Rebecca Taylor: Stock – The Anatomy of a Witch Hunt

You need:

1 cottage in a village setting with a clear view of the neighbour’s front garden
2 pounds of meaty soup bones (beef shanks or short ribs from a good butcher)
A stockpot (preferably made in France)
A roasting tin
Carrots & onions to taste
Fresh herbs and spices and a muslin bag for your bouquet garni

Preparation Time: 24 hours


Begin by placing the bones in the stockpot. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Let the bones simmer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, set the oven to 400°F (fan 375), and chop the carrots and onions. When working with a sharp knife, always focus on the task at hand and do not let yourself become distracted, even if out of the window you spot Myra Boswell looking shifty on her porch.


Spoon off the foam that will now have collected on top of the water. Drain and rinse the bones.


Spread the bones onto a heavy-bottomed roasting tin and cook them in the hot oven for 30 minutes.

This is a good time to fill the muslin bag with herbs and spices to make your bouquet garni. Allow fifteen minutes for this task. Spend the excess time moving your favourite chair into the kitchen and take a rest while you enjoy the aromas now spreading throughout the house.

As you sit there contemplating your next step, you may see Myra swing a full recycling bag over her shoulder and into the green wheelie bin in front of her cottage. You may wonder what is in the bag. Why is it so light?


Add carrots and onions to the roasting tin and roast the bones for another 45 minutes till they are a deep caramelised brown, looking almost burnt.

This is a good time to consider the best way to investigate what exactly is in that bag. You’ve long suspected that Myra recycles something inappropriate. It’s evident from the way she always waits for the bin men to turn up before rushing out to place the recycling in the wheelie bin.


After 45 minutes, remove the bones from the oven and drain the fat.

As you run the cold water, it may occur to you: Myra Boswell buys water in plastic bottles.


Return the roasted bones to the stockpot.

DO NOT RINSE THE ROASTING TIN. The brown bits stuck to the bottom are called the fond and it is this that creates the base of the stock.


Add warm water to the roasting tin and loosen the fond with a spoon.

As you carry out this task, you may be reminded of Myra’s gloating after she sold her car for the sake of the environment. She now does the school run on foot and takes the bus to work. This has added two hours to her daily commute. It’s admirable, yet insufferable. Who does Myra think she is? It’s not as if you didn’t consider selling your car. But your office is nowhere near a bus stop and besides, the most vocal people in the village – the scary mothers who are right– all drive. You reckon that you’re safe to continue doing so as long as that group maintain ownership of their vehicles, despite causing unspeakable damage to the planet.


Pour the fond juices and extra water into the stockpot with the roasted bones.

As you carry out this task, you may reflect upon the fact that Myra – if it really is true that she uses plastic bottles – does not deserve her place on the village fete committee.


Add seasoning and your bouquet garni.


Bring the stock to the boil.

This is a good time to consider an educational Instagram post. You could put something together about the perils of plastic bottles, carefully listing sustainable alternatives that your followers will appreciate. It might go down better than the post you did in which you recommended a one-child policy for all. That particular shot above target had a lukewarm reception. Not a single like from the scary mothers who are right, although your carbon footprint calculations were based on rock-solid science.


Reduce the heat and move the lid so that it is slightly ajar.

If possible, simmer for 22 hours. The longer you simmer, the more COLLAGEN is extracted from the bones making your stock silky smooth and rich.

This is a good time to consider how you might break the news about Myra’s excessive use of plastic bottles. Photographic evidence would be ideal. However, for such to be attained you’d have to rummage in her wheelie bin. Better just drop the allegation into conversation when you speak to some of the scary mothers who are right. There’s no need for anonymity. In fact, they need to know this comes from you. It’s risky to put yourself out there, but less so if your views align with those of the scary mothers who are right.


After two-three hours, top up the stockpot with water to keep the ingredients covered.

As you carry out this task, you may reflect upon the fact that being kicked off the committee is not good enough for Myra. Her full-on assault on the environment is on such a scale that she deserves not to be invited to the fete, full stop. If you could turn the scary mothers who are right against her, there’s a real chance Myra might end up on the verboten list. And the scary mothers who are right, knowing you were central in calling Myra out, will be indebted to you and finally learn that you are one of them.


After another four hours return to skim off any new layers of foam.

This may be a good time to consider whether there’s a chance the committee might strip Myra of her Villager of the Year titles 2012 and 2017. Industrial scale use of throwaway bottles should be sufficient reason, however, it might be worth going over old versions of Myra’s column in the village newsletter to see if there is anything to be found which could demonstrate the true depravity of Myra’s character and reveal once and for all the threat she constitutes to other villagers who have the right to feel safe in the village environment.


Use tongs to remove the bones. If they are falling apart, that means you have done a good job and extracted pretty much everything you can from them.

During this fiddly task you may find time to contemplate what it would take to get Myra run out of the village. If you could turn not only the scary mothers who are right against her but also drum up momentum amongst villagers more broadly, the scary mothers who are right would have to invite you into their fold. You’d be untouchable.


Strain the stock through a colander lined with cheesecloth or muslin.

Don’t be distracted at this crucial point. Not even if there is somebody at the door. And not even if it’s Myra and one of the scary mothers who are right who have come to ask you to resign from the committee. In fact, they would prefer it if you would do the decent thing and not show up to the fete at all.

You don’t even know what your crime is. Is it because you didn’t sign the partition about the airport expansion? But that was only because you didn’t want to be a hypocrite now that everyone knows you’ve booked tickets to Fuerteventura.

Or, could it be that somebody has spotted that you tend to let the water run when you brush your teeth at night, even though you’re always so careful to close the blinds?


Discard the bouquet garni (saving the bag) and skim the fat off the top of the stockpot (this is easier to do once the stock has cooled in the fridge overnight).

BONUS TIP: Alternatively, use a stock cube.

Rebecca Taylor is a regular contributor to Funny Pearls