The latest super food also seems to be one of the most tried and tested and oldest – bone broth (or technically ‘stock’ although this has nothing to do with shop bought stock or stock cubes). It’s used a lot in Paleo and GAPS diets and your grandmother would certainly have been very familiar with it, back in the days when meat was deemed an expensive luxury and every part was stretched for as many meals as possible. Even more than that, nearly every traditional society has a history of boiling bones of meat-giving animals to make a nourishing broth that’s grounding and healing.

Bone broth is also an extraordinarily inexpensive food, especially for its nutritive value. If you’re using leftovers from a Sunday roast, or getting cheap or free bones from the local butcher, you can make pints of it for pennies.

Shop bought stock has nowhere near the depth of flavour of home made broth or the health benefits and bouillon cubes are just expensive chicken-flavored salt cubes, so avoid them!  When you make your own you know exactly what has gone into the pot and that means avoiding vast amounts of salt and MSG.

When you cook bones for any length of time in water – especially if that water has been made slightly acidic by the inclusion of cider vinegar or lemon juice – minerals and other nutrients leach from the bones into the water.  Homemade broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals and contains glucosamine and chondroitin – helpful for arthritis and joint pain, as well as gelatin (a source of protein that helps counter the degeneration of joints) and collagen (which improves the condition of skin, hair and nails). Some even say it helps eliminate cellulite as it supports smooth connective tissue. Bone broths made with fish bones and heads provide iodine and can help strengthen the thyroid.

But the benefits of bone broth go well beyond mineral content. It’s not so much ‘we are what we eat’ but more ‘we are what we absorb’. Bone broths have been shown to be especially helpful for any compromised digestive function as the fats in bone broths help restore greater gut health and therefore increase the absorption rate of the minerals present in broths.

In times of illness or with any ongoing gut issues, try drinking 2-3 cups of bone broth daily as it supports the body and is very digestible, so the body’s energy can go to healing. Anyone suffering from ‘leaky gut’ will definitely benefit from several cups a day as part of a healing regime. In cases of stomach bugs or vomiting, bone broth often calms the stomach very quickly and helps shorten the duration of the illness.

For a simple to make soothing and nourishing broth, use the bones of the healthiest animals you can get. If you don’t have leftover bones from a roast, or can’t get them from your butcher, you can buy organic and free range chicken carcasses for very little money from Abel & Cole and Riverford delivery box schemes.  You can also use bones of beef, bison, lamb, turkey, or fish, and vegetables and spices are often added.

HOW TO MAKE

1-2 pounds (or more) of bones – for this you could use 1-2 chicken carcasses, or beef or lamb bones or even fish bones and heads (yum!)

PLUS you can also add shrimp tails and clam/mussel shells (or use these with fish bones if you are pescatarian)

1 large onion

2 carrots

2 stalks of celery

2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice

1 tablespoon of sea salt

Optional – 2 inches of dried Kelp or 1 tsp dulse or other seaweed flakes

Optional: 1 bunch of fresh herbs

1 teaspoon peppercorns

Additional herbs or spices to taste

2 cloves of garlic for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Making broth is also a good way to use up any leftover vegetables from earlier in the week so vary the ingredients depending on what you have.  Throw everything into the largest saucepan you have, completely cover everything with at least 2 pints of water and bring to a boil. Once it has reached a vigorous boil, reduce and let simmer for as long as you can, preferably several hours minimum- the longer the better!  If you have a slow cooker you can cook for as long as 24 hours or more.

During the last 30 minutes, add the garlic and any fresh herbs, if using.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Strain using a sieve to remove all the bits of bone and vegetable. When cool enough, store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze in batches for later use. You can also freeze into ice cube trays and then pop out a couple of cubes at a time to mix into a mug with hot water for a soothing drink.

As well as just drinking as it is, broth can be used as the liquid in making soups, stews, gravies, sauces, and reductions. It can also be used to saute or roast vegetables.