My goodness, but it's a palaver making a proper chicken soup. The concocting of the stock, the cooling of the bird, the plucking of the meat, the chopping and frying of the onions and other veg, the liquidising-in-batches of scalding liquid, and the dozens of dirty bowls, pots and sieves involved ... it just doesn't seem worth the bother, no matter how heavenly and heartwarming the result.
But I feel I have an obligation to make chicken soup for my family, the same creamy, thick, luscious, nutmeggy essence of chicken made by my own mom and her mom before her. Besides, it took me eight years to convince my daughter to eat soup, and Mom's Chicken Soup is the only soup she'll eat. Every time I put a picked-out chicken carcass on the stove to make a stock (which is generally once a week) she races into the kitchen, shouting 'Oh, goody! Chicken soup!'.
Here is a quicker version that omits the tiresome chopping and sautéing of veggies, and involves only a large saucepan, a colander, a big bowl and a liquidiser. It doesn't have the complex flavours of a properly made chicken soup, and it's thickened, I blush to admit, with flour, but I promise this is a passable version of the real thing.
Quick, thick chicken soup for kids
the leftovers of a roast chicken, excess skin and fat removed
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
3 large carrots, peeled
a few sticks of celery, or a handful of fresh parsley, or both
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
4 Tbsp (60ml) flour
4 Tbsp (60 ml) butter
1½ cups (375 ml) milk
juice of half a lemon
½ tsp (2.5 ml) freshly grated nutmeg
salt and milled black pepper
a dash of fresh cream (optional)
Put the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large saucepan, add just enough water to cover the ingredients, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over a gentle heat for an hour and a half, or until the stock has reduced slightly. Place a colander in a large bowl and tip the stock, bones and vegetables into the colander. Allow to drain for five minutes.
In the meantime, make a white sauce. Heat the flour and butter in the same saucepan in which you made the stock. Allow to bubble for a minute or so. Using a balloon whisk, whisk in the milk and continue stirring briskly until the mixture begins to thicken alarmingly. Immediately remove from the heat.
Now tip half the drained stock into a liquidiser and add the cooked onion, celery, parsley and carrots. Give it a good whizz to process everything finely, then pour the mixture into the milk/flour mixture. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking constantly to disperse any lumps. Once the mixture is thickened and boiling, use the left-over stock to thin the soup to the desired consistency. Pick all the remaining bits and pieces off the boiled chicken, shred with your fingers and add to the soup. Add the lemon juice and a shower of nutmeg, and season well with salt and pepper. Add a splash of cream, if you like (but this isn't really necessary - the soup is quite silken enough without cream). Simmer for another 5 minutes, and serve hot.
Note: The final thickness of any white sauce depends on the strength of the flour. If you find your soup isn't quite thick enough, add a little flour or cornflour slaked with water.