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bowl of chicken noodle soupProbably no-one really needs a recipe for chicken noodle soup, but the combination of freezing weather and everyone in the family having a cold means that we’ve made this quite a bit recently, and I thought it might be useful to show how flexible a recipe it can be for using up bits and pieces and creating other dishes, hence the 2-for-1.

I make this two main ways.  If I want to make a quick weekday meal, I’ll use chicken drumsticks or wings from the supermarket, or even the carcass of a free-range BBQ chicken, keeping the meat to shred and add back in. Preferably though, I’ll use a whole organic chicken from the markets, which makes enough for leftover chicken and stock.

a mix of left over veges go in

The vegetables are flexible – I always use a vegetable from the onion family, and carrot and something else from the Umbelliferae family (I’ve been reading Deborah Madison on plant families). In practice I’ve used carrots, celery and their leaves, celeriac, parsley and stems, onions and their trimmings, leeks or their tops, and spring onions. This time I used carrot, onion, a left over celeriac top and leaves, and some bits of celery and leaves.

soup ingredients ready to go

Previously I used to use chicken carcasses for the stock and cook the chicken to add to the soup separately so it wouldn’t overcook. Now, I cook the whole chicken until tender, remove from the liquid and roughly strip the bulk of the meat – breasts, thighs and drumsticks – and return the remainder to the pot to cook for another hour or so and extract all the flavour.

stock simmering

This forms the basis for another potential meal; after straining the stock, I strip every scrap of the remaining meat from the carcass, and use it to make potted chicken, also known as chicken rillettes, though I probably wouldn’t dignify my efforts with that title.

chicken rillettes

This can all be done the day before if that’s easier, with the only last minute bits being to reheat the stock with the shredded chicken and diced carrot, add cooked egg noodles, and add plenty of chopped parsley and salt and pepper.

Chicken noodle soup

Serves 4

  • 1 1.5kg organic chicken
  • 2 carrots, halved
  • 2 onions/leek tops/handful of spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks celery/celeriac trimmings/bunch of parsley stalks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 250g fine egg pasta (noodles)
  • large handful parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the soup ingredients, except for the pasta, parsley and seasoning into a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 45 min or until the chicken is just tender.

Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and cool enough to remove the breast, thigh, and drumstick meat from the bones. Reserve this meat and refrigerate. Return the bones, remaining meat and skin to the pot and simmer for another hour or until the chicken is falling apart.

Strain the stock through a large sieve, retaining the bones and vegetables. The stock can be put aside at this stage to make the soup another day. If you are making the rillettes, remove all the remaining chicken from the bones and reserve. Also reserve some of the cooked onion.

Otherwise, return 1.5L of the stock to the saucepan, and add the carrots from the stock, quartered lengthwise and sliced. Add as much of the shredded reserved chicken as you want to use and season with salt and pepper to taste. The remaining stock and chicken can be frozen, used in a risotto, for sandwiches, other soup, whatever you like.

In a separate medium saucepan, cook the pasta in boiling water until barely al dente and drain. Add the pasta to the soup, check the seasoning, and serve topped with parsley.

Note: Unless you really prefer gluggy noodles, this is best eaten soon after the noodles are added. If you want to make a couple of meals worth then use all the chicken and stock and make as above but don’t add the noodles for the next day’s meal until serving.

Chicken rillettes

  •  3 Tbs butter
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded chicken (basically whatever meat you can salvage) from the carcass
  • 1/4 onion from the stock (approx), chopped
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 c of the chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs ea fresh tarragon and/or thyme and/or parsley

Heat the butter in a small saucepan. Add the spring onions and cook for about 5 min until softening, but not coloured. Add the cooked onion, chicken, stock and tarragon and thyme if using, and simmer until the stock is reduced by half. Season well with salt and pepper and add the parsley if using. Pack into a bowl or small ramekins and chill. Serve with crusty bread and pickled cucumbers.

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