Bone broth, a concoction prepared by simmering bones of fish, chicken or lamb on a slow flame, is an age-old elixir. The cartilage and bone break down and release a collagen-rich gelatin to create a nutritious brew.

“When you cook bones in water for a long period of time, your goal is to extract gelatin from the bones and to release nutritious compounds, including glucosamine, amino acids, electrolytes and calcium, into the broth. If you cook bones for up to an hour, you have a light, flavourful soup. If you cook for 2-3 hours, you have a heavier, nutrient dense potion: a broth," says Sarika Nair, dietitian and founder of SlimnHappy, a diet and lifestyle consultancy in Mumbai.

Bone broth can be a welcome dietary inclusion in winter. Nutritionist Purwa Duggal, head of nutrition, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai, says it “boosts immunity, which helps fight the common cold and cough that we fall prey to when the temperature dips. The broth is rich in collagen that protects our bones and joints, especially during winter. The gelatin helps to improve our gut health".

It is, in fact, one of the best sources of natural collagen, derived from the protein found in the bones, skin, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bone marrow of vertebrae animals. “The broth contains glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), complex carbohydrates found in bones and connective tissue that help improve flexibility and reduce niggling joint aches and pains," says Nair. Hyaluronic acid, one of the several GAGs found in bone broth, is commonly given as an oral supplement to osteoarthritis sufferers and injected into arthritic knee joints to reduce pain and increase mobility.

The brew is also rich in glycine, one of the key amino acids used to form collagen and gelatin, which make up the gut lining. Glycine is great for digestion, rebuilding the tissue that lines the digestive tract, helping people with food allergies and sensitivities tolerate foods more easily, and promoting probiotic balance and growth, which in turn improves metabolism. Research concurs that glycine helps reduce fatigue and improve sleep patterns. “Simply put, bone broth is nature’s multivitamin," says Varsha Gorey, senior clinical dietitian at Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai. “It is packed with folate, calcium, magnesium, sodium, vitamin A and phosphorus."

It may not measure up to a soup in taste, but there are ways of ramping up the flavour. “Use a 1:1:1 ratio of the bones of the joints, knuckles and feet as these carry maximum gelatin. Add just enough water to cover the bones, then add apple cider vinegar. Being an acidic medium, it draws out the mineral content of the bones to the maximum, and improves taste. Skim the impurities and discard. You can also throw in vegetables and herbs for enhanced flavour. Or simply use it as an additive in other recipes," suggests Duggal.

While there is no substitute for gelatin, one can make a plant-based broth for a similar health boost. Use mushroom stems for antioxidant content, parsley stems for iron and vitamins, potato skins, carrot or radish skin, even seaweed to make it more healthy," says chef Rakhee Vaswani, founder of Palate Culinary Studio & Academy, Mumbai.

When it comes to bone broth, fresh is best. Don’t choose the easy way out by picking up dehydrated bone powder and cubes off your supermarket shelf as these contain chemical preservatives and mono sodium glutamate (MSG).To extract maximum flavour from the bones, roast them before simmering. “This enhances both the colour and flavour of the broth," says Vaswani.

“It is important to understand that connective bone pieces tend to have more gelatin," she adds. Ideally, 2-3 hours of cooking is a good time to extract the best out of the bones. The longer you let it simmer, the better."

Chicken Brown Broth

Ingredients

1 large onion, quartered

1 large carrot, quartered

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 large leek, trimmed

1 large sprig of thyme

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large sprig of rosemary

1 bay leaf

4 whole black peppercorns

1 stalk celery

1-litre water

200g chicken bones

Method: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Toss the oil with chicken bones, onions, carrots, garlic, leek in a flat pan and roast for 45 minutes in the oven. In a stock pot, combine the roasted ingredients with celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, peppercorns and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the broth is thick. Strain and store for use up to a week.

By Rakhee Vaswani

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