Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Chicken Soup

This is as much about chicken stock; the ritual of the cooking week unthinkable without it. I would implore anyone not to feel a sense of sourcery as the big pot fills with flavour busting fresh ingredients in anticipation of the long slow simmer.  

The Chinese regard chicken soup as a good tonic for the depleted,  it's famously known to many as Jewish penecilin.  And for good reason, it revives the weary, fortifies the convalescing and makes one feel all is well with the world.  It  hits the spot like nothing else.  

The first thing is to establish a really good supply of the blessed bones.  I am almost reluctant to tell where I buy mine, for fear of finding out they are sold out.  But I will share with you...... Borough Market Wyndham House Poulty, from Hertfordshire, rears amazing chickens, all free range and fed well.   They sell carcasses for 50p.  I buy 4 at a time and make a batch, freeze and then use the stock in countless ways.  The London Farmers Market has a great stall selling chicken, game and lamb, Layer Marney of Essex.  Here also one can buy both excellent chickens and bones.   The ultimate prize is to buy a boiler, but these are hard to find and if I did have a source, I probably wouldn't tell where it is.    But where ever you are there will be a good butcher, a farmers market or a farm, so start to discover the great world of sourcing your good ingredients.  The one place you will not find them is the supermarket.

There are 2 types of stock: Class I, made with raw bones and Class 2, made with left over bones.  Obviously the class 2 isn't as strong, but has it's uses in soup making and for a veloute.  I never miss the opportunity to make a stock with the bones of a chicken roast.   This is where the higher cost of decent chicken comes  into it's own as you can make the meal keep going.  There is a left over chicken & vegetable pie to use the stock with, a risotto, a rice pilaff, spelt pilaff (as below), vegetable soup to name a few.

Stock making is deeply satisfying and of course is the backbone of all good soups, stocks and stews.  So without further ado, here is the extremely simple recipe for making a nourishing chicken stock or soup.
  • 2 chicken carcasses with giblets if you can (not the liver as it causes cloudy stock)
  • 2 large onions peeled
  • 1 leek cleaned
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bayleaves, teaspoon pepper corns, teaspoon fennel seeds, sprigs of thyme, parsley stalks
  • cold water to cover
In the photo above I used double of  everything.


Simply chuck it all together, cover with fresh cold water, bring to the boil, skim as necessary and simmer with the lid on for 3-4 glorious chicken soup smelling hours.  

If you are using left over bones and scraps, then cut up the veg into large chunks, as you simmer for 2 hours.  Any longer can make the stock bitter.

Allow this to cool then drain through a thin mesh.  Portion into different sized containers and refrigerate or freeze.

If you are making chicken soup, then you can simmer some rice noodles and bits of chicken and serve with some chopped spring onion........ or spice it up with ginger, chili, coriander for chicken noodle soup.

For a retro cream of chicken soup melt 50 gms of butter and add 50gms of flour, cook out for a minute and then slowly add the stock, blending it slowly before adding more stock until you have a thickened chicken stock, season and add a splash of cream and chives - serves 2.

Happy chicken stock making!

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