Pimping up your Christmas Gravy
By Amber Malik| Nutritionist and Holistic Chef
Granny always said that a steaming, hot bowl of chicken soup would make us feel better when we were ill. Old wives’ tale or did the older generations know best? Turns out it’s a bit of both.
It seems to be a common idea nowadays that the ‘chicken’ part of ‘chicken soup’ is the important bit. But actually, it does nothing to help heal you if you’re sick. So where has the idea of a soup’s healing properties come from, then? Answer: from the bones.
‘Bone broth’ is extremely fashionable right now but it’s been around for centuries in various forms across global cultures. Bones – primarily beef and chicken but any meat or fish can be used – are boiled in water with a few vegetables or spices for a long period of time, and the resulting stock is either drank as a nourishing broth itself or used as a base for soups, gravies, sauces etc. The key is to cook the bones for a long enough period of time so that the natural gelatine is released; this is where the health benefits lie. Shop-bought versions aren’t often cooked long enough so lack this important gelatine; they can also often contain MSG and use the carcasses from animals given GMO feed and pumped full of drugs. Luckily, this broth is ridiculously easy to make at home and, if you source grass-fed, organic bones, it’ll be a nutritious, healthy and delicious infusion of mineral-rich magic you can keep in your freezer for anytime you need it.
Before we get on to the recipe, here are a few of the benefits bone broth has to offer.
- The large amounts of minerals boost the immune system – and that’s where the idea of drinking it when you’re unwell comes from.
- It’s high in collagen so it can support the health of the joints, hair, skin and nails. If you drink bone broth several times a week, it’s suggested you may see vast improvements in these areas. But if you find it tricky to make/get hold of broth that often, Vitamin Buddy source a quality collagen supplement that can be used simultaneously as a boost to your collagen requirements.
- It’s high in the amino acid glycine which aids digestion and also helps produce the antioxidant glutathione. We all love antioxidants!
You can find bones relatively easily. Ask your local butcher, go to farmers markets or buy them online from fruit & veg delivery box schemes. Or wait until you next buy a large piece of meat for a Sunday roast and then use the leftover bones. Find the best quality possible because when you extract the minerals directly and consume them in this concentrated form, your broth will be far more tasty and nutritious (and therefore worth the effort) if the animal itself was healthy.
- 1kg cooked bones*
- 4 litres water (plus extra if needed)
- 1 onion cut into a few large pieces
- 2 carrots cut into a few large chunks
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley (optional)
*If you’re starting with raw bones, rather than the leftovers from your Sunday lunch, it helps to roast them first. Either put them in the oven for 15-30 minutes or brown them quickly in the pan you’ll be using to make the broth.
Put all of the ingredients into the largest saucepan you have (separate into two if needed.) You need enough water to cover all the ingredients.
Leave for half an hour so the vinegar can get to work ‘loosening’ the good stuff from the bones.
Turn on the heat high, bring to a boil and then let it vigorously bubble for five minutes.
Turn the heat down to the lowest setting possible and simmer. Adequate simmering times are approximately 24-48 hours for beef bones, up to 24 hours for chicken and up to 8 hours for fish. Add more water if the broth reduces too quickly in the first few hours.
Impurities will rise to the surface and these need to be removed with a large spoon several times in the first few hours. Chuck this foamy, frothy stuff away. Then you can chillax and let the bones do their thang!
When the broth reaches a stock-like consistency and tastes flavoursome, let it cool and strain to remove all the ingredients. You’re left with pure liquid gold. Cold, this liquid should be like jelly – that’s the best sign you’ve done it right and all the gelatine has been released.
You can season with a pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt and drink as it is, or you can use it as a stock for a hearty vegetable soup. Why not use this as the base to your Christmas gravy? Add the cooking juices from the bottom of your turkey pan and a splash of wine, and you’ll have a yummy sauce that nobody would ever suspect to be healthy!