Thursday, January 22, 2015

Making bone broth and soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) in Asian-inspired pork bone broth

The worst thing is starting a new week with little sleep.

I know because my week began with just a handful of hours between Sunday and Monday.

It all started with a nightmare and soothing a little one back to sleep. Just as I was finally managing to drift back off almost an hour later, the crying started again, with sniffling pleas to come into our bed, a special treat (for us so that we can get right back under the duvet, or for them?) for the really bad nights.

I quickly agreed and tried to re-enter slumberland with my little boy's body curled into mine with such an intensity that I doubted it was going to happen any time soon. That is when I felt the scorching heat, it was like lying next to a radiator. I dragged myself out of bed again to get the thermometer and surely enough the little guy had a high fever.

As he slept on in his aura of heat, I lay awake, my mind racing. I was supposed to be in the office extra early that morning because there was a lot to deal with and it was just going to be one of those days. People were counting on me being there, but there was no way I was going to find a sitter at 3:00am in the morning. I started sending messages and emails to warn my colleagues. Then I lay awake feeling guilty. My husband was snoring, oblivious. My son was sleeping a fitful sleep and everytime I tried to move away from his burning limbs wrapped around me to cool off, he nudged his way right back into my arms.

Needless to say, we both awoke feeling lousy.

He didn't want any breakfast so lunch had to be nourishing and I wanted to keep him hydrated throughout the day. I knew I had some bones and some scraps of vegetables in the freezer. I would make bone broth, the healing, nutritious superfood of our grandmothers, great grandmothers and great-great granmothers.
Rich in protein, vitamins, and nutrients and minerals in general, it is actually known to block cold symptoms and help build up your gut. I even read somewhere that warm salt water helps keep mucus thin and kill bacteria and vegetables are known to help boost the immune system.

I had never used pork bones before, but I had randomly picked a few up the previous week and thought they would make an even richer, darker broth. However, when I started making it, I noticed the smell was stronger than usual, more penetrating, to the point that it almost bothered me a little. My mind started working: the strong flavor probably would stand up to some very bold, aromatic ingredients, and that was how this oriental-inspired broth was born. I threw in a large knob of ginger, some star anise, a nice glug of soy sauce for saltiness and there it was. At that point, the soba noodles sitting in a drawer and some fresh bean sprouts seemed like the perfect match.

It was our lunch and then it became dinner for the whole family with the addition of a runny scrambled egg that firmed up nicely when I poured the boiling broth over it.*

pork bones (but you can use beef, chicken, lamb, turkey or even fish bones)
vegetable scraps (onion, carrot, celery)
ginger, a roughly two-inch knob
2-3 star anises
soy sauce, between 1/4-1/3 cup
1 tbsp rice vinegar
pepper grains

Before I explain the process, I feel it is important to recommend using bones from the best source possible, ideally grass fed and organically raised animals. Bones are usually cheap and often your butcher will give them to you for free, so please make sure you know where the animal came from as the broth will be absorbing the nutrients directly from the marrow.
Ideally, the first step for making bone broth is roasting the bones in the oven for maximum flavor. Many people then simmer them in water for a few minutes to get rid of any impurities. However, if you are short on time, you can skip both steps and skim the scum off when you make the stock. 
When you are ready to make the broth, whichever way you decide to proceed, cover the bones with just water (if you want the broth to gel, don't use too much otherwise it will get too diluted. Also, your broth will gel better if you use more joint bones than meat bones, but a slow cooked broth that doesn't gel is still full of the minerals like calcium, collagene, magnesium etc. that makes it so healthy).
Next, add all the ingredients listed above. You don't need to peel the ginger, but bruise it to extract maximum flavor. The vinegar helps coax out all the nutrients from the bones, but is not a must.
Ideally you should let the broth simmer for as long as 48 hours (depending on the kind of bones you are using) for best results, but if all that time is going to stop you from making your own broth, then don't let it! Simmering for a couple of hours still makes a tasty broth that your body will greatly benefit from and it is a million times better for you than anything you buy in a box.

*As I post this, I am sitting in my kitchen with my daughter: my son went back to kindergarden today and she is home now with a stomach bug... what was that about bone broth and building up the gut? Looks like I need to make me another batch**.

**Another batch was made, and just in time for my son to get an upset stomach too. 

I've been making a lot of this broth lately: here I used beef bones, about to go into the oven to roast

Bones out of the oven and ready to be covered in water


  1. I do so love a good bone broth. Hoping your little ones are better soon and you get your needed rest. I just went through this two weeks ago and I'm still tired! Zzzzzzzzz lol.

    1. Hi Corrie, I hope by now you have recuperated... for you and for me ;o)

  2. Having gone through my child-rearing years and survived them, I have empathy. I wish you plenty of patience, it does get easier, they do grow-up and then you sit back and wonder how these years went by so quickly. Great idea for a broth, love the simplicity of it.

    1. Yes, it is such a simple thing to make yet so many people automatially pick up the pre-packaged stuff at the supermarket! I hope this can be of use to anybody who has never tried and thinks that perhaps it is a much more daunting process than it really is.

  3. So sorry your little guy was sick - hope he is feeling better by now! The broth does sound quite good, and I love anything with soba noodles!


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