I'm really quite proud of this soup. Not because it's particularly difficult to make or requires intricate processes, but because it means I have made the most of a plump chicken. It always pains me terribly to throw away the carcass of a roast chicken, as - in the days before I had room in my freezer for chicken stock - I very often had to.
To start at the beginning, we had a good old traditional roast chicken for our Sunday dinner and quite apart from the three roast dinners it made, there was leftover breast meat, plus the leftover little taggy bits of meat (which are destined to be divided between a ramen noodle lunch and a chicken sandwich) and of course, the skeletal remains of the carcass. So, feeling all worthy and ambitious, I included a chicken noodle soup for the following day.
I see so many gorgeous looking chicken soups, made from scratch, go past on various Facebook groups that I really felt I was missing out - and the blog was missing out - on not having a great chicken soup recipe. Well, this evening fixed that one!
Yes, it is a bit of work, but with my trusty pressure cooker I was able to make the stock for the soup in a fraction of the time it would have taken without it - and without giving myself nightmares that always happens when I make stock using the slow cooker and leave it on overnight. True, the pressure cooker does scare me but in years of using them only one has ever blown up (when I was living on the boat. It blew the valve and painted the inside of the wheelhouse with boiling linseed that I was cooking for my horses' tea. I had to put up an umbrella to go turn the burner off and rescue us) and nowadays they have inbuilt mechanisms that make them considerably safer to use.
Once the stock is made, cooled and de-greased, it is a simple matter of a bit of chopping and a-peeling, then simply chucking stuff into the saucepan and watching it cook. Oh and tasting it get better and better, of course.
The spaetzle, I have to admit, came from Lidl. Yes, I know people are going to tell me that it's so much nicer/tastier if you make your own, but I was curious about this dried egg spaetzle, okay? As it turned out, it went superbly in this soup and provided the substance that otherwise would have been lacking. Took FOR EVER to cook though - so bear that in mind if you get a similar product. Their 10-11 minutes was closer to an actual 15-20.
I served the soup with simple buttered crusty bread rolls and it was perfect. I consider us to now be immune to all cold and flu viruses for at least the next month, as this kind of soup is very well known to cure all known ills. I'll have to spread a spoonful across the bank statement and see if it can cure the bank balance. *wink*
Now as far as Cook's Tips go, I really only have one which is more of a warning than a tip. For all that the making of the stock from a roast chicken carcass is time consuming and a tiny bit gross (to some people, I didn't find it so), it really is worth it. A stock cube is a supremely useful thing, but it can't take the place of this liquid gold. As I did, you can always add commercially produced stock to increase the liquid content, but you won't be able to find the depth of sheer chicken flavour - not even from the very best commercially produced chicken stock. So go that extra mile and make the most of your roast chicken carcass. You'll be so glad you did!
GERMAN STYLE CHICKEN SOUP WITH SPAETZLE (serves 3)
For the stock
A roast chicken carcass, stripped of all useful meat but including all the ghastly bits you would normally throw away : skin, fat, gristle, bones - the lot
2 carrots, peeled if they're a bit gnarly or dirty, sliced into chunks
1 large brown onion, peeled and quartered
1 garlic clove, peeled but left whole
2 large celery sticks, cleaned and with feathery leaves left on, sliced into chunks
1 large handful of fresh parsley, stalks included
half a tsp of dried thyme
a pinch of sea salt
half a tsp of ground black pepper
1 tsp of vegetable stock powder, dissolved into 1 litre of hot water.
For the soup
1 litre of home made chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, de-strung and chopped into similar size pieces as the carrot & potato
1 small parsnip, peeled and diced
2 tsp good low salt chicken stock powder (to taste - you may require less or more)
500ml hot water
half a tsp of ground black pepper
two fistfuls of dried Spaetzle
a good handful of petit pois
1 tbsp plain flour, mixed into 50ml warm water
150g minimum of roast chicken meat, chopped into bite sized pieces
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish.
To make the chicken stock, place all the ingredients into a pressure cooker and give it all a quick stir. Fix on the lid and place over the heat to come up to pressure. Cook at medium pressure for 20 minutes, then de-pressurise and remove the lid.
The stock can also be made, using the same ingredients, by cooking for a minimum of 8 hours in a slow cooker, or the good old fashioned way of simmering it all in a huge pan on the stove top, for as long as you can bear it. Just remember to keep an eye on the liquid level if you opt for this method.
Drain the liquid through a sieve over a large bowl or jug (don't make the schoolboy error of forgetting to catch the stock!) and set aside to cool. You should have at least a litre of stock. The solids can all be discarded once cool.
Once the stock is cool, you will find that the fat has accumulated on the top. Skim the fat off using a spoon - you don't have to be exact, just get rid of the worst of it. The stock is now ready to make soup with.
Pour your stock into a large soup saucepan and add the carrots. Bring the contents up to the boil, then reduce to a lively simmer and cook for some 3-4 minutes.
Add the potato, celery, parsnip, chicken stock powder (how much depends on how strong your stock flavour is) and the additional hot water and black pepper. Stir everything in well and bring back up to a lively simmer. Cook until the carrots are tender.
Using a potato masher, break up some of the vegetable pieces, leaving the majority intact. Taste for chickeniness (if it's a bit pale in flavour you can either leave the lid off and reduce the soup, taking care to leave enough to feed everyone, or add a little more chicken stock powder - but remember that the chicken meat has to be added yet) and for pepper and salt. This is when you find yourself very happy you were using a low salt stock powder!
Add the spaetzle to the soup and continue to cook at a lively simmer until the noodles are al dente.
Add the petit pois and the flour slurry, making sure to stir it in very well. This will thicken the soup. If you would like the soup to be thicker, simply add more flour slurry but take care to cook the rawness out of the flour.
When you are happy with the texture of your soup and the noodles are soft, add the chicken meat and heat through well. Once the soup has returned to a lively simmer, remove from the heat and serve into warmed bowls. Add a good sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley to each bowl as garnish and serve with warm crusty bread.