Galley Notes: Noodle Bowls, Making Stock, and Reducing Food Waste

My cooking style, and the types of dishes I like to cook, is constantly in flux. Influenced by where we are sailing, the seasons, the local cuisine, and what is available at the market I am happy to follow where inspiration and our taste buds take me.

In Mexico I regularly made corn tortillas by hand and served a variation of a refried bean dip at every social get together that we were invited to. In Fiji I learned how to make pots of dhal, fresh roti, and spicy mango pickles. In New Caledonia I was happy to eat pate and cheese on slices of my own crusty bread. Recently noodles have featured heavily on my dinner menus. Specifically noodle bowls. The kind made with an light, aromatic, boatmade stock.

Making stock is such a simple, satisfying thing to do.

Especially in a pressure cooker. (I use a stove top version but the now popular Instapot would work as well.) Not only is making stock quick and easy, it is a great way to use up the sad veggies in the fridge that you may be tempted to throw out, as well as re-use some things that would normally be discarded. Therefore, making stock is a great way to reduce food waste.

I usually start with the carcass leftover from a roasted chicken that we’ve bought on the roadside. When that isn’t available, or I want to make a stock that is lighter in both colour and flavour, I buy a few raw chicken wings (something that I despise eating but makes a great stock). Recently, in the grocery store in Kota Kinabalu I found some raw chicken carcass, neck intact. Obviously what the skinless, boneless chicken breasts that sat beside them came off of. What a great idea to sell the raw carcasses instead of just throw them out! I picked up two for under a dollar.

That goes in my pressure cooker with some onion, cut into wedges and skin on if in good condition. Sometimes I have a few wilty green onions in the fridge and use them instead. A large carrot, washed or peeled depending on the state of it, cut into quarters goes in next, along with a few cloves of garlic, 10 or 12 whole peppercorns, and a bay leaf if I have one. I would use a stick of leafy celery if I could ever find one, alas. These ingredients alone will result in a half decent batch of stock but I rarely stop there.

I almost always add a fresh chili or two, a knob of ginger that has been peeled and sliced into slabs, and a half a lemon or lime. Just make sure the peel is clean. If I have some cilantro I will add a small handful of stalks, and recently lemongrass has been a regular in my little fridge so that goes in too. Sometimes I get carried away and throw in some star anise too.

Soft tomatoes are a great addition to add umami, especially if you cut them half and brown them in the pan first. If I have recently opened a pumpkin then I will scoop out the seeds and strings and add those. This was an experiment one Hallowe’en but I discovered that it added so much depth to my stock that now I always try and save the pumpkin guts for the stock pot. Alternatively, if I don’t have any bones to use, or just want to make a veggie stock then I will start with browned tomatoes and pumpkin guts and build from there as I would if making a chicken stock.

Now that is everything is piled in the pot, all there is left to do is cover with water.

In a pressure cooker it is important to only fill the pot 2/3 to allow for expansion under pressure, in mine that ends up being about 1.5L . Then, bring the pot to a boil, lock the lid in place, allow it to come up to high pressure – which is usually 15psi – and keep it there for 30 minutes. Next turn the heat off and allow the pot to naturally release the pressure, this can take another half an hour or so. When the pressure is released, I like to leave the lid ajar and let the liquid cool to near room temperature. Then I strain it into a jar where it can cool completely before going into the fridge.

A note about straining stock; I like to pick out the carrots and set them aside. The chicken stock infused carrots are on the soft side but full of flavour, so I either snack on them as is or add them to whatever I am making for dinner- mashed into potatoes, diced and added to a pot of beans, sliced and arranged on a bowl of noodles or congee.

Also, I don’t worry about skimming the fat of my stock because when left in the cold fridge the fat forms a tidy disc on the top of the stock that can easily be lifted away. Or not, sometimes the dish I am making will better with the addition of a bit of chicken fat. Sometimes I throw it in a pan with a little oil and use it start the dish I am cooking.

For the last 8 months or so I have been making a pot of stock every week or two. It is a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into most cuisines, and it keeps in the fridge for a week or so. I use it mostly for making noodle bowls which don’t really have recipe but are more of a use what ya got, add what you’re craving kind of meal.

My noodle bowls start with hot stock and noodles of some description.

It can be instant, rice ,or egg noodles. It can even be left over spaghetti. I hear ya, but food waste trumps authenticity sometimes. Then I add a variety of veggies, whatever is in the fridge – carrots, sugar peas, baby corn, tomato, pak choy, thinly sliced cabbage, mushrooms, sprouts. For protein I pile on some tofu or some leftover cooked chicken or pork, and a perfectly soft boiled egg.

I sometimes season the bowl with a splash of soy, sesame oil or chili oil, a splash of chili vinegar. I usually garnish with sesame seeds, fried shallots, green onions, Slices of chili, and cilantro. It never looks good in a photo but it is always delicious, and is it ready in 20 minutes.

Stock it also features in congee. My cheats congee recipe was published in Cruising World in March – and I use it to thin out pots of beans and curries, and sometimes use it in lieu of water to cook rice or polenta. If we were somewhere cool I would use it to make a big pot of soup – pumpkin is my fav, but just chicken and veg is a comfort too. Best of all, making stock extracts the very best, and last flavour, out of the bits left behind. Good for you, good for your wallet, and the planet!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bruce S says:

    Thanks for firing me up again, Heather. I have never made my own stock but you have twigged my interest. I use heaps of veg stock cubes in my cooking which I will now take to the next level. Thanks ☺️

    1. Heather Francis says:

      So easy!!! If you don’t have a pressure cooker just use a large pot, bring to a boil, simmer for maybe an hour or so with the lid on. Insta pot would be similar, I am sure. Freezes well and tastes so much richer than a stock cube, although they come in handy I don’t often find cubes without msg, which doesn’t agree with me. Good luck and happy cooking!

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