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If you were asked to name ten essential kitchen store-cupboard ingredients, what would you include? Flour? Salt? Sugar? My guess is that most cooks would include some kind of instant stock on their list. Even the keenest of cooks is unlikely to have sufficient time to make their own stock for every occasion. In the years when we were entertained by that wholesome family in the TV ads who sat down to yet another of mum's imaginative culinary creations each evening there were fewer brands of instant stock from which to choose. Now the array is staggering though the quality is not universally impressive. Some brands are quite acceptable while some items lurking on supermarket shelves are little more than little cuboid chemical fests. Over ten years ago a friend introduced me to Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder. I tried it and I have never looked back. Marigold is the only brand I now use.
When I started to use Marigold, I could only find it in "healthfood" shops. Within a few years it began to appear on supermarket shelves and now all of the major stores sell the standard version. In some supermarkets you can also find a wider choice from the range - the organic and the reduced salt varieties. For the moment, though, let's stay with the standard version.
The size of pack you are most likely to find on a supermarket shelf is the 150g drum. (500g and 1 kg containers are manufactured but are less easy to find.) The neat pot will have a green label background (standard version only) with an orange plastic lift off/snap on lid. The first time you open a new drum you will see a foil seal which is easy to remove. Then you will see an attractive golden yellow powder flecked with small, green flakes of herbs. The recommendation is that you use four teaspoons per litre of water to make a basic stock but my recommendation is to experiment! Find out what suits your taste. Discover how easy it is to adjust the strength of the bouillon according to the dish you are making. For me, the total control and flexibility of how much powder you use is one of the advantages of this product. If I am making a small quantity of a delicately flavoured sauce then perhaps only a half or even a quarter of a teaspoon is all I need. No more carefully re-wrapped, half-cubes going claggy in my cupboard! It is so much easier to taste-and-add a little at a time until the intensity of the flavour you want has been reached. Which brings us to the next point, the flavour.
The flavour is rounded, full, balanced and yet remains delicate and natural. The balance of herbs in the mix is just right - enough to provide depth of flavour but never so much as to overwhelm or dominate the dish you are creating. It will perfectly season the most delicate sauce, risotto or light soup right through to hearty casseroles and gravies. I no longer need an array of stock choices on the shelf. Marigold is excellent for vegetable dishes but also for fish, poultry and meat dishes of every type.
So what about the ingredients and nutritional values of the powder? In these respects, Marigold was years ahead of other instant stock brands. Other manufacturers may be catching up now in terms of reducing additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), but Marigold has always been additive-free. The company state that the whole range of bouillon powders are free from preservatives, colouring, artificial flavourings and genetically-modified material. Each of the powder varieties differ in terms of nutritional details and this is something that is particularly important for anyone with dietary needs or preferences to note.
~The "standard version" (green drum) is also free from yeast, nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten and MSG. (Great news for allergy and intolerance sufferers!)
~ The"reduced salt" version (purple drum). This is free from yeast, nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten, MSG and dairy ingredients and is labelled as "vegan".
~The "organic" version (red drum). This is also suitable for a vegan diet. It is also free from yeast, nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten, MSG and dairy products.
~The "organic reduced salt" version (the grey label). Again no nuts, hydrogenated oil, gluten or dairy product is to be found in this powder. It does, however, contain yeast.
Older versions of the powder bouillons contained peanut oil, apparently, but the stock now contains palm oil which, as you would may now expect, is obtained from a sustainable source.
Marigold have a very useful website where you can find further information about the range of products:
An excellent comparison table of nutritional facts about the Bouillon range is provided in pdf format. From the homepage click on "Product Info" and from that page click on "Marigold Bouillon Product Content Table". This table is presented in a detailed and very clear style indicating which product contains what and therefore it assists you in choosing which of the range is right for your dietary needs.
You will notice from this page that the product also comes in the form of 'cubes' for cooks who prefer that style.
Explore the website further and you can read a detailed description of the production process of this Swiss made bouillon. Other products in the company's range are also shown. There are recipe suggestions - with meat and without. Some are even provided by Delia and Nigella! The tempting ideas include Lemon Risotto, Saffron Spiced Lamb and Prawn Laksa.
Given the excellent quality, I find this product to be really good value for money - expect to pay £1.54 to £1.88 for the standard Bouillon and a few pennies more for the reduced salt or organic varieties. They can be found in most supermarkets and they are still available in 'healthfood' stores. One 150g drum lasts me longer than a pack of 12 standard stock cubes. It is economical, high quality and I would not hesitate to recommend this versatile and additive-free ingredient to all cooks.
(NB: this review has appeared on other sites under the same username.)