7 tips for full-flavoured vegetable stock

veg stock soba noodle soup

Back in my normal, omnivorous life – before vegetarian month, I’d often make a vegetable based meal of soup or risotto. But unless I was cooking for real vegetarian mates, I’d always use chicken stock over vegetable.

I guess my hesitance to go the full veg, as it were, was that I was sure vegetable stock wouldn’t be able to give the richness and depth that one gets from stock made from bones. I was worried that my dish would be lacking in flavour.

Part of the challenge that I gave to myself during my self imposed vegetarian month, was to do some research and come up with a full flavoured vegetable stock that could be used with pride.

7 tips for full-flavoured vegetable stock

i. chop fine
When I make meat based stock I tend to just roughly hack the veg and not bother to peel even the onions. When you’re looking to maximise the flavour from your vegetables, however, a finer dice is better as it increases the amount of surface area in contact with the water – so it’s easier for the flavours to be infused into the broth. You don’t need to go too crazy – it’s up to you how much time you’re prepared to spend cutting.

ii. lightly brown your aromatics
Sweating your aromatic veg – the onion, celery and carrot helps them develop sweeter flavours with more complexity to add to your stock rather than just chucking them in raw.

iii. be generous with the mushrooms
Mushrooms contain intrinsically high levels of glutamic acid which makes them little powerhouses of flavour enhancing goodness – we’re talking natural MSG that imparts those lovely savoury, umami-type flavours.

iv. go for tomato
Tomatoes are another great source of savoury goodness. The colour they bring can be quite attractive, unless you want a neutral stock.

v. start with cold water
Different flavour components have different levels of solubility in water at different temperatures. By starting cold and slowly increasing the heat, you can be sure that all the flavours have had a chance to be extracted at their preferred temperature.

vi. let it simmer
To further extract all the flavour goodness, letting the vegetables gently simmer is optimum. Too high a heat and you can boil off some of the more delicate flavours, too low and you won’t coax all the flavour out of your veg.

vii. taste as you go
I find it helpful to take a little sample at regular intervals and taste the stock. It’s then fun to keep samples from different times so you can taste them all together at the end and see how the flavour of your stock has developed over time. It also helps you decide when to stop cooking: when the flavour isn’t tasting any stronger between samples.

veg stock

basic vegetable stock
makes approx 4 cups

Feel free to use this as a base recipe. You can easily add other vegetables or herbs. Especially anything that needs using up in the fridge. Starchy things, like potatoes, can make your stock go cloudy. Strongly flavoured veg, like cabbage and broccoli, can overpower your stock but this might be a good thing if you’re after a cabbage or broccoli stock for a change.

Herbs are also a great addition, especially things like thyme, bay leaves and parsley. I didn’t have any on hand which is why they weren’t included here.

2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 handfuls button mushrooms, sliced
1t black pepper corns
5 cups water

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil over a medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot. Cook, covered stirring occasionally until veg are soft and starting to brown a little.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook gently for about an hour or until the stock tastes rich and full. Strain stock and discard vegetable solids.

soba noodle soup

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
simple soba noodle soup

serves 1

Soba noodles are made of buckwheat as well as regular wheat and have a subtle ‘healthy’ flavour. Most other noodles could be used here if you prefer.

Likewise, the veg can be varied to suit your taste (and what you have on hand!) baby spinach would be lovely. If you were after more protein, some tofu or even very finely sliced chicken breast would be great.

Remember that the noodles are going to keep cooking in the broth after you’ve served up so best to slightly undercook first.

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
handful soba noodles (approx 50g or 2oz)
3 heads baby bok choy, leaves separated
large pinch chilli flakes, optional
1T – 2T soy sauce

Bring stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add noodles and simmer for 2 minutes. Add bok choy and chilli and 1T soy sauce and simmer for another minute or until noodles are only just cooked (see head note).

Remove from the heat. Taste and extra soy if needed. Serve hot.

________________________________________________________________________

More than half way through Vegetarian Month.

And I’ve updated my now reading page recently as well.

