Here’s a mind-bending idea for you – scientists regard our guts as outer skin. Sounds odd doesn’t it? Well, imagine the route an apple takes when it’s eaten, broken down and discarded. It doesn’t get into our bodies unless it passes through the lining of our digestive tract. This lining, therefore, acts as a gatekeeper to our internal world. It makes sure nothing unwanted gets in, and nothing we need gets out. It’s a vital part of our immune system. To carry out this role, it’s imbedded with immune cells that fight off any interlopers and alert the immune system if they do manage to invade.
So what has the increasingly popular bone broth got to do with it? The lining can become damaged by medicines such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and modern life. However, bone broth is brimming with nutrients that support the repair of the gut wall. When you’ve made this stock and have let it chill, you’ll notice it sets like a jelly. That’s the gelatin. Gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid. In normal speak this means it helps seal the gut lining by drawing liquids and holding them. It helps support our digestion by bringing digestive juices to our food. There’s collagen too. Collagen is one of the main constituents of connective tissue, a major part of our skin.
Harriet’s tip: Make sure you use organic bones to make this broth. They’ll contain fewer heavy metals that are stored in bones.
It’s not just the gelatin and collagen that has the hipsters glugging it like coffee. Bone broth is loaded with minerals – calcium, phosphorous, silicon, magnesium and trace minerals. These are partially broken down by the cooking process and are easily digested and absorbed. Bone broth is rich in protein, needed by our immune system to beat bugs. Scientists also believe that bone broth contains chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine. You may have heard of these as supplements used to soothe joint pain resulting from arthritis. Further immune boosting nutrients come from the garlic and herbs that provide antioxidants. They also impart a truly delicious flavour.
Use this broth as a base for soups and sauces, add it to risottos, casseroles and stews. Or drink it straight, perhaps with a pinch of seasoning or tamari soy sauce.
What you need
- 3 raw organic chicken carcasses or bones (about 1kg)
- 2-3 onions
- Cloves from half a head of garlic
- Large handful of thyme
- Large handful of rosemary
- Two large slugs of apple cider vinegar
- Peppercorns, about 8
Set the oven to 200°C. Tip the carcasses or bones into a roasting dish and roast for 25-30 minutes until browned and smelling delicious. This process intensifies the flavour, giving a really delicious stock.
While the chicken is cooking and without peeling them, chop the onions in half. Discard the fronds at the root end then slice into thick half moons and put into a pot large enough to fit all the ingredients. Separate the garlic cloves and give them a gentle bash and add them too, along with the herbs, vinegar and peppercorns.
Add the chicken carcasses or pieces to the pot, scraping in the roasting juices and any tasty bits from the dish. If there are any stubborn pieces, pour some water into the roasting tray, making sure the bottom is entirely covered, and return it to the hot oven for a few minutes. Then scrape away the roasted bits which should have loosened in the hot water and add them to the pot.
Poor in enough water to cover the chicken and other ingredients. Cover and turn up the heat to bring to the boil. As soon as the broth begins to bubble vigorously, turn the heat right down. You want the liquid to barely simmer – it mustn’t actually boil. Leave it to cook gently for 12 -24 hours. Once cooled slightly, pass the broth through a sieve and enjoy. Refrigerate once cooled.
Harriet Bindloss has always loved cooking and feeding family and friends. She trained at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, worked as a private cook, then went on to produce the food pages at House & Garden magazine for five years. Now she uses her experiences and passion for nutrition to feed her most difficult critics, her two young children.