Soup for the soul

by Lauraine Jacobs / 18 May, 2017
Creamy chicken soup. Photo/Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot; Black bowl and napkin www.greenwithenvy.co.nz

Creamy chicken soup. Photo/Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot; Black bowl and napkin www.greenwithenvy.co.nz

Two variations of nourishing broth are just the ticket as the cold and flu season looms.

There’s something amazingly comforting about chicken soup. It has long been regarded as a soothing remedy for the infirm or anyone who has a cold or feels a little flu-like. Easy to digest and bursting with gentle flavours, a well-made chicken broth provides nourishment and reassurance with every spoonful.

The basis for a good, flavoursome chicken soup is a tasty chicken stock. I find chicken stock is not only a terrific standby in the refrigerator or freezer, but also one of the most rewarding and yet simple staples to make. It takes no time to assemble the basic ingredients: the chicken bones or carcasses, a few vegetables – carrots, onion, celery – a bay leaf or two, parsley stalks and some peppercorns.

Throw these into a large saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to a simmer and allow the stock to bubble away for at least two hours, occasionally skimming any flotsam that rises to the top. Then it’s a matter of passing the liquid through a sieve and storing the stock in clean jars until needed. The fat that rises to the top and sets hard will help to keep the stock fresh for a week or two, if refrigerated.

When you want to use this stock, remove the cap of fat when the stock is cold. You can discard it or perhaps use it to make really tasty roast potatoes. Simmering fresh green vegetables in a slosh of chicken stock makes a heap of difference to the flavour. Casseroles, stews and sauces will have more intense flavours with a strong stock.

Many years ago, I took a “Chinese” cooking class and I remember the tutor telling us that there was no need to add anything to chicken stock except chicken, simmering it alone while aiming for a real chicken flavour. I am not sure I agree with this, but it is worth pointing out that if you want stock for an Asian-inspired dish, you can add a few Asian flavourings: lemongrass, coriander, Thai basil or Vietnamese mint and fresh ginger root. If you want a more European flavour, stick with carrots, onions, celery, and thyme or parsley.

For a golden stock, roast the chicken bones before making the stock. Fresh uncooked chicken bones will give a lighter, white stock that may be a little cloudy.

Creamy chicken soup

1kg free-range boneless chicken thighs, skin removed

3 tbsp butter

300ml white wine

2 large onions, roughly chopped

2 celery sticks, roughly chopped

2 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves

2 bay leaves

1 tsp salt

1 litre water

2 tbsp flour

200ml cream

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and add the chicken thighs. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning frequently so they do not colour. Add the wine, turn up the heat and bring to a rapid boil to evaporate the alcohol.

Add the onions, celery and tarragon with the bay leaves and salt and toss together over the heat. Bring the water to the boil and add to the pan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are very tender. Remove the bay leaves and allow the chicken to cool.

Remove two chicken thighs from the soup and set aside to use as a garnish when serving. Blitz everything in the pan with a stick blender, or use a blender, so the soup is as smooth possible. You could purée the soup in a food processor, in batches, but it will not become quite as smooth.

Rinse out the pan and melt the remaining butter over gentle heat. Stir in the flour and allow the butter and flour mixture to cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add a couple of ladles of the puréed soup with the cream and continue to stir so that it mixes smoothly. Add the rest of the soup and heat, stirring continuously until it has thickened. You can blitz the soup again if it looks a little lumpy.

Shred the two reserved chicken thighs and stir into the soup. Scatter with a few tarragon leaves and serve piping hot.

Serves 4
Wine match: chardonnay

Chicken, vegetable and noodle soup. Photo/Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot; White bowl www.mooimooi.co.nz

Chicken, vegetable and noodle soup. Photo/Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot; White bowl www.mooimooi.co.nz

Chicken, vegetable and noodle soup

Size 16 free-range chicken

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

½ head of celery, sliced, some green leaves reserved

1 fennel bulb, sliced

6 few sprigs fresh thyme

2 large handfuls thawed baby peas

Egg noodles

1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

Wash the chicken under running cold water, then pat it dry, including the cavity, with kitchen paper. Place the whole chicken, carrots, celery, fennel and thyme into a large, deep pan and pour in 3 litres of water or enough to cover the chicken.

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer over gentle heat for 60 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. You can tell it’s cooked when the tendons and skin on the legs start to pull away.

Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pan, taking care to tilt the chicken so any liquid inside the cavity spills back into the pot. Strain the broth into a clean pan or bowl, saving the vegetables on the side.

Return the broth to the rinsed-out pan, place over medium heat and allow to simmer until the broth is reduced by half. Meanwhile, once the chicken has cooled, remove all the meat from the bones, shredding the cooked chicken into long pieces and discarding the skin and bones.

When the broth has reduced, throw the vegetables back in the pan with the peas, egg noodles and shredded chicken meat.

Simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the noodles are cooked, then remove the sprigs of thyme.

Serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and the reserved celery leaves.

Serves 4-6
Wine match: sauvignon blanc

This article was first published in the May 13, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


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