My thinking about broths or stocks for soups has changed over the years. Once I regularly made vegetable stock from off-cuts and peelings, supplemented by chopped vegetables to get the right balance. I made loads of light Asian style broths and more layered all-in stocks for soups, risottos, and the like. There were miso based stocks, SE Asian coconut-curried stocks and Indian flavoured stocks. Keeping them in the freezer meant that they were always at hand.
Don’t get me wrong, I still use these regularly, but more often I use a different technique.
By the way, you can see all of our Soup Recipes here.
A new approach
No matter what, vegetable stocks are still “light” when compared to the earthy groundedness and depth of flavour of non-vegetable stocks. So, after pondering this for some time, I began to make stocks that included such treasures as bay leaves (European, Indian and/or West Indian), juniper berries, brown cardamom pods, cumin seeds or powder, coriander seeds or powder, black peppercorns and allspice berries. What a difference these made.
Again over time – some years – miso began to make an appearance in my stocks, from the lightest miso to the darkest of dark miso, depending on the use. Wakame and Kombu (kelp) too.
There was a time that I realised that the cooking water from cooking lentils makes an excellent base for a stock, especially for creamy soups and dishes. Then later still I began to explore the inclusion of tamarind where I needed dark flavours – I had always included a lemon, cut in half, and tomatoes in my vegetable stocks, so this was just a progression. I found that a few drops of Angostura Bitters enlivened any stock. A little soy made an appearance too.
Make them as you need them – in the dish
Now I don’t bother as often with making traditional stocks, perhaps a light one for Summer usage where the vegetables are not much more than blanched (as opposed to boiled for 30 mins or so).
My trick now is to include herbs and spices that best suit the dish in the actual dish .
My base, especially for Winter, is bay leaf, juniper berry, brown cardamom and allspice berries with some acid (lemon/lime, tamarind, splash of vinegar or verjuice, bitters, etc). Truly it is enough for most dishes, saves hours of time and room in the freezer, and provides the underlying deep, grounding flavours that are required. If I have some dal water (water from the top of cooking lentils) that goes in as well, and is almost essential for creamy winter soups. I love to add half a tspn of turmeric powder too – it is healthy and adds a lovely colour.