I generally make my own vegetable broth from vegetable scraps and trimmings, but recently purchased a quart of store-bought broth in a pinch. Blech! I forgot how weird-tasting store bought vegetable broth is by comparison, especially for the price of an organic broth without creepy stuff in it. I swore I'd never do it again, even in a pinch, and vowed to only make my own vegetable broth from now on. So, I started collecting all my little vegetable scraps again for my next pot of broth.
The next day I was catching up some reading over at 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite blogs. Heidi is so inspiring; her images are beautiful, her cooking seems absolutely effortless and elegant, and I relate strongly to her philosophy on food. I deeply admire her cookbook Super Natural Cooking, and am excited about her forthcoming cookbook that she is currently working on. She just seems so cool. I always find her posts inspiring, and somehow, she has this way of posting things that totally click into something I am thinking about, it is like magic. However, my visit to her site the other day was particularly timely. Why, you ask? Because I came across her post for homemade vegetable boullion!
I flipped out! Why hadn't I ever thought of this?! It seemed so simple. Bouillon is just ground of vegetables and spices, so why can't we make our own, right? Geez.
I knew I had to try it immediately.
Making bouillon from scratch is the perfect allergy-friendly, gluten-free solution to the problem of broth. Broths and bouillons often contain yeast extracts, preservatives, or tons of vegetables and spices that may be problematic if you have a lot of allergies and sensitivities. Since you're choosing the ingredients, you can choose to add or subtract whatever works or doesn't work for you. This recipe is so wildly versatile, I can't wait to try it again with different vegetables or seasonings.
This recipe makes a hefty batch - about 3 1/2ish cups - which is more than you will probably need for a week of cooking, unless you have a big family or are making lots and lots of soup. The solution? Freeze a portion of the batch in ice cube trays, then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag for later use. Just toss a few frozen cubes in to your soup kettle or rice pot, and you'll have tasty broth in no time!
I've been using the bouillon all week in soups, threw a scoop into the pot when cooking rice, and also mixed it with vegetables before roasting them. I have positively loved it! So flavorful, so fresh, and so easy. And much cheaper and more nutritious than buying that stuff at the store. If you are on a strict rotation diet, you could modify this recipe to have only a few ingredients, so it fits with your rotation. Here is the recipe for my version of the bouillon, as well as a recipe for a delicious beef soup I made that uses it. I know it is a week after St. Patrick's Day, but I often run late, so this soup is kind of Irish: ground beef, celery, celery root, and cabbage, with a flavorful homemade broth seasoned with my homemade bouillon, thyme, and just an itty bitty pinch of nutmeg. Bring on the yum, folks.
As a side note, you may have noticed a slight change in my photography over the last week or two. I am very happily borrowing a Canon Rebel xTi and am loving the versatility of a macro lens. Despite having taken photography classes in college and working at a commercial photo studio (I do project producting, not photography), I am not terribly well-versed in the mechanics of cameras. So, to the camera manual I go. I'm also going to be getting pointers from some of the photographers at work. I am really excited to take this opportunity to learn and improve; I love the creative freedom of photography. I also love playing with food, and I want it to look as beautiful as possible for all of you! And besides, I have a cookbook to photograph, so I have to get my act together. :)
Homemade Vegetable Bouillon
yield: approx 3 1/2 cups
You will need a food processor or Vitamix to make this. I chose to make it in my food processor, and added the vegetables in batches, grinding between adding to make more room in the processor. Store in the fridge in a well-sealed container for 5 days, or freeze in small portions to use later on! I love ice cube trays for this very thing. I did not make this very salty, so that it is more versatile and I can salt the dish I use it in to my preference later on. I added miso paste for a rich flavor; feel free to omit if desired. The beneficial bacteria of the miso will be cooked out once the broth is heated, but the delicious flavor will remain!
3 large carrots
3 celery stalks
1 large leek
1 very small onion (or probably about 1/4-1/2 of a medium onion)
4 garlic cloves
1/2 large fennel bulb, with stalk and fronds
1/4 cup packed parsley leaves
1 tsp dry thyme
optional: 3 Tbsp azuki or chickpea miso
1 tsp salt
Chop all ingredients and place in a food processor. Pulse a few times, then process until you have a smooth vegetable paste. Place a small amount in a container in the fridge and use within 4 days. Freeze remaining boullion in ice cube trays, then package in freezer bags. Easy broth!
To use: use 1 Tbsp bouillon per 8 oz of water
Irish Beef & Cabbage Soup
yield: 4-6 servings
This soup is simple and delicious, with a rich flavor. If you don't want to use homemade bouillon, feel free to substitute 6 cups of vegetable, chicken or beef broth, or use a desired amount of another bouillon paste or cube to season the water. Using high-quality beef will make all the difference in this soup; if possible, choose beef that is grass-fed, and free of antibiotics and hormones. My beef was very lean, so I did not drain it. Depending on the meat/fat percentage of your beef you may choose to drain it before adding broth; use your judgement. I've been eating off this pot of soup all week, and it just gets more delicious by the day!
1 lb lean ground beef, grass-fed and antibiotic-free preferred
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
4 large stalks celery with leaves, stalks diced and leaves finely chopped
1 small celeriac, diced
6 cups water
6 Tbsp homemade vegetable bouillon
1 tsp dry thyme
1/2 small head cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2-1 tsp Herbamare or sea salt, to taste
Chop onion, celery and garlic. Peel celeriac and chop into 1/2"x1"cubes. Cut cabbage in half, and save the other half in the refrigerator. Cut remaining half in half again, and notch out the core. Chop the core to the same size as the celeriac cubes, then thinly slice the rest of the cabbage.
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot, then add onion and celery, and saute briefly. Then add garlic and ground beef and saute until browned, breaking up into crumbles. Remove from heat and drain, if desired. If your meat is very lean, you may not need to drain it. Return to medium heat, adding celeriac, thyme, and nutmeg, and sauteing for 2-3 minutes. Then add water and bouillon. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until celeriac is almost tender. Then add cabbage and cook about 10 minutes, until cabbage and other vegetables are tender. SEason with salt to taste, and serve.