This post is wholly incongruous with the glorious summery weather we're having at the moment, but I feel it needs to be done. The only Jewish thing about me is the fact that I live in Golders Green, yet as soon as I feel that tell-tale scratchy throat or slightly raised glands, I get a giant chicken and roast it with the sole purpose of making a restorative soup with the remnants to stop whatever bug is thinking of invading in its tracks. Chicken soup has actually be clinically proven to ward off colds and boost the immune system and so, this week I found myself stuffing a huge chicken with a variety of Mediterranean flavours (rosemary, lemon, garlic) in order to make a summery roasted bird for dinner - incidentally, we ate this with gusto with courgette ribbons and a tomato salad - and subsequently stripping the carcass ready for boiling.
Setting the stripped meat aside, I used the whole carcass including the spent rosemary etc. and simmered it for two or three hours with a whole carrot, onion and bay leaves. I call this Jew-ish chicken soup as frankly there is not much in the way of authenticity in my method; Jewish mothers would typically use an uncooked chicken to make their stock, but I find this A) wastes an entire chicken that you could have otherwise eaten and B) means you are forever visiting the pan to skim off the fat and scum - snore. So, a roasted carcass it is for me. After the requisite amount of time, remove the carcass and strain the liquid through a fine sieve or even a muslin if you're really precious about the broth. I then refrigerate my stock overnight so that any extra fat solidifies and lifts easily off the top the next day.
The next day is soup day so you have to hope that the bug has not already taken hold! If you're feeling dire, I suggest you skip the fat removal stage and get skimming the traditional way.
Next, I gently sautee a couple of small onions in a tiny amount of the chicken fat and then sprinkle a little flour over them as if you were making a french onion soup. Cook through to take away the rawness of the flour and then you can add the chicken stock. For extra vitamins I always throw in whatever veggies I have floating around - in this case it was some broccoli, carrot and a bit of squash - plus plenty of herbs, again, whatever you have will probably work (excluding mint and coriander). I've got some chives, thyme and basil in my garden at the moment, so these all went in. Jewish mothers will now be horrified as I am going to blend my soup. For them, a clear broth is essential and they would definitely not put all manner of veggies and herbs in - carrot would be ok and they would probably use parsley in the making of the stock but that is it. Personally I find this too bland. They would then add the poached chicken, something like vermicelli and matzo balls. However, I don't like a multitude of bits in my soup, so out comes the hand blender. I blitz it until smooth and then add the stripped meat. Its delicious, very nourishing and usually a miracle worker, but about as Jewish as I am.
PS. From one large bird I produced three roast dinners, three chicken salads and three portions of chicken soup - NINE meals from one chicken that cost me £8. Don't bother buying breast portions for £6 a go.