A little chicken pick-me-up!

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

Everybody has their own go-to recipe for a heartwarming and happiness restoring meal that they know will always make them feel better. Mine, and I don't think I am alone, is a simple but epic chicken soup, and having longed for and made a batch up this week, it reminded me that this humble but nourishing bone and vegetable broth really is one of my most favourite things to cook and eat.

Chicken soup is famous for its restorative power, we have all heard it known as Jewish Penicillin and as well as being prescribed to sooth colds and flu, it has been scientifically proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. Vietnam also has a bone broth as their national dish, the Vietnamese Pho traditionally served at breakfast with meat and rice noodles, full of vitamins and minerals and is an 8 hour intensive labour of love to produce.

Mine is not nearly as complex as that, and while I admire the passion and precision that goes into making their crystal clear broth, I am very happy indeed with my much quicker although by no means speedy, version made with bony chicken pieces, water, vegetables and something starchy.... lovely traditional little dumplings, rice, noodles or I often add pearl barley which gives it an almost stew type feel.

This is a great soup which can be made from a few vegetables from your fridge, sweet rooty veg is best, whichever starchy element you want to add in, chicken and some greens. I usually use a chicken carcass left over from a Sunday roast, but as I didn't have one this time I just roasted some chicken wings and then used these bones once I had picked off the meat to add into the soup later on. You could use thighs or chicken quarters, whatever you like really.

Once you have roasted your chicken, leave it to cool long enough to take the meat off the bones and set aside for later. Put all the bones, skin, knobbly bits into a big pan and that is what you add your aromatics to, to make the base of your soup. Make sure you include as much chicken skin as you can, as this is full of collagen and helps to give the soup the gorgeous rich golden colour as well as great chickeny flavour.

As soon as this is boiling, reduce the heat and leave it to simmer for a couple of hours to get all the lovely goodness out of the bones. Strain through a sieve and then add any vegetables that you want in your soup. I usually add carrots, celery, parsnip but you can add in whatever you like. Dice them up small and simmer them in your soup for as long as they take to cook. If you are using barley, you will need to simmer for about 45 mins but pasta, rice, lentils etc will take less. I also like to add in a bit of stock just to deepen the flavour a bit. I use a powdered vegetable bouillon but a stock cube will be fine too.

Finally when you are nearly ready to eat, add in your chicken to warm up, chopped kale, spinach or chard to cook only for a couple of minutes so that you get all their leafy goodness and beautiful rich green colour and finally salt to taste, ground pepper and some chopped parsley. Absolutely delicious and a perfect supper for those days when you need a little pick-me-up!

Note that as this is made with bone stock, when it goes cold it will go more or less solid so you may need to add a tiny touch of water to it so make it soupy again, rather than a thicker stew.

10 chicken wings or a whole cooked chicken carcass

2 onions

2 sticks of celery chopped into chunks

2 carrots chopped into chunks

2 bay leaves

Good spoonful of peppercorns

2 ltr water

2tsp bouillon powder or 1 stock cube

1 carrot diced into small cubes

1 celery diced into small cubes

1 parsnip diced into small cubes

1/2 cup of pearl barley or dumplings of choice

Handful of leafy greens, such as kale, chard or spinach.

Chopped Parsley

Salt and pepper

Place the chicken wings in a roasting tin and cover with tin foil. Roast the chicken wings for 45 minutes until cooked through. Leave aside to cool slightly.

Once the meat is cool enough to handle, take off all the nice bits of chicken meat and set aside to add into the soup later.

Place all the leftover bits of chicken bones and skin etc into a large saucepan and cover with the water. Add in your onions,2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery all cut into large-ish chunks. Also add in your bay leaves and peppercorns.

Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer covered for a couple of hours.

Strain the broth through a sieve so that you have a clear chicken stock and you can discard the bones etc at this point.

Add the stock powder, vegetables and barley if you are using to the soup and simmer until cooked.

Add in the chicken and green vegetables to cook for a few minutes and then check for seasoning.

Add salt if needed and then grind a good amount of black pepper and lastly add in the chopped parsley.

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