Chicken soup for the soul

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A year or so ago I met the lovely Hemsley & Hemsley sisters, Jasmine and Melissa. Their website is fantastic, and is really inspirational if you’re interested in finding healthy and wholesome recipes and food insights. One of the thing they are most passionate about is bone broth. Yes, you heard right, bone broth.

It’s not just a random thing that we crave chicken soup when ill. Most cultures have a version of bone broth that is as comforting as it is beneficial. The Jewish community call chicken soup ‘Jewish penicillin’ while old South American cultures said that ‘good broth will resurrect the dead’, not to mention the traditions surrounding tonkotsu ramen from Japan. 

Bone broths are extremely rich in minerals and amino acids as well as gelatine and electrolytes. The general rule is the longer it’s cooked, the more nutrients are extracted. So, never let the sunday roast carcass go to waste! I’ve even been known to take one home after a Sunday lunch at someone else’s house. After all, I maintain that any roast should feed you for the best part of a week.

Once you’ve created this amazing broth, what to do with it? It can be used as a base for any soups, sauces, stews and risottos, and it’s great added to things like couscous or veg. A truly versatile and cheap flavour-maker.

Making a chicken stock/bone broth

I recommend using a carcass that has already been roasted, rather than raw, as it has more flavour. Strip as much meat off as you can and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water and add in some flavourings; depending on what I have in my kitchen I add wrinkly carrots and celery, onions, bay leaves, whole peppercorns, any leftover meat juices, or occasionally lemon (if I’ve roasted the chicken with one). It’s a great way to use up some old veg (although I wouldn’t recommend adding anything like potatoes which will disintegrate and make the stock cloudy). Then simply leave it to simmer for anything from 45 minutes to 4 hours, depending on your patience! Finally, strain through a sieve to remove all bones and seasonings.

The stock will keep well in the fridge (when it cools it’ll go jelly-ish, it’s just the gelatine) or you could freeze it as long as the meat hasn’t been defrosted before. I like to use it straight away in a soup, which can then be frozen in portions for weekday lunches.

Simple chicken soup

This is a really easy and satisfying soup which is packed with nutrients and is a real back-of-the-fridge number.

Start by sautéing chopped onions in a little butter alongside any other veg you have in the fridge, such as carrots, leeks or celery. When soft chuck in half a cup of rice (I currently have wild rice in my cupboard, but white works really well too) or barley. Next add your stock and top it up with some boiling water depending on the consistency you want – remember the rice will absorb water as it cooks, so you may need to add more later on. Once the rice is almost cooked through add some leftover chicken scraps and a couple of handfuls of frozen peas. Season and simmer until it’s all cooked through.

This will keep in the fridge quite happily for about 5 days. Perfect for a comforting meal.

P.s Hemsley & Hemsley have their first book ‘The art of eating well’ coming soon, get it here.

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