When I first began looking into ways to reduce my waste when shopping, I had more money available to me than I do now. So I didn’t think twice when choosing OXO stock cubes over the own brand ones – even though an OXO is just under 10p, a mid-range Tesco brand stock-cube is 5p and an ASDA brand stock-cube is 4p*.
I chose OXO because the chicken and beef flavours don’t contain any palm oil, and the packaging is 100% plastic free. The vegetable cubes are also plastic free, but they do contain palm oil.
Everything else I looked at either had a metallic paper wrapper (unrecyclable) or came in a tiny plastic pot.
So… problems all round, really, when it comes to stock.
You can’t be a palm-oil free vegetarian, for example. And to be a plastic, palm-oil free meat-eater you need to spend twice as much. I looked into using Boullion powder too, but that also contained palm oil, and comes in a tub you can’t recycle, and my local supermarkets don’t sell it so I would have to order it specially online which creates yet more packaging.
After the OXO cubes ran out, I took to using lovage leafs from the garden, along with extra salt and for most things, these work amazingly well. My mother-in-law always called them ‘Maggi Herb’ after the German stock company which is what gave me the idea, and sure enough, it really does taste very similar. If you pop a few leafs in with your pasta, for example, you can forgo a sauce when making a pasta salad – just add a little bit of oil after you’ve cooked it to stop the pieces congealing. But again, it’s not a perfect solution (not that such a thing exists) because the plant only grows during the spring and summer – dying off during the colder months – and because not everyone has the space to grow it. Our plant has, in the past, reached over 2m tall – hardly ideal for a window ledge.
So I decided to have a go at making my own…
Before I get to that part though – and I know I’ve rambled on about stock for long enough and I should just get on with telling you what I did – I wanted to acknowledge that not everyone is going to have vegetable peel that they’re happy to use. We peel vegetables – in part – because of the pesticides used in farming, so depending on the rules where you live, your access to organic food (or food you’ve grown yourself) and your level of personal comfort, you might like to set aside your peel to compost, then peel a thin layer of flesh from your chosen veg. You can then use these just-below-the-skin peelings instead. For ease of writing, though, I’m just going to refer to ‘peel’ going forward.
Anyways. To make my stock, I used:
Beetroot peel (but any sweet, root veg will do i.e. carrot, parsnip, sweet potato)
Lovage leafs (if you can’t get lovage, celery leafs are a good alternative)
Finely ground table salt (I buy mine from Lidl – it comes in cardboard, then i decant it into a old plastic bottle to store it)
A microwave or conventional oven
A pestle and mortar/something else to grind the dried peel in
First of all, you need to dry the peel. There are a few ways of doing this. You can either dry the peel on a baking sheet in your oven – it should be on its lowest setting for a long time, rather than on high for a short period. If you’ve got good weather and a vehicle at your disposal, you can place the peel on a baking sheet on your car’s dashboard in the sun and leave it there all day, removing it in the evening as the air begins to cool. Or you can do what I did and microwave the peel for around 3.5minutes on full power, wiping the microwave down after every 60 seconds to do away with the steam.
You then need to dry the lovage or celery leafs in the same way.
Once you’ve done this, grind the lot into a powder with the pestle and mortar. Add about a teaspoon of salt per two tablespoons of vegetable powder and mix well. You’re good to go!
Plastic free, gluten free, cheap, vegan and (depending on your peel) a great way to reduce food waste. Winning.
Use about 1tsp in place of a regular stock cube in your recipes.
*Prices correct at the time of publishing – via MySupermarket and rounded up to the nearest 1p