Really good stock is the beginning of a whole heap of really amazing meals. The favourites in this house are risotto, soups and some really simple pasta sauces. I do use stock cubes, but only in dishes where I know I'm going to be adding other strong flavours (a spicy spaghetti with a chilli tomato sauce is a good example). I use ready made stock more and find it works really well, but I despair at the price. So every so often I attempt my own stock.
My latest attempt was inspired by a slow cooker recipe in a new book. I had never tried stock in the slow cooker before, and it sounded like a brilliant idea. As it was I followed the recipe not at all, except for the heating/timing suggestions. Instead I used some gentle guidance from the Women's Weekly Basic Cookbook (is there anything those women don't know?).
Kazari's Best Ever Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
2 Sticks of Celery, with leaves
1 Brown onion
3 Bay leaves
2 Chicken carcasses
Heat the slow cooker on High. Chop all the vegetables in fairly small pieces, leaving the skin on. Wash the chicken carcasses and break into pieces as best you can (this was a bit tricky, and very gross - scissors help). Put everything in the slow cooker and cover with boiling water. Set the slow cooker to low, and leave for 10 hours. Strain the stock, and leave in the fridge to cool. When cold, skim the fat off the top.
This was seriously the best stock I ever made. After I skimmed the fat, it was slightly gelatinous, deep in colour and smelt really, really good. I've frozen almost all of it, so I get to decide later what to make.