised beef the stock ensured that my meals were soupy just as I liked them. Not in the usual watered down tradition; the broth in the stews was thick and rich in flavor with a silky texture from the gelatin off the chicken stock. I knew from then homemade chicken stock would be a frequent companion in my cooking.
Making homemade chicken stock is as effortless as adding some chicken parts, vegetables, a variety of aromatics, and seasoning in a pot, topping that with water and cooking for a few hours so that all the flavors come together. For the chicken parts, I found that the boniest pieces of the chicken made the richest stock regarding its body. However, adding meaty chicken parts ensured the stock had a much fuller chicken flavor than just using bones. I previously only used chicken scraps like backs, bones, necks, & wing tips and they made a decent stock.
However, recently after some research and stumbling on this Serious Eats post, I added chicken feet & wings to the mix.
The vegetables I add to the stock vary depending on what I have on hand. White/ Red onions, garlic, and carrots are mandatory; but I have also added celery, green onions, leeks, and mushrooms in some of my chicken stocks. For more flavor, I also add fresh or dry herbs. So far, I have experimented with bay leaves, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage & thyme. You can decide to have unsalted or lightly salted stock, but I prefer the latter.
Homemade Chicken Stock
1.5-1.8kg chicken parts (backs, bones, feet, necks, wings)
3 large carrots, diced
2 large white onions, diced
5-7 garlic cloves, crushed whole
3 celery stick, diced
1 leek, green parts cut off
2 bay leaves
Few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme
1 small bunch cilantro or parsley
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper as needed
3 liters water
Makes: Approximately 2.7 liters
Takes: 30 minutes prep time, 1 – 4 hours cook time
Equipment Needed: large heavy-bottomed pot, stockpot, or pressure cooker, fine-mesh strainer, glass/plastic jars with lids for storage
I used to make stock on Sunday afternoons because it took so much time to cook. That’s until I got a pressure cooker last Christmas, and I can now happily say that my chicken stock game has been upgraded. As long as I have the ingredients I can make chicken stock even on weeknights because it only takes an hour (but I don’t).
If you do not have a pressure cooker, don’t fret, a large heavy bottomed pot will also do the job albeit it taking some more time
For the prep, peel, wash, and dice your vegetables accordingly.
For the garlic, place on a chopping board and use a rolling pin to crush them one by one.
As I said, making the stock is as easy as 123.
- In your preferred pot or pressure cooker, combine all your ingredients. I always start with the meat, then the veggies and finally the herbs, aromatics, & seasoning. Top with water.
- If you are using a pressure cooker, make sure the water does not go past the maximum mark. On high heat bring to a boil for about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pressure cooker with its lid and cook for about 5 minutes until steam starts to escape from its vent. Cover the vent with the pressure valve and cook for about 40 more minutes. I allow my cooker to depressurize at least thrice before I turn off the heat. If you are using a pot bring your ingredients to a boil, then allow simmering over medium-low heat for about 4 hours. The longer you simmer the stock, the more intense its flavor will become.
- Once the stock is adequately cooked to your preference allow to cool at room temperature. If using a pressure cooker, you can run it under cold water or depressurize it by carefully tilting the valve to cool it much quicker. I prefer allowing the stock to cool at room temperature as it continues to cook in the pressure controlled environment of the cooker.
When the stock is cool enough to handle safely, strain it through a fine mesh strainer into your preferred containers. Refrigerate for about 6 hours or until thoroughly chilled and skim off all the fat on top. You can store the stock in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, and freeze for up to 3 months.