A Soup of 2 halves……

Also known as Chicken Soup for the Social Isolated Soul

So like nearly every recipe I post, it comes with a story, and I know right now you are not really doing anything, unless you are one of the key workers in the UK who are doing an amazing job in keeping the cogs of our country turning, or you are in an area of the world that isn’t in some form of lockdown or Social Isolation at the moment.  My point being, as you are not doing anything, go grab a cup of coffee, tea, or maybe something stronger and settle down.

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Around, 15 years ago, someone came into my life in a bustle, a hustle and a sh*t load of swear words…. I met this amazing Spanish lady who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was, nor was she afraid to show you huge amounts of love.   Now I know it sounds like I’m talking about her in the past tense, but she is very much still here, and very much a big part of our lives…

I met her, I liked her, but there was one time that I really knew I loved her like family when she came to my house as I was cooking.  She walked into the kitchen and looked over my shoulder.  “What is this?” she asked, pointing to the pan of bubbling liquid on top of the cooker.  “Just some chicken soup I’m trying out” I said.  I knew she could cook, I was hoping she would say it looks good, just add some herbs, salt, paprika…..

“That’s no soup….. thats a pan of shit!” was her less than encouraging response.  For a split second, I was shocked, then I laughed. I laughed loud as I knew we would really get on.

So, even though she taught me how to make a pretty decent chicken soup with chicken breast, or a chicken thigh, I was still determined to make one from the carcass of a chicken. After all, what better way to use up the whole chicken and creating minimal food waste.

So I found some recipes, I adapted them, I played around with them a bit, and finally have come up with my Chicken Soup.  It’s faffy, fiddly and a real thief of time, but right now, for many of us, time is something we have in abundance.

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First you need the leftovers of a roast chicken.  When I know I am going to make some soup from the roast chicken, I pack it full of flavour.  An onion, red or white gets stuffed inside.  Along with a bunch of herbs, generally rosemary and sage.  The a lemon gets stuffed in.  I then will mix some ‘herbs de provence’ with some butter and smear that under the skin of the chicken breasts followed by a bulb or two of garlic, halved and placed in the roasting pan.  Salt and pepper sprinkled on top with maybe some paprika, and a drizzle of garlic oil.  Not only does this make for a wonderful flavour for the roast chicken, it makes for a great stock base for the soup.

When carving the chicken, make sure all the onions, lemon, herbs, bones, skin (if not eating the skin on the day) gets put back in the roasting pan.  Go, devour your chicken and leave the roasting pan to go cold.  I often just cover it and leave in the fridge until the next day.IMG_9611

Now, you are ready to start the first day of the soup….. scrape everything out of the pan into a large saucepan.  even the gloopy chicken fat, burnt bits from the bottom, all of it into the pan. At this stage, I add some bay leaves as well.  Cover with water, and place on a high heat.  When it comes to the boil, you will notice some scum floating at the top.  Bring down to the lowest your gas or electric can go for a real gentle simmer, remove the scum from the top, place a lid on and leave it for as long as you can.

My dogs love the smells this creates while simmering.  It fills the whole kitchen with warmth.

Now leave it alone for at least 2 hours, 3 or 4 if you can, just gently simmering away, so all the goodness from the bones leak out into the broth.  Check on it every half hour or so just to make sure there is still enough liquid in the pan.  If not, just top it up with some water.

Strain the liquid into a bowl, making sure you catch all the bones and (technical term) bits.  Leave on the side to cool down.  Now for the messy part.  Separate any meat from the bones.  Keep some of the larger bones as you may need them tomorrow.  Place the bones and meat in separate dishes and when cool enough place in the fridge.

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The stock will take ages to cool down enough for you to be able to place in the fridge.  You will notice it is a dark golden colour, almost mirror like.  The reason it looks like a mirror is the fat from the skin, the butter and oil that was added when you prepared the bird for roasting.

Place the stock in the fridge and leave it for 24 hours.  This gives enough time for the fat to rise and set and will make it easier to remove from the stock.

Now, the next day, you need to tip the stock into a saucepan and heat through, adding some salt and pepper if needed.  If the soup doesn’t have enough flavour, add the bones you saved and let simmer for about an hour.  This will add a further depth of flavour to the soup.  Once it is at the required taste, add some chopped onions, chopped carrots, and some small shaped pasta.  Don’t over fill the pasta as it will swell up and you’ll just have a bowl of pasta!!

Heat through until the pasta is soft and then serve.