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Chicken Soup and some thoughts on stock

18 Oct

Chicken Soup and some thoughts on stock

I love soup, particularly chicken soup, and although my recipe is very different from a traditional Jewish recipe, it does seem to soothe all ills and just be the ultimate comfort, simple meal. This article also brings up the topic of stock, and why so many people, chefs included, rave about the wonders of buying stock and even using stock cubes. Personally I never buy either, and no I don’t spend hours making stock. Anyway, first the recipe.

This recipe is fairly loose, and does not include exact quantities. It is more to give you an idea of how you can create wonderful chicken soup, whether you are using up left-over roast chicken, or planning to make a big batch, so buying a whole chicken to feed a crowd. On this occasion, I used a left-over chicken. The one in question weighed almost 3 lbs. It was first served up for a family roast for the 3 of us. A couple of days later, I made myself some chicken sandwiches. Then for the soup: I cut the rest of the chicken off the carcass. There was only a small bowlful left by now. My method ensures maximum chicken flavour even without masses of chicken flesh. I like to make stock from bones, and I’ll talk about this later, but on this occasion I just wanted to make the soup, so I used my quick method. I fried some onions, a couple of sticks of celery, 3 carrots and 2 maincrop potatoes. After cooking this mixture for about 5 minutes, I put the chicken carcass into my pot and added enough water to cover the chicken, probably a couple of pints. I then added freshly chopped herbs and a spoonful of dijon mustard, plus salt and pepper. I brought it to the boil and then simmered it for about half an hour. After checking that the vegetables were soft, I removed the carcass and discarded it.

I am a fan of creamy soups, but not ones which are completely pureed. Also, I do not like pureed meat in soups, but this is all personal taste. So my next step was to part blitz my soup using my stick blender. In fact it is quite difficult to completely blitz soup using a stick blender – I always seem to miss a few bits, so this style of soup is easy to make. I then added the pieces of chicken to the soup and a dollop of creme fraiche.

This made enough for about 4 people, depending on appetite size. I tend to keep it in the fridge and have it over a few days, only heating up the quantity required at the time. It is amazing the difference it makes cooking the bones in the soup. It is like making your stock and soup all at once, and the chicken flavour is so much more intense.

On the subject of stock, I detest stock cubes. The list of ingredients is alarming for a start! I want my food to taste of the food I am cooking, not a list of e numbers. Also, I so often see recipes suggesting the use of gluten-free or low-salt stock. Well when I make stock it contains neither salt nor gluten. Basically stock is for added flavour – you might want to make chicken stock or fish stock. I don’t believe in long and complicated stock-making methods. I sometimes buy a whole chicken and joint it for recipes, as it is more economical. As my family is fond of breast off the bone, that gives me the opportunity to take the breasts off the bone and boil them up with carrot, celery, parsley and peppercorns for a simple stock. Or if I am roasting a whole chicken, I sometimes take off the wing tips and use those as a basis for stock. Fish stock can be made from fish shells, so I sometimes buy prawns in the shell, shell them and boil up the shells with some flavourings.

For gravy with the Sunday roast, I always save any vegetable water accumulated from par-boiling potatoes and other vegetables. If you put a lemon inside the chicken, wonderful juices come out of the chicken which can be used. For pork, I often roast apples, plums or nectarines to create extra juices. And with beef, as it so lean and does not create as many juices, I tend to sit the joint on a pile of chunky onions. These can be used to start the gravy. To my gravy, once I have started it off with the enhanced meat juices and added the vegetable water, I then add other flavourings such as home-made jelly preserves, mustard and wine of either colour.

All of this ensures that the flavours of the food shine through, and that I am not adding extra, alien flavours with stock cubes and gravy mixes. It has always worked for me anyway!

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