Vegetable stock is an extremely versatile product and it is handy to have some kept in the freezer, readily available to enhance any meal. Foods which may usually be cooked in water such as rice, couscous or dried beans are tastier cooked in stock. It is a great base to any soup, stew or curry, and of course is essential for any vegetarian risotto.

To make about 1lt

1 tbsp of olive oil

onion, finely sliced

leek, white part only, finely sliced

celery stick, finely sliced

200g of button mushrooms, finely sliced

carrot, finely sliced

bulb of garlic, halved horizontally

150ml of white wine, (optional)

bay leaves, fresh or dried

sprigs of thyme

1/2 tsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed

Heat the oil in a large stock pot

Add the vegetables and sweat down until just starting to colour if you want a coloured stock, sweat them gentler for a whiter stock.

If using wine, add now and reduce by half

Now top up with water until the vegetables are just covered by a few centimetres. Bring to almost or very gentlysimmering then, using a ladle, skim away any scum which rises to the top

Turn down to a simmer then add the bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Leave to gently simmer for 1 hour

Strain through muslin or a clean tea towel so you are left with a nice clear stock

You can now return the stock to the pan and reduce down for a more intense flavour (good for adding to sauces), or chill it. The stock will keep for 3–5 days in the fridge or will freeze for up to 6 months

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