Print Friendly
Share

{ 38 comments }

Mark @ Cafe Campana May 17, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Great looking stock. Homemade stock is so much better than the carton stuff. Great tips.

ami kim May 18, 2010 at 12:18 am

beautiful looking soup (all your pics look delicious). variation: maybe add some sliced tofu and a few drops of sesame oil at the end. Or chili garlic sauce (I’m becoming addicted to that stuff).

sarah @ syrupandhoney May 18, 2010 at 1:28 am

Thank you for the stock and soba noodle recipes! I previously had the same feelings about chicken over vegetable stock. And I love to add bay leaves…we have a bay laurel on our patio so we’re never without.

Eric Normand May 18, 2010 at 2:19 am

These stock instructions are simply wonderful. I can’t wait to try out the ideas. I’m sending this to my girlfriend who loves to make vegetable stock. These will inspire her for sure.

You are a muse. Thank you for your inspiration.

Eric

Miranda D May 18, 2010 at 4:19 am

Other ingredients I like to use for different kinds of stocks… ginger, fennel, tarragon, lemongrass, daikon, orange peels, a little lime (not the peel -it’s bitter), vanilla beans, and sometimes a little curry paste.
And if your budget will allow it; a few threads of saffron.

Haley J. May 18, 2010 at 4:50 am

I always mean to get around to making stock, but I think today’s rain and this post might finally get me into the kitchen to get busy with this! I love a good vegetable stock for cooking, and you’ve posted a great write up.

Red Icculus May 18, 2010 at 6:36 am

We are eating lots of homemade soups to save on money. This is a great guide for a base for most of the soup that we make.

Claire May 18, 2010 at 7:06 am

Ooo tasty -this may be the recipe that gets me to extract a digit and try soba noodles at home! Yum.. (am going to roast carrots today for soup testing so noodles will have to wait a little longer).

jules May 18, 2010 at 8:27 am

claire
great idea to roast the carrots first – let me know how you get on.
soba noodles are my new favourite thing – love that they cook so much quicker than pasta

red icculus – homemade soup is a great inepensive meal – thanks for pointing out another benefit

haley – you’re totally right today is perfect stock making weather… love having things simmering away

miranda – thanks for sharing your tips – would never have thought of vanilla beans – do you use them for savoury stocks??

pleasure eric – glad you’re enjoying

sarah
aren’t bay trees lovely – I actually have one as well that has been suffering from neglect because I’ve been travelling so much recently so I didn’t dare sacrifice any precious leaves for my stock this time..

ami kim
great minds think alike – I was tossing up whether to go with chilli or sesame oil in the soup and the chilli caught my eye first but both would be a lovely addition. and am sure tofu would be a good idea – as a new vego I’m only just begining to get my head around tofu but it would be lovely here I’m sure

thanks mark

Johanna GGG May 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm

I never put tomatoes or mushrooms in my stock – lately I have found the way I make stock is to keep vegetable scraps in my freezer as I create them and when I have enough I stew them up with herbs and salt and then I strain it – this has made my soups taste so good – I quite like pumpkin peel in it but will try some tomatoes and mushrooms

lp May 19, 2010 at 8:10 am

These are great tips for veggie stock, handy to have when catering to vegetarians. I find another great way to enhance the flavour and bring richness and complexity to a veggie stock is to roast some barley or other grain and add it to the mix.

cityhippyfarmgirl May 19, 2010 at 8:58 am

Great stock recipe. Its so handy to have for so many wonderful dishes. Especially with colder weather about.

Sue May 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Wonderful veg stock recipe, thank you.

It’s asparagus season here in the UK. I use the woody ends of the spears in my stock. They add great flavour.

tigerfish May 20, 2010 at 11:15 am

Great tips! I follow them to a T quite often. Love tomatoes in broth/stock. I even add them when I cook chicken soup, or simply any soup!

Michael May 21, 2010 at 9:26 am

This may be a stupid question, but how long does stock generally keep for? Would you recommend freezing?

jen May 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

brilliant post.
i love making my soba with a little mae ploy sweet chili sauce (because of the sweet) and choy sum or kai lan, it’s our go to dinner when I have no idea what to make for dinner.

Jarkko Laine May 24, 2010 at 12:23 am

Today, I made my first ever vegetable stock following your recipe and it turned out really good. Thank you for the tips!

