Some people seem to find it enjoyable to munch on a stick of celery, or dip it into their houmous. I’m afraid I find it difficult to share their enthusiasm for eating it raw, but when it comes to incorporating that unique flavour with other ingredients it’s a different story.
Celery is one of the ‘holy trinity’ of vegetables used to make stock. When used together with carrots and onions, celery adds a depth of flavour to soups, casseroles and other dishes that is hard to obtain any other way. Granted, stock cubes or boullion mixes are indispensable when time is tight. But I find there is nothing to match a bit of culinary love, and a home-made stock rarely disappoints.
The basic idea of making stock is to get as much flavour as possible from the vegetables into a quantity of water. This can then be used straightaway as the base for a dish, or set aside for later. Stock freezes well and is therefore a great way of using vegetables that are a little past their best. The recipe below is really a base, but there’s nothing to stop you adding other vegetables as they are available. For example, fennel is a really aromatic vegetable that adds an aniseedy note to the flavour, some people add some tomatoes etc…
I’ve gone for store-cupboard herbs here, but if you have fresh herbs then so much the better. Parsley and basil are favourites, or you may prefer to use a couple of sprigs of thyme. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, it’s all about what you have available and works for you.
Ingredients (for around 1 litre of stock)
2 tsp olive oil
1 large or 1½ small onions (or you can use half onion, half leek)
2 carrots, peeled
2 sticks celery
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (We use ‘Herbs de Provence’ mix, available in Asda, Sainsburys etc.)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed (optional)
1. Chop the vegetables as finely as possible. I use a food processor to grate or shred the vegetables as this reduces the cooking time, and ensures you get the most flavour.
2. Spoon the olive oil into a large, heavy based pan and place on a medium heat for a minute or so.
3. Add the vegetables and stir for 2-3 minutes to sweat.
4. Add enough water to cover the vegetables comfortably, at least a litre, and bring to the boil.
5. Turn the heat down and add the garlic and herbs.
6. Cover with a lid slightly ajar then simmer for 20 minutes.
7. Carefully strain the stock through a fine sieve and discard the cooked vegetables and herbs.
8. Your stock is now ready to be used, or alternatively to be cooled completely before placing in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen in batches.
9. To make a more concentrated stock you can reduce the liquid further by boiling until you reach the desired quantity.