Being in the kitchen is a therapeutic retreat for me and often it’s the simplest of chores I find relief in the most. Kneading dough, stirring a sauce, methodically chopping up veg. simple tasks with huge rewards. At night, when my little family sit down to dinner, the therapy’s complete as we tear apart that bread or sup up the soup.
A few weeks ago M was ill, followed in succession by myself and then G. When you’re ill, once the bread and water stage has passed, there’s nothing better, no dish more rectifying than a warming bowl of soup, so I immersed a chicken in some water and a few hours later fed the broth to my baby and husband and watched their frowns fade away.
Over the next couple of days, magic potion having worked its spell sending G right back into work, M and I ate that broth as a soup for lunch and I was reminded of not only how healthy, but how simple, satisfying and economic a hearty soup lunch is. Years ago, before I met G, I’d eat soup ever so often. It was lunch or dinner, or breakfast even. When we moved in together that fell by the wayside as to a Turk, a bowl of soup – no matter how filling the bowl- doesn’t cut it as a meal. Now I’m home with M and he’s eating like a horse, we have a real lunch everyday. I’d held off giving him soup because to be honest I couldn’t quite figure out how to – that’s the thing with baby-led weaning, liquid food is rather tricky! Now, at eleven months, M’s quite used to eating solids and is also able to hold a glass to drink so I figured we’d give it a try; pop the broth in a glass and the solids in a bowl. It worked a treat, he loves it and as the soup’s so versatile we can eat it for lunch repeatedly without either of us getting bored.
This soup’s so healthy yet satisfying it really is therapy in itself, a soup for the soul, and it’s simple enough to make that even if you hate to cook as much as I love it, you’ll make it time and time again. The only real cost to the soup is the chicken as you can add whatever veg/carbs you have to hand.
1 whole chicken (NB: I only use organic chicken for soup because you’re going to reap all the goodness of the marrow in the bones as well as the meat. You really can taste the difference)
One white onion, peeled & halved
A carrot, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons flour
A glug olive oil/knob of butter
Veg of your choice
Cover the chicken in water and leave to simmer for 1-2 hours until the meat is cooked. Take the chicken from the pan, remove the meat, set to one side & pop the bones back into the liquid. Add in the peeled, halved onion, the chopped carrot and leave to simmer for another 2-3 hours. (NB: I use the pressure cooked for this step which halves the cooking time) Drain the liquid and discard the bones/veg. Into the pan add either the olive oil or butter and make a roux using the flour. Gradually add the stock back in and stir until it’s glossy and slightly thickened.
Now you’re all set to tailor the soup to your fancy.
To keep it flexible, and to prevent the meat toughening, I store the meat and the soup separately in the fridge. When I’m ready for lunch, I add just enough pasta/rice/noodles/veg/chicken to enough stock for that meal.
M’s favourite variation on this chicken soup is this:
In an empty pan, steam a chopped carrot until almost tender. Add in brocoli stalks, a handful of mini-pasta wheels and a chopped courgette. Ladel in two-three spoons of stock and a decent amount of shredded chicken. Simmer for 3-5minutes until the chicken’s warm and the pasta is cooked.
Into my bowl I add hot sauce/chilli flakes/salt/soy and into both of ours I’ll add chopped parsley & lemon juice. You could, of course, thicken the soup further with dumplings or even a dash of cream.