You probably know what stock is, but for those of you who don't, it's basically flavoured water. The idea is that you amplify the flavour of whatever ingredient it is you're using - e.g. if you're making a chicken casserole with good chicken stock, the result will be a very strong "chickeny" flavour.
If you make your own stock it will always taste a million times better than pre-bought stock cubes, which are packed full of more preservatives than Cher's face. It's also very easy. If you don't have time to make your own stock or you don't have space to store it I recommend the bottles of Knorr concentrated stock. The simpler the recipe, the more important it is that you use good quality stock.
An easy way to amass the ingredients for home-made stock is to keep hold of bones and vegetable trimmings once you've finished with them and store them in the freezer. These recipes are pretty rough but they'll do the job.
Chicken, vegetable, fish and beef stock are the most commonly used varieties but you can do it with the bones of any kind of animal. Chicken stock will go well with most things but the best option is to use the bones from whatever it is you're cooking.
These recipes should create about 1.5 litres of stock each.
Heat some olive oil in a pan and sweat some onions, celery, leeks, garlic cloves, herbs, tomatoes and a couple of bay leaves. After a few minutes, add a leftover chicken carcass and fry it all together for a while. Season it lightly, then cover it with water, bring it to the boil and simmer it gently for a couple of hours until it's full flavoured.
Roast 1.5kg beef marrow bones in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Sweat veggies as per the chicken stock recipe above, then add the marrow bones (or leftover roast beef bones, if you have them) and cover with water. Bring it to the boil and simmer for 5-6 hours until it tastes right to you.
I actually find this a tricky one to get right. I find it always takes a lot longer than recipe books suggest to get a decent flavour. You basically use the ingredients you'd use for the above stocks but use loads more vegetables. In theory, it's supposed to only take 20 minutes. I find it takes an hour or even more. If anyone has any tips, by all means send them in!
As per the chicken stock, but use fish bones. It's supposed to take about 30 minutes but I admit I've never made it myself.