Duck Bone Broth: A Promise of Autumn

As is my habit, I took myself off for my walk this morning, not having a plan as to where I wanted to go, but just letting myself be led by my feet, and the thoughts that were going round and round in my head. I had expected the day to be hot, as it has been, but no, there was a cool breeze blowing, and with it, a promise of Autumn and cooler days. It’s no secret that summer and I don’t get along. We just don’t like each other, there’s no subtly for me in the endless blinding light, the humidity, the long days. I can’t dress like I like to, my hair goes frizzy and my make-up runs down my face. I long for grey sky, rain, and cold days when I can quite happily spend the day inside, pottering about, accomplishing little tasks while there is a big stock pot simmering on the stove, and maybe a ragù as well, to be eaten with a dish of steaming polenta that evening. Not to forget Congee! The only time that it’s acceptable to overcook your rice, such a gorgeous dish, very underrated, and perfect for those nights when your soul needs nourishing, and all you want is to curl up on the sofa bundled tightly in a warm blanket, watching re-runs of something trashy that only you enjoy.

There are certain foods, that evoke feelings of calmness, and protect us in a strange way from the outside world, make us stronger, and give us a big hug. For me these types of food all have one thing in common, great broth. Think of it. Does a risotto or a chicken soup give you any satisfaction if the broth is watery, and without flavour? Nope. It’s all to do with the bones, and the time that you give it to extract every ounce of flavour from them. So important, and something I love making particularly when the weather turns cooler. The smell that wafts through the house and wraps around you, holding you close, makes me happy. So, I want to share with you my recipe for my favourite broth. It’s perfect in every way; just a bowl of it with a dash of mirin, soy, and a few herbs and chillies floating on top is blissfully satisfying. It’s an incredibly versatile broth that I also use for mushroom risotto, Coq au Vin, and more, and unusual because I use the bones from Peking ducks, with chicken feet thrown in which give the broth body, and a gelatinous texture that feels so good in the mouth. I’ve found good chicken suppliers always have chicken feet, and when we buy Peking duck, we ask for it to be filleted, and keep the bones. I use 2 carcasses for this broth, and make it in an 8 litre stockpot.

Duck Bone Broth

  • 2 carcasses from Peking ducks
  • 500g – 1kg chicken feet, rinsed under cold water
  • 1 brown onion, washed, but not peeled, and cut in half
  • 1 leek, white part only, split lengthways
  • 2 sticks celery, cut into pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut into pieces
  • 1 bulb garlic, cut in half
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • Bunch fresh parsley, stalks included
  • A splash of apple cider vinegar. This can help to extract the minerals from the bones

Place all ingredients in your stockpot, and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and with a large spoon, skim off any scum and grey matter that rises to the surface.

Reduce the heat to low and allow the stock to simmer gently, skimming every now and then, for 4-6 hours.

Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly, and then gently pour or ladle the stock through a fine sieve into a bowl, let it come to room temperature, and put into the fridge overnight to allow the fat to settle on top. When fat has settled, remove it, put it in a plastic bag, and dispose of in the bin. Bring the stock back to the boil again, skim, and pour through a fine sieve before cooling and storing.

Just a couple of things, If you don’t intend to use the stock within a few days freeze it in airtight containers, and, because of the spices used in the cooking of Peking ducks, there is sometimes a little debris which will settle on the bottom. Discard this.