This is a versatile, