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Irresistible bowl syndrome

irresistible-bowl-syndrome

Well, that’s another Christmas done and dusted for the time being; however, I don’t doubt that the next one will be just around the corner. In the meantime, it’s that time of year when the cold weather gets the better of us and we seek comfort from the food we put on our table.

I generally start the year wishing I hadn’t eaten quite so much over the festive season, but never really learn my lesson. That one extra crispy roast potato (cooked in goose fat of course!) always proves irresistible and even my least favourite Quality Street starts to call my name from the bottom of the tin. Year after year I sucker myself into believing that come the first day of the year I will be able to revolutionise my eating habits and that I’ll suddenly stop stalking the lady behind the cheese counter in Waitrose. On a bitterly cold January day (and I want to bridge the gap between feeling comforted and virtuous) I make a big pot of chicken soup. It’s ‘feel good food’ at it’s best and in one form or another it’s often referred to as ‘Jewish penicillin’. In fact, recent research has backed up what Jewish mothers have been telling their kids for years – that chicken soup actually does have medically restorative qualities. In short, it’s actually very good for you.

Whilst mine is not really of the traditional variety, it is a fantastically versatile basic recipe which you can pad out to make a main meal or keep simple for a solitary supper in front of the telly. When I need a healthy dose of carbs I throw in some noodles and my first line of defence when the cold weather gets the better of me is to add some fiery Thai bird’s eye chillies and a slug of lime juice – absolutely guaranteed to clear the airways!

Basically once you’ve made a big pot of stock, which is full of flavour, you can tinker with it as you wish, but it must be exactly that – full of flavour. Many recipes will tell you seek out a boiling fowl but have you seen any on the supermarket shelves recently? No, me neither. So a good quality chicken of the roasting variety will do just fine.

I find that in order to get a good flavour from your stock you must use plenty of everything. There is little point trying to get flavour out of your huge pot of stock when you have been stingy with the vegetables and herbs. I always use fresh bay leaves and plenty of all the usual stock-making ingredients; carrot, onion, celery etc. I also like to add a little extra ‘oomph’ at the end of the cooking process by throwing caution to the wind and crumbling in a good quality stock cube. I know this might sound like culinary heresy, but trust me on this one, I never get any complaints!

Basic chicken soup stock:

1 large or 2 small chickens chopped into pieces

2 onions peeled and chopped

4 carrots peeled and chopped

1 head of celery chopped

4 bay leaves torn

1 teaspoon black pepper corns

1/2 a good quality chicken stock cube

sprigs of rosemary, thyme and parsley

Place all the ingredients into the largest pan you have. My big stock pot is a 10lt one & makes a generous amount of stock, most of which I freeze.

Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and immediately reduce to an inpercievable simmer. Keep at this gentle tremor for 3 hours and then allow to cool slightly. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and proceed with the following recipe freezing any that you do not need immediately.

Chicken, chilli and saffron soup:

Per person:

300 ml chicken stock

1 chicken breast

1 red chilli finely chopped

1/2 red onion thinly sliced

a pinch of saffron

small bunch of coriander roughly chopped

handful baby spinach leaves

Method:

First of all, cook the chicken breast on a searingly hot char grill. When the chicken is cooked remove from the grill and slice thinly. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan with the saffron. When almost at the boil, add the rest of the ingredients. Allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes, ladle into warmed bowls and serve with crusty bread.

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