Bouillon: a clear, seasoned broth or thin soup made by stewing meat, fish or vegetables in water. In other words, a “stock”. It was a great classic in French country cooking – and renowned as a perfect food for those with weak digestions - but I doubt it is made much in private homes nowadays, even though it does have an enviable reputation as a slimming aid in various diets and detoxification programmes (“bone broth” is undoubtedly very fashionable!). I certainly do not keep a great big bubbling saucepan of stock simmering away on a back-burner all day – life in the 21st century no longer lends itself to that kind of lengthy, leisurely food preparation, and I am seldom at home for long enough to let an old-fashioned bouillon cook away for hours on end and become nutrient-rich.
Enter commercial bouillon to the rescue, in the form of the stock cube and, more importantly, the tin of bouillon powder. Concentrated flavour, widely available, simple to use, invaluable as a seasoning to impart some zest and depth to a dish. While some products contain a number of additives and artificial ingredients and are to be avoided, organic bouillon powder has been a staple in my kitchen for years now and I never hesitate to use it if whatever I am cooking needs some extra help, a bit of a boost, a tad more sparkle and interest.
However, if you think that the “organic” label means it is totally pure, you are mistaken! I noticed recently that the well-known brand I had been using contains maltodextrin which, although derived from natural carbohydrates such as potatoes, corn, rice and wheat, is heavily processed and has caused some controversy over the last few years, mainly because of its high glycemic load which can disturb blood sugar levels. I therefore started looking for an alternative and was taken aback to find that another well known, widely available, brand of organic bouillon powder contained both sugar and glucose syrup...... Not encouraging! I must get into the habit of reading labels on organic products!
But an internet search along the lines of “organic, totally pure, additive free” bouillon finally produced a solution in the form of Steenbergs’ of Yorkshire “Organic Vegetable Bouillon” which is vegan, sugar-free and organic. Ingredients are listed as “sea salt, organic dried vegetables and organic spices – with no additives” and include carrot powder, onion, leek powder, potato powder, garlic powder, savory, parsley, celery bulb powder, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, thyme, sage and marjoram.
The texture is very fine, far more so than the other products I have used, making it easy to dissolve, and the flavour is intense, faintly spicy and packed with umami and savouriness. In fact Sous-Chef has taken to enjoying a “cup-of-bouillon” mid-morning and mid-afternoon as an aromatic pick-me-up! The salt content is high so it is best to add it to food before any seasoning, then taste and adjust as necessary. There is also however a salt-free version.
Steenbergs’ bouillon powder is available in some large city health shops, and if your local health shop does not stock it, it is worth suggesting it to them. Alternatively, you can order it online direct from Steenbergs'.