This post is part of an ongoing series called Fresh and Frugal, in which I share practical ways to make it easy to eat well on a budget. Eating well can be thought of from a lot of different angles, from good health and nutrition, to mindfulness about the environment, to supporting local economies. We should be able to accomplish all of this without sacrificing pleasure or breaking the bank, and that is what these posts explore.
I think most people know that it's possible (and preferable) to make chicken or beef stock at home, using leftover bones that would otherwise be thrown away. It's so easy, and if you consider that you were going to throw away the ingredients anyway, you're basically making money on the proposition. But what to do if your recipe calls for lamb stock, your husband isn't terribly fond of lamb, and you don't feel like shelling out $20/pound on lamb when you'll have to eat it all yourself, and all you really wanted was soup?
Here's what I did: I went to the meat counter at Whole Foods, and asked if they happened to have lamb soup bones. I could tell the guy had never gotten this request before; he told me they have beef bones for sale (good to know!), but no lamb. I pushed him further, wondering if he might have a lead for me (I reallllly wanted to make this soup), and he said, "Well, we get lamb carcasses in on Fridays and break them down; if you want to come in on Saturday, we could set the leftover bones aside for you."
You know you are getting serious in the kitchen when people start throwing around the word "carcass."
Saturday rolls around, and I am just about giddy with excitement. Five and a half pounds of fresh, amazing lamb bones for... 99 cents a pound! I felt a little like I had won the lottery, and got down to business. I rubbed the bones with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and roasted them at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until they were popping and crackling, and looked a little crispy. Then I divided them into two big pots, added onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and cold water, and simmered them all day long. After straining out all the solids, I had SIX QUARTS of stock! Less than 99 cents a quart, and that's not even counting the approximately 2 cups of leftover meat that I got off of the bones!
In a nutshell, boiling bones extracts all the good stuff from them: vitamins and minerals, gelatin, and tons of flavor. The resulting stock is a healing, nourishing food, and a cooking staple, wonderful for drinking plain, making soups, or enhancing flavor in rice or sauces. Read all about the nutritional benefits of homemade bone broth here.
Remember how excited you got in college when someone offered you free food? This is like that on steroids.
It's funny; I served this soup to a friend for lunch the other day, and she commented that she liked the unusual tangy flavor (from the yogurt, of course). It occurred to me that I had never thought to think about what this soup tastes like, specifically. Like other things my mom made a lot while I was growing up, this soup tastes like home.
2 quarts lamb stock
1/2 cup barley
3 cups madzoon (plain yogurt, full- or low-fat)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat the lamb stock with the barley. Cook until the barley is tender, seasoning the stock to taste; about a tablespoon of table salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. In a small bowl, beat the egg and madzoon (yogurt) together. Slowly whisk in about a cup of the hot lamb stock to temper the mixture, and then add it slowly back to the pot. In a small skillet, melt the butter, and saute the onion over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the mint and parsley, and then stir the onions into the soup. Serve hot.
Simple Lamb Stock
Yield: 6 quarts
5 pounds lamb soup bones
4 ribs celery, with leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Combine all ingredients in one giant stock pot (or two soup/pasta pots), and cover with cold water. I've heard that adding a tablespoon or two of vinegar aids in extracting the nutrients from the bones; I intend to try that next time (always learning!). Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for as long as you like; at least 6-8 hours, preferably 12-24. You can also do this is a slow-cooker. Strain out the bones and veggies, chill the stock, and use it in the recipe above or freeze it. Storage tip: if you lay the freezer bags flat in the freezer, they take up much less space, and are easily organized.