Basic Chicken Stock & Family Chicken Soup
Oh dear, it seems I have been out of action for the blogosphere for over a month – while this has been terribly rude of me, I have a wonderful excuse, I promise. I have spent the last three weeks cavorting around Europe, and with four countries in three weeks, we somehow managed to practically spend each night in a different place.
My being awake at 4.09am and writing this I am accounting to a cheeky bout of jet lag, but my insomnia is being made easier by a large cup of tea, and Nigella playing on the TV as I write.
Now, where do I begin with my adventure? There is so much to tell, so many places and people and of course, plates of food to discuss, that I’m afraid some extra special blog posts will be coming up to focus on all this fun.
As I am yet to wade through the near thousand photos I managed to take across twenty days, I have a recipe in my artillery that was meant to be posted before my departure, but got lost in the fray of last-minute presentation.
And so, here I have it for you now, until the postcard posts begin.
This edition is a two for one special – a recipe for my Basic Chicken Stock, as well as Simple Chicken Soup.
Basic Chicken Stock
From the time when I could barely look over a kitchen counter, to this very day today, I adore chicken soup. More specifically, Greek chicken soup, which is made from three good things – chicken, risoni pasta, and water.
These simple components come together to make the very thing that I would without a doubt wish to be my last meal on earth. What could be more comforting, more soothing, than a big pot of chicken soup on the stove? With each spoonful I take, I am reminded of my grandmother’s hugs, my mother looking after me when I was ill, and the feeling of being satisfyingly full.
When I was nine, and visiting my aunty in Greece, she asked me what she could make me for lunch. I asked for chicken soup, despite the 35 degree day. And out of what could only be pure love, she obliged, and I happy consumed my chicken soup.
In my family, there are two types of chicken soup – the type I make today, which is my go-to version, a kind of easy, everyday type, and the more famous Greek chicken soup – avgolemano, which uses rice, and an egg-lemon sauce to distinguish it. The latter is most traditionally served at Easter, but can be eaten throughout the year and is delicious in its own right.
Now, the most integral part of any chicken soup, but particularly this one, is the stock. There is absolutely nothing, nothing like homemade chicken stock, and I truly insist you give it a go. My mother, and my mother’s mother would both do as I do today, and it is the best way to get chicken soup in your life. Go to the markets on a Saturday morning, and buy your chicken bones. It will take literally five minutes to get the chicken ready for the stove. Follow the method below, and potter around the house for a few hours – it thankfully can very much take care of itself. Dispense the stock into jars or containers (or even ice cube trays!) and keep in the freezer, ready to thaw at a moment’s notice. From there, you are eight minutes away from chicken soup, whenever the mood strikes.
If anything else won’t tempt you, chicken soup has to be one of the most economical dishes going around, is filling, nutritious and delicious. Chicken bones go for between $1 – $6 a kilo, while risoni is less than $2 a bag. You can end up serving dinner for the whole family and the neighbours too if you like them for under $10. Apart from this though, chicken soup is a sustainable way of cooking. These bones, which generally would go to waste, means that the entire animal is going to good use, and if you’re choosing to include meat in your diet, it is important that we consume as much of the meat as possible, for the very least out of respect.
If also, you leave the bones to cool slightly, pull the viable meat that is left on them (you should get at least a couple of cups worth), which can then be used in your chicken soup, or in sandwiches. Or if you’re like me – while the pulled chicken is still warm, season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil and eat as is. Part of this being a sustainable meal is making sure nothing goes to waste – there’s good chicken on those bones!
Because we are using the very bones of the chicken, an important note to remember – it is obvious that the lower quality the chicken, the cheaper the bones will be. At your standard butcher, chicken bones will be $1 a kilo. For free-range chickens, the price is $2 – $3. For organic, the price can be up to $6 a kilo, but when you are creating a broth that is sucking all the vitamins and minerals out of the carcass, do you really want to be ingesting bleaches, ammonia and hormones that can be in non-organic chickens? Try and buy organic, or at the very least free-range.
While others may add vegetables or herbs to their stocks, this is the way my family has always made their stock, and in all honesty, I don’t think it needs anything else. Aren’t the best things the simplest anyway?
2.5 kilos of chicken bones (organic or at the very least, free-range)
Enough water to cover the bones
4 tablespoons salt
Remove chicken bones from bag and wash thoroughly under a running tap before putting in a deep stock pot.
Cover with water until water is a centimetre above the chicken bones. Add salt, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.
While simmering, use a small, extremely fine sieve to scoop any grit or foam that comes to the surface – this will create a beautifully clear stock.
Simmer for two and a half, to three hours, depending on how concentrated you would like the stock. The water will decrease as it simmers, but you do not need to top up the water. Note that the water tends to overboil with the lid on – just place on top on an angle to allow the steam to escape.
Drain bones, and pass stock through a sieve to allow it to be clear, and free of any chicken. You should be left with roughly five litres of chicken stock.
From this point – the possibilities are endless – use it for soups, risottos, bakes, or anything else your heart desires! Otherwise freeze in containers to be on hand.
Family Chicken Soup
My absolutely, never fail, favourite meal of all time. So simple – one of the shortest recipes I probably will ever write. We traditionally use small pasta in our chicken soup, which can sound strange, but works so well. Risoni, or stelle, which are small star-shaped pasta are best. Of course, you’re also welcome to use alphabet pasta if you need to practice your A – Z, or enjoy finding your name in your spoon. This soup is best on cold days, if your suffering from a cold, or if you simply have cold hands and would like nothing more than to warm up with a hot bowl in your grip.
2 litres of homemade, organic chicken stock
Half a litre of hot water (for a richer, deeper stock, omit water)
3/4 cup of risoni, stelle or similar pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring stock and water to the boil, and add 3/4 cup of your pasta of choice.
Simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the pasta is soft to the bite.
Season with salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon if you wish.
Scatter in chicken pulled from bones, or small pieces of roast chicken.
Serve with some crusty bread, and revel in the absolute perfection of chicken soup.