Good Monday morning, folks. Where was that storm they promised us? I only wanted something small, that wouldn’t cause too much damage or hurt anyone, but that would clear the air and bring on Autumn properly. Those unseasonal 18 degree C days last week were a bit odd, weren’t they? I didn’t like them at all and could never seem to dress appropriately. My red wool coat and knee high boots were like lead weights and I felt miserable. This morning, as I peered out the window, I saw only a tree with a few less leaves and a slight limp drizzle. It felt more like an Irish summer than a storm to end all days. (We can get some grim ones).
I still remember the tail of Hurricane Charley as it swept through Ireland in my childhood. Terrifying and magical, as it came in, we were rounded up and brought indoors. I remember looking for my 5 year old brother as the winds continued to rise and the rain pelted down. The wind was starting to howl and I remember skirts flowing in the wind and running back in home once we found him. This was a time in rural Ireland when children could leave the house in the morning and not come back until mealtimes without anyone worrying. The storm came. It was frightening and amazing.
The next morning when it had moved on we could still see it in the distance. Ribbon lightning rolling across the sky, and retreating before releasing some more, punctuated by thunder drones, with only seconds between in the distant sky, pink and blue and bright and spooky, but we were no longer afraid. Thankfully no one was hurt and every house was intact. Some trees had fallen, and the countryside had been cleansed of debris, only to have it redistributed in a haphazard nonsensical way. (I do understand that storms elsewhere are an unwelcome thing but ours are rarely this dangerous, and I promise I am not being flippant about those).
Never mind that this one never seemed to come, in my corner of London at least. I had stocked up and was ready anyway. One thing I had was some leftover roast chicken and a big pot of chicken stock that I had made over the weekend. Chicken Soup is archetypal nourishing goodness. I can’t bear limp lifeless ones and so I like to make them at home with love and care, using every last bit of a chicken. This time I did something different. I had roasted a chicken but had neglected to eat a leg and wing, and had even left the skin on them too (which is very unusual). I removed all of the skin that I could find, every last bit, and blitzed it in my blender with a little oil. I then fried it until starting to crisp a little, before adding it to the broth. The intensity of flavour without the slipperiness of large swathes of skin was wonderful, and it gave the soup some lovely body, as well as the delicious fats and flavour in and just under the skin.
Below is my recipe for my homemade chicken soup. The quantities are flexible, you just work with what you have, for this is all about leftovers, isn’t it? I served this one with garlic butter toasts, as homemade chicken soup, being Jewish penicillin, is bolstered further by the garlic, and it is just delicious, isn’t it? I like sourdough for texture and flavour but use whatever you have at home.
Enjoy and do let me know if your homemade soup has any quirks or if there is anything you do which would be useful for people at home.
Recipe: Homemade Chicken Soup with Garlic Toasts
Ingredients (for two)
1 litre homemade chicken stock (see below)
3 medium carrots, topped and tailed and finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
as much leftover chicken as you can gather from the carcass, torn to small pieces with your fingers
all leftover skin (from underneath and on top)
(or – a few chicken legs roasted until crisp with all meat and skin removed from those)
any chicken fat and juices that you were able to rescue from the roasted chicken
homemade chicken stock – I prefer to use raw carcasses, but will also use the leftover carcass from a roast. If using raw carcasses, I roast them first, then boil, just covered with water, with carrots, celery, shallots, bay leaves, peppercorns and whole crushed cloves for a few hours until the stock is rich and flavourful. Strain through a sieve and store in the fridge or freezer. It will keep for a few days in the fridge.
garlic butter toasts – 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic (for 4 slices of toast) pounded with some salt and then combined with butter. Toast the bread on one side, and then toast on the second side with the garlic butter on, to cook the garlic through a little bit
If you have managed to rescue a little chicken fat, sauté the celery, shallots and carrots in that for up to 10 minutes over a low to medium heat until tender but not browned. Otherwise use a light oil. Add the garlic for a minute, then add the stock, chicken meat (not skin) and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low, allowing it to simmer gentle.
Blitz the skin in a blender with a little oil, then sauté in a frying pan until starting to brown and crisp. Add to the soup and let it simmer further.
After about 25 minutes, make your toast as above, then serve on the side of the soup, which should be eaten immediately and piping hot.