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Comfort for the afflicted

June 2, 2011

At the moment I am the only one in the house still standing. The other three have succumbed to one winter lurgy or another.

I called in at Emerald Hill Poultry last weekend and came away with a generous bag of chicken frames for a dollar. These went straight into the strainer basket in the pasta pot to make chicken stock and I gave them a good long simmer while I assembled the other ingredients for one of my winter comfort soups.

During my market visit I picked up a good big head of celery, some carrots and parsnips, onions and butternut squash and I was ready to go. Incidentally, Rod's XX at the market generally have bags of small parsnips on their streetside stalls at a good price. I must be one of their most regular customers for these.

This sort of soup doesn't really need a recipe but here's one to use as a general guide. I recommend you use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Here is a good chance to use up the tail end of the broccoli, those tomatoes that are starting to wrinkle, the orphaned leek. In my kitchen, no two soups are ever the same. They are produce driven.

Add some substance to the soup with pre-soaked or canned borlotti beans or chickpeas, barley or lentils. The tomato paste lends a bit of substance, colour and depth to any soup. Keep some in your store cupboard or fridge.

Comfort for the ailing this winter

Winter comfort soup

4-5 chicken carcasses (or 3-4 drumsticks)
1 large onion, quartered
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery (or cut the tops off a bunch of celery and use those)

Rinse the chicken carcasses and place in pasta pot or other large pot. Use the pasta pot strainer insert as it will make it easier to remove the bones and initial seasoning vegetables from the stock later.

Add plenty of hot water, the onion, carrot and celery and a tablespoon or two of salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer for an hour or two. Remove the chicken and vegetables. You can pick off any chicken flesh from the frames for use in the soup. If you have time, chill the stock overnight and skim off any fat.

While you're making the stock, prepare the vegetables. Use a food processor. The grater and slicer disks make short work of this task. Typically use:

2 large carrots, grated or diced
2-3 parsnips, grated or diced
2 large onions, chopped
2-3 tomatoes (remove cores and fish the skins out of the soup once they float free)
2-3 sticks of celery, halved lengthwise then sliced
a chunk of butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium leek, halved lengthwise, washed and sliced
some broccoli or cauliflower, roughly chopped
2/3 cup barley
2/3 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup tomato paste

Add to the prepared stock and simmer for 90 minutes or until the barley and lentils are tender. Adjust the seasoning. Serve with slices of grilled sourdough bread, or chunks of Turkish bread heated in the oven for 10 minutes.

This makes a lot of soup so you can put half aside in containers in the freezer. Chill leftovers quickly and refrigerate. Reheat thoroughly before consuming.

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