I have one question, though: is there anything I can do with the left-over vegetable solids? It feels sort of bad to just throw them away… :)

jules May 24, 2010 at 12:23 pm

jarkko
I know the leftover veggie solids need a use. I pureed mine and added them to some leftover carrot soup I had which was pretty good.

michael
no such thing as a stupid question! stock will keep for about a week in the fridge but be sure and give it a good boil before you use it.

freezing is your best bet – will last for months in there.

Madmazelle May 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm

lovely! i trying out the recipe now! cant wait :)

prof L Diablo May 26, 2010 at 12:02 am

Mushrooms: I concur — a stack of flavour. It’s amazing how much flavour one can coax from a finely ground powder of dried porcini mushrooms, and very quickly too.

Annie May 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Thanks for the great tips! I’ve been trying to make a good veggie stock for years and haven’t been able to master it.

ll June 24, 2010 at 5:59 am

Hi, I was just wondering if the stock would still be as flavorful without adding the onion since I am allergic to onions? I love how simple your recipes are and especially liked the brownie recipe :-)

jules June 24, 2010 at 7:27 am

II
I’m sure it will still be flavoursome, especially if you use some extra carrot and celery to replace the onions. I’d be interested to hear how you get on with an onion free version

Dan June 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Any left over vegetable scraps should be kept in the fridge and at the end of the week made into a stock. If you have vegetables that are going off, still keep them for your stock as the simmering temperature over 140 degrees Fh destroys any bacteria and germs.

Sue July 11, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Careful with using going off or left over week old vegie scraps. Little nutritional value left. Best off using ASAP and freezing the stock. If you can’t do that then put them in the compost.

Donna August 6, 2010 at 1:14 am

Wow. This looks amazing. Thanks for a great post.

Kate May 18, 2011 at 11:36 am

The stock turned out great, but I recommend boiling the soba noodles in water BEFORE adding them to the stock. The starch released and turned my soup into buckwheat gravy.
Beware!

jules May 18, 2011 at 12:01 pm

thanks for the warning note kate.
I actually like the gravy quality that the noodles bring to the stock – but each to their own!

Konrad July 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Here are some of the things I’ve seen my grandmother do:
Fresh herbs: parsley, lovage, cilantro (that’s my wife’s), tarragon as well a savory (best if tock is to be used with green beans) and instead of celery ribs use the root. If you’re going for Thai-style soups then definitely lemongrass (the white part)

Richa August 5, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Hi Jules ,

This is the best veg stock recipe ever … Am so hooked that gonna try different soups with the basic stock in place… Actually the stock is so good that one can just throw in veges n have it as it is… Didn’t use tomatoes… Loved it!!
Thank u!

Diane October 6, 2011 at 1:20 am

Th. I am so happy to have found you!

B Boose November 7, 2011 at 7:06 am

During the course of normal cooking I take my vegetable odds and ends and store them in the freezer. When the bag is full I use that as the basis for my stock. Oh and I cook it in a pressure cooker, I get full flavored stock in 15 minutes.

Olwyn November 13, 2012 at 8:44 am

Making 5 quarts veggie stock using onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, scallions,turmeric, salt, pepper ( recipe from Mollie Katzen of Moosewood fame) – she calls it “not your mother’s chicken broth” and it is a wonderful base for veggie soups, stews, stir frys, etc. Freezes well. Good stock is true luxury!

jules November 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Sounds like a great veggie stock Olwyn
Especially with the turmeric

kendra April 15, 2013 at 4:37 am

I have a few additional tips- I save the stems from all of my herbs- freeze them and throw them in the stock as its boiling, it really gives nice flavor. Also, after cooking let the stock set with all the veggies left in tip its room temp. then strain, you’ll pull even more flavor from the vegetables.

court May 28, 2013 at 6:18 pm

boiling any stock seems like a travesty to me.

Portia April 30, 2013 at 10:11 am

I wonder if using a slow cooker would be enough simmering time. I could set it for medium while I’m at work all day. Your thoughts?

jules April 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I think that would be fine Portia!

{ 14 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: