The edibility of soup depends, to a great extent, on the quality of stock you use. Having a good fresh (or frozen) stock to hand will improve it considerably, but a couple of stock cubes will do. I also grow a lot of leeks, mainly because they're easy and they sit in the ground without a fuss for months. Leeks are my favourite soup ingredient. The recipe below uses a leftover chicken carcass. Call it Chicken soup if enough meat was left over to be detected in the bowl, otherwise make up a name based on the main ingredients.
For the stock:
- 1 chicken carcass, meat stripped off and put in the fridge
- a selection of stock-making vegetables cut into chunks - onion, carrot, leek, celery
- seasoning to taste - bay leaves and bouquet garni if you have them
- 1.5 litres water
For the soup:
- leftover chicken pieces, shredded
- a potato
- 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped - or 1 onion
- assorted vegetables - your choice.
- I sometimes find a tin of tomatoes and some haricot beans useful here if I'm short on time or vegetables
- 50g butter / 2 tblsp oil
- seasoning - extra stock / bouillon powder / pepper / spices / garlic
For the stock
Put all the ingredients into a large pan with a lid. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for around an hour. If you're freezing it to use at a later date, then do reduce the stock (by boiling it down without the lid on).
For the soup:
- Chop all the vegetables up into chunks - I dice them up small, but if you like it chunkier, then do larger dice.
- Soften the leeks/onion in butter or oil in a heavy based pan, then add the diced vegetables and sweat them gently for around 20 minutes. This slow sweating will help draw out the flavour of the vegetables.
- Add the stock and chicken, bring to the boil and simmer gently for another 20 minutes.
- Check the flavour and season accordingly. Serve with crusty bread (house rule: the more feeble the soup, the nicer the bread should be).
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- Words, pictures and recipes Jo Arnell