Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Whole chicken and leek soup

This week, it got cold, and I got a cold. Let me start by saying I am no good at being sick. By this I mean I am not stoic in suffering. Because I know this, and don't like to be around sick me as much as anyone else, I throw everything I can think of at getting better. This means gargling with salt water, drinking copious amounts of ginger tea and grapefruit juice, swallowing spoonfuls of Manuka honey and raw garlic, dabbing dots of tea-tree oil at the back of my throat, steaming my bowling ball head with Vicks Vapour Rub, and soup. Lots of soup. 

The restorative powers of chicken soup are well-documented. It's clear, and comforting and well, clean, which, when your body feels like it's been overtaken by germs, is no small thing. This recipe, by Australian cookbook doyenne Margaret Fulton, poaches a whole chicken in an onion-infused water or broth, then takes it out to remove its skin and bones, chops its white flesh into bite-size pieces and adds it back to the pot with fat rounds of leek and carrot. With a bit of parsley torn on top and a few grinds of black pepper it's simple and satisfying and just feels like it's making you better. At the very least, it makes you stop, and sit and savour, while you peruse the official FIFA World Cup Guide and decide which team you will support after Australia (Argentina!) and flip through cookbooks deciding what you will cook when you get up at 2 and 4am for a month to watch matches. It's going to be a busy June/July. Lucky I got the cold out of the way. And some soup in the freezer. Whether you're sick or well, or just crazy enough to forgo sleep for four weeks of football once every four years, it's always good to have on hand.

Whole chicken and leek soup
Adapted from a recipe in Margaret Fulton's Kitchen

As pasta becomes soggy and unappetising if left to languish in leftover soup, I like to cook it to order, hence the small saucepan instructions further down the recipe. But if you're making this for many (whether sick or healthy), add the pasta (however much you like) at the same time as the chopped chicken and cook according to packet instructions.

1 1.5kg chicken
water or chicken stock
1 onion, peeled
1 bay leaf, optional
1 carrot, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 leeks, trimmed, washed, then cut into thick slices
macaroni (or any other small shape pasta), optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Wash the chicken inside and out. Place in a large saucepan with enough water or chicken stock to cover. Add the onion and bay leaf, bring to the boil, skim the surface and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Addthe carrot and celery to the soup together with the leeks. Season with salt.

Simmer a further 15 minutes til tender. Remove the chicken, draining well. Remove the wing joints and skin, and cut the flesh into bite-size pieces from the bones. Return the chicken flesh to the saucepan. Remove the onion and discard. Check broth for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

Ladle a single-size portion into a smaller saucepan, bring to the boil and add pasta and cook according to packet instructions. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a few grinds of black pepper.

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