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 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