Bone broths have experienced something of a revival lately, making their way into the repertoire of trending health topics. However, this incredibly nourishing food is by no means a passing fad and has been a reliable tradition in many parts of the world for centuries and date back to times when the whole animal was routinely used, providing maximum nutrition and minimum waste; two excellent reasons to consider adding it to your kitchen habits.
The tradition of eating chicken soup as a home-remedy for colds and flu is well known. It is such a pervasive custom it has even been examined in a scientific context, with research studies supporting this traditional use, although we don’t need science to tell us how comforting it is to sip a warm bowl or mug of soup when we’re unwell! One of the best ways to create a truly nourishing soup is to make the broth with bones.
The main benefits come from the protein-based compounds found connective tissues like cartilage and marrow which yield amino acids and glycoproteins during cooking and digestion. These nutrients give our bodies the resources required to build, repair and maintain healthy gut integrity, efficient digestive function, effective immune system function and strong connective tissue integrity for joints, hair, teeth and nails. There is also the lovely experience of sitting down to a hot bowl of comfort food on a cool evening.
It is a common belief that bone broth was an excellent source of minerals like calcium and magnesium, but recent investigations have shown this is not the case, with its beneficial qualities coming instead from the nutrients mentioned early. Adding lots of vegetables after cooking, especially leafy greens, will enhance the mineral content as well as the flavour.
Not everyone enjoys the smell or taste of plain bone broth, which is why I like to turn mine into a hearty soup. Once the broth has been made, it can be used as a stock base for soups and casseroles to which you can add your favourite vegetables and the meat from the chicken you used in the broth. There will usually be plenty left over, which can be frozen and kept on hand for future use.
This recipe can be made with a fresh, uncooked chicken, or a pre-cooked and stripped chicken carcass. Using the carcass is a great way to get more out of a roasted chicken, but be sure to use it within 36 hours of initial roasting. Alternatively, you may wish to use lamb shanks or beef bones.
Basic Bone Broth
1 whole free-range chicken or carcass (or other bones of choice)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4-5 stalks celery, chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, rosemary or other herbs
4 bay leaves
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, chopped
2 tbsp turmeric, chopped (or 1 tbsp powder)
2-4 chillis, chopped (optional)
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large pot, add a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil and saute the onion and turmeric with a dash of black pepper over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Place the chicken in the pot with the vinegar, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chillis and cover with water and a few pinches of salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the meat begins to fall off the bones (2-3 hours).
Using a pair of tongs and a cutting board, remove the meat from the bones and return the bones to the pot. The meat can be used elsewhere or set aside to add back in later, when you turn the broth into a soup or casserole. If you are using a carcass without meat, you can skip this step.
Simmer for 6-24 hours, topping up the water as required. The longer you cook for, the better – you can also use a slow-cooker, which doesn’t require much attention.
Add fresh herbs, stir through and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
Allow to cool and strain. Discard the bones. The liquid can be divided into containers and stored in the freezer for up to 6 months, or the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To make a soup, return some of the broth to the stove with added vegetables, meat and anything else you enjoy. I like to add a handful of buckwheat grouts or barley. Consume 3-6 times per week.