Healthy lockdown broths

Turn bone broths into many other dishes. Picture: LANCE SEETO

One of the most common recipe requests I get is for soup, especially clear broths.

Broths aren’t difficult to make, but do take some time and patience, both of which we have plenty of during this current lockdown.

Broths also form the basis of many other dishes including Asian noodle soups, gravy in stir fry and stews.

Learning to make broths while stuck at home offers a unique chance to make restaurant-quality soups at home.

The constant threat of COVID and an impending cold weather season should remind everyone about keeping their body’s health in top shape and a lot of this depends on what you are feeding your body.

Junk and processed foods are great for a quick feed, but the human body needs lots of vitamins and minerals to help keep its defences at optimum levels.

The colder weather should remind us to stay warm and healthy by eating foods that contain natural medicine to strengthen the immune system.

Sickness usually follows a cold season because of the abrupt change in temperature.

To help reduce getting sick of the common cold or flu, your body needs plenty of fluids and natural foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals.

Cooking soups, stews and casseroles offers many advantages at this time of the year, and with lockdowns putting a strain on the family budget now is the ideal time to learn – all you need is water and flavour.

Meaty bones and fish carcasses are perfect bases for soups as the deep flavour in the bones and marrow are unlocked over a few hours of cooking.

The bones also contain essential medicines like collagen for healing joints, in addition to their delicious flavour.

For vegans, bones can be replaced with fresh vegetables, seaweed, roots and herbs, and using coconut bu water instead of plain water gives you a head start on both flavour and medicinal value.

Roast bigger bones in the oven first for colour and flavour. Picture: LANCE SEETO

What is a bone broth?

Most Fijians know bone broth as soup sui. I’ve often enjoyed a bowl of beef sui with my staff served with fresh lemon and chilli, but did you know just how healthy and repairing it can be for the body? The bones and tissues of many types of animal make good bone broth, including beef, chicken, goat, pork and even fish bones. Drinking bone broth can be beneficial for the joints and digestive system and contains other important nutrients, especially minerals, derived from the connective tissues. Simmering the bones in water with some vinegar or lemon juice helps release nutrients from the marrow within the bones, as well as break down other tissues into the water. Bigger animal bones like beef and pork can take nearly half to a full day to really extract the nutrients and amino acids, but smaller bones from chicken and fish can extract all the flavour and nutrition in just a few hours. Whatever bones you start with, be patient, it will take time as the smells waft through the house and village. Your patience will be rewarded with a flavourful, nutritious broth that can be eaten as a soup or you can more vegetables and meats to create an earthy stew.

The marrow inside the bones are highly medicinal. Picture: LANCE SEETO

Bones are full of nutrition

Bones themselves are rich in vitamins and nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Also, brewing connective tissue into the bone broth provides the body with natural compounds from the cartilage that are said to help our own joints. Tissues and bones also contain collagen. Cooking collagen turns it to gelatin, which provides the body with amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Bone marrow is rich in nutrients such as iron, selenium, zinc and manganese. Bone broth provides trace amounts of these nutrients, and many claim that consuming it is an easy way to take in these nutrients in a form that is easier to digest. Adding other ingredients including fresh vegetables, ginger, garlic and herbs to the broth also adds additional nutrients.

Pan fry smaller bones like chicken and fish first for flavour. Picture: LANCE SEETO

Good for aging joints

The human body ages and begins to show a bit of wear and tear as we get older or play sports, and one of the pains in later life is joint pain. The cold weather experienced during and post cyclone can remind us of our age or that old sports injury, especially in our elbows, knees, hands and feet. Bone broth is an excellent source of gelatin, which breaks down into collagen in the body, and is especially important in the joints. Cartilage in the joints tends to wear down or shrink through continual use. This can add more stress to the joints, which may become damaged as a result of the added pressure. A 2017 review that appears in the US journal Sports Medicine suggests that both laboratory and animal studies show that gelatin supplementation increases the amount of collagen in the tissues. This may help protect the joints from unnecessary stress. Consuming bone broth may be a good way to add gelatin to the diet, which may help protect these joints. My late grandmother lived to a ripe age of 87 and her remedy for easing her arthritis was to drink plenty bone broths and eat plenty of chicken feet. Gelatinous chicken feet and pork trotters are favoured by many aging Chinese for this very reason.

Strain the broth after many hours of cooking. Picture: LANCE SEETO

How to make bone broth

Extracting the goodness from animal bones takes time. The bigger the bones, the longer it takes for the gelatin and nutrients to
seep out from the bones. I usually boil larger beef bones for at least 8-12 hours (24 hours  is even better), pork bones 4-6 hours, whilst chicken and fish bones might only take 2-4 hours. These are only approximate times. Once the bones begin falling apart, there is no point cooking any longer. Slow cookers are perfect for bone broths because you can better control temperature and time, and you don’t have to keep an eye on a stovetop pot. A simple way to make it is to save bones from other meals. For instance, a chicken carcass that is complete with beak and claws may make a good basis for a bone broth. After making a big batch of broth, store it in smaller containers or ice trays in the freezer. Heat these smaller containers as needed, and the broth will last longer than the cyclone. Stay safe and keep in touch with loved ones.

  • Lance Seeto is the host of FBC-TV’s Exotic Delights and chef/owner of KANU Gastropub in Nadi.

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