*Please note this post was originally published in March 2008

I only buy organic chicken which as you know can work out rather expensive, so I like to stretch it out a little bit further by using the final leftovers for stock. Homemade chicken stock is a real delight, not like those salty stock cubes you can buy in the shops.

I use homemade stock as the base for soups and sauces, flavouring gravies, its great added to chicken lasagne to bulk out and flavour the white sauce. Also if you’ve never tried Delia Smiths leftover dish from her Christmas book titled Turkey en Croute then I heartily recommend giving it a shot. I make it year round with leftover chicken and homemade stock… its heavenly!

I start the stock by looking in the vegetable drawer in my fridge and I chuck in anything I can find. Onions, carrots, celery, the leaves from the cauliflower, whatever happens to be hanging about. Don’t waste your time chopping the veg nicely, just cut it in half and whack it in the pan. As you can see, its not an exact recipe! I then throw in about a dozen peppercorns to season it.

I use all the parts of the leftover chicken, including the skin. Break it up and pop it in, its all good stuff!

This is what mine looks like when its cooking. My son says it looks vile (he is a veggie) but I like it!

Now as I don’t like to keep watch over the stove for hours I simply make the stock in my slow cooker. I make it up in a morning and put it on a low heat setting for about eight hours. The smell of the slowly cooking chicken wafts through the whole house and creates such a welcoming setting….. what could be a better aroma to greet you at the door on a chilly evening!

Once the bones have broken up and the veg looks all wilted and emptied of its goodness, turn the slow cooker off and let it cool. Sieve the ingredients and put the strained liquid into the fridge. Next morning you will find the stock has set into a jelly like state. Don’t be alarmed, this is perfectly normal. If you aren’t going to use the stock straight away, bag it up into portions and store in the freezer. I also freeze some in ice cube trays so I can easily pop a couple into a gravy or sauce to pep it up a bit.

You will notice a layer of fat has settled on top of the stock. Just spoon this off if you are watching your diet. (I spoon it off, warm it up and add flour and use to thicken gravy) Its the little things like using homemade stock that takes cooking into another league. You simply cannot get such intense flavours from cubes.

Please give this a go as its so worth it. You’ll never use stock cubes again. I try to respect the animals I eat and use as much as possible. It would be a crying shame to throw a perfectly good carcass into the bin….