Chicken soup is one of those things everyone should know how to make. You shouldn’t be able to leave school without knowing how to at least roast a chicken, make chicken soup and cook yourself an omelette. This recipe is for making stock and soup from scratch, but if you’ve roasted a chicken, make stock with the carcass to extract every last bit of value and goodness from it. The stock will keep in the freezer for three months, ready for those times when a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup and a hug is the only thing that will do. – Recipe contributed by Kristin Jensen, Nine Bean RowsFor the stock:
1 large whole chicken
1 onion, unpeeled and quartered through the root end
3 carrots, scrubbed well, unpeeled and cut in half
3 celery stalks, cut in half (leaves included)
1 head of garlic, cut in half around its middle to expose all the cloves
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of fresh parsley, stalks only
1 tbsp salt
For the soup:
1–2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2–3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.5 litres of your homemade chicken stock
200g macaroni a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
To make the stock, put the chicken in a large stockpot, one big enough to hold it and all the vegetables plus plenty of water. Add all the remaining stock ingredients, then pour over enough cold water to cover the chicken. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce it to a steady simmer and let it bubble away, covered, for 90 minutes to ensure the chicken gets fully cooked.
Partially uncover the pot and continue to let it simmer for a further 30–60 minutes to let the stock reduce a bit and get a more concentrated flavour. Don’t let the stock boil for more than 3 hours max, though, or the texture of the chicken will get too soft.
Carefully remove the chicken from the pot onto a plate and allow it to cool. Strain the stock through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing on the vegetables with the back of a spoon to get as much liquid as possible out of them, then discard them. If you’re making the stock ahead of time, cover the bowl with cling film and put it in the fridge overnight to allow the fat to congeal on the top, then skim it off.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and any other unsavoury bits, then dice or shred the chicken. You’ll only need half of it for the soup, so save the rest for adding to pasta, stir-fries, salads, lentils, risotto, chicken salad sandwiches – you get the idea.
To make the soup, heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery along with a good pinch of salt (to keep the onion from browning) and some pepper. Cover the pot with a lid and sweat the veg for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, just until fragrant.
Add a few handfuls of the cooked shredded chicken and 1.5 litres of the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a lively simmer and add the pasta. A lot of chicken noodle soup recipes call for wide pasta noodles, but I like to use macaroni because it’s easier to scoop up with a spoon. If you’re not feeling the best to begin with, you want the act of eating your soup to be as undemanding as possible. Cook for 10–15 minutes, until the pasta is cooked through. Add the parsley at the last minute.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Pass around plenty of crusty bread to mop up every last drop of the nourishing stock. Serve steaming hot and feel better soon.
Tip: If you’re very organised, prep the vegetables for the soup before you make the stock so that you can add the carrot peelings, celery leaves and onion and garlic skins to the stock pot. You can freeze any leftover chicken stock for up to three months.
Photo by Katie Quinn