Thursday, 12 May 2011

Chicken Soup

Bad news: I have a cold. Good news: just as I felt myself coming down with symptoms, I managed to buy a chicken, make some stock, and then fall into bed. Only to get up again to be part of the yearly lab photos. But then it was back under the duvet for me.

Luckily I had some manly help chopping the vegetables; I probably wouldn't have been able to do all this in my current state. After years of training, the SO can now make chicken soup just the way I love it. He even cuts the vegetables the same size! Light years beyond his first attempt, where he blended it in a food processor, then put chicken in, and well, NOT GOOD.

This soup is good though. And chicken soup may in fact make your cold symptoms less troubling. Or not. The recipe serves four with bread, or two with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. The thighs, wings and legs are not used, so if you want to avoid jointing a chicken, you can use a couple of chicken breasts and a tub of ready-made stock (but not stock powder). I'm also implementing a lesson from Molecular Gastronomy, which is that if you cook meat in a broth of roughly cell-plasma concentration, the flavours should be retained, and indeed extra flavour can be imparted by the stock.

For the stock:

  • 1 chicken
  • a small bunch of parlsey - stalks only
  • 1 carrot, topped and tailed
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • half a white onion, peeled
  • 3 medium bay leaves
  • 5 peppercorns

For the soup:
  • One and a half white onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 3 small potatoes
  • a small bunch of parsley - leaves only
  • a few handfuls of frozen peas
  • a tin of sweet corn

Joint the chicken, putting the thighs, wings and legs in the fridge for another day, and the breasts in the fridge for use later in the recipe. Put the feet and stripped carcass, and giblets if you have them, in a pot along with the rest of the stock ingredients, and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for up to five hours.

The final stages take only half an hour, so when you're ready, drain the stock and discard the cooked vegetables. Put the chicken breasts in the pot and cover with the hot stock, and cook for 15 minutes until the chicken breasts are cooked through. Meanwhile, finely chop the onions, and cut the carrots, celery and potatoes into small (~1cm) cubes. Fry the onions in a little olive oil in a deep pan for five minutes, until translucent. Add the rest of the chopped vegetables and sweat for a few minutes in their own juices. Remove the chicken breasts from the stock and add the stock to the vegetables, which should simmer for 5-10 minutes until tender.

Finely chop the parsley and shred the chicken into small pieces, then add to the pan along with the peas and sweet corn. Season to taste - it may need up to 1 tbsp of salt depending on how you like it. After a couple of minutes, the peas should be hot through and it's ready to serve, with a little more chopped parsley on top, and preferably to an ill person huddling under a duvet :)

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