I’m investigating all kinds of pantry concoctions and ingredients that might help me add depth and unctuousness to my cooking, and these beef concentrate cubes definitely tick that box.
One of the things that Hong Kong supermarkets are brilliant at is bones. I actually really appreciate the fact that I can rock up to the chilled counter and buy ox-tail, pig-tails, pork bones, beef bones, fish heads etc for soup and stocks.
I would try the wet-markets, but there is something just a little too much about the ubiquitous goat-head-attached-to-spinal-column mascot that I just can’t get past at the moment, (can anyone tell me what happens to the rest of the goat? I’ve never seen goat on the menu anywhere…)
I recently tweaked a Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall process for making frozen beef concentrate, and having used the results in a couple of dishes, can highly recommend it.
In case you weren’t aware, HFW’s River Cottage Meat Book is a fantastic resource for all things meaty – recommended and referred to by many food writers/technicians including Harold McGee.
Forgive me, but I’m not one for being precise on measurements for certain recipes, stock among them, so you need:
Carrots: at least 1 big one
Onion: at least 1 big one
Celery: at least a couple of stalks
Bay Leaves: 2-3 minimum or as many as you like
Whole Black Peppercorns: 5-10
Star Anise: One star
Optional: Thyme, roasted whole cloves of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon porcini powder
If you have more than 500g of bones and a bigger pot, then basically cram as many vegetables in there as possible (whilst still leaving some room for water!)
Roast your beef bones in a very hot oven until as much of the fat as possible has come away and the meat left on them is good and caramelized (20-30mins).
Throw the bones along with the halved carrot, halved onion, snapped celery and the aromatics/spices into a big pot along with enough water to cover everything.
The star anise and the porcini powder are in there as they really enhance the meatiness and umami flavour of the stock.
Bring the pot to a bare boil and leave it there for at least 5 hours, or overnight if you want. Top up with water if necessary to keep everything covered.
After you’ve done the long, slow tremulous simmer you need to strain the stock. I do this through a sieve to get the big bits out and then pour it through muslin (cheesecloth) to get even the porcini powder out. You do this so that you can boil it like a maniac to reduce it down, without spoiling the flavour and clarity.
Let the stock go completely cold in the fridge and then skim, or lift off the solidified fat that will have formed (or put it through the muslin again).
Now you are ready to boil it as hard as you like, and reduce it to the concentration you want. I like to have truly concentrated beef-bombes that I can use to liven up all sorts of dishes, so I boil it down a lot – probably to 1/3 or 1/4 of the original volume.
If you taste it and it leaves a stickiness on your lips, then you’re looking good. After that, just pour it into the ice-cube trays and freeze it until you need it.