I made it! It’s Friday and I’m posting a ‘nibble’ on time. Cause for celebration indeed. There’s plenty to come over the next few days. I’ve had a number of requests for the falafel and flatbread recipe (thanks to everyone who asked for that) so that will go up next week as soon as I make up a batch and get some good photographs because a recipe without pictures is like a birthday cake without candles – it’ll do, but you notice it for what’s missing there rather than what’s present.
But in the spirit of maintaining the momentum that I started building up two weeks ago (but stalled a little last week) I’ll put these on hold and write about another essential item for any storecupboard.
For this week’s nibble, I’m going small – a bite-size nibble, if you will, although I probably wouldn’t recommend biting into one of these.
Chicken stock cubes (other stock cubes are handy too – we tend to have fish and vegetable ones in the cupboard most of the time as well, but chicken stock is so adaptable that I thought I’d focus on this particular flavour) are such an integral part of my ingredients list that I really can’t think of a suitable replacement. Of course, actual proper homemade chicken stock is superior to these highly flavoured little cubes, but it can be hard to find room for chicken carcasses, so these are the best substitute.
Even if it seems we eat a fairly constant stream of homemade meals lovingly constructed in the kitchen of our little cottage, this is not necessarily the case. Rest assured that we too get bitten by the apathy bug or succumb to a wave of laziness. This is where we crack open the Knorr. It might sound crazy but if you have a packet of these to hand, you can be mere moments away from a warming meal.
It is at times like this that the humble stock cube comes into its own and a noodle soup is just three minutes away. I tend to sit back at this point and let my girlfriend work her culinary magic. Some spring onions, a little garlic, some chilli and maybe a few slices of chicken, if you have any, can be dropped into a pan along with a pint of boiling water and one of these little flavour powerhouses. Add a slab of noodles then when they are cooked pour the soup into deep bowls and you’ve got a dinner to warm the soul. It tastes even better if you can hear the wind and rain lashing down through the windows.
The first stock cubes were introduced exactly one hundred years ago by a company called Maggi. These bouillon cubes were then copied by the iconic Oxo brand two years later, although I prefer the squidgy varieties to the crumbly - and incredibly salty – Oxo cubes. They can be used to add flavour to stews and sauces as well as soups but they really come into their own when making risotto.
Some of the finest comfort food it is possible to consume is a simple risotto made with Arborio or Vialone Nano rice, stock and then finished off with butter and parmesan. It might not be as quick as a noodle soup but the extra effort is certainly worth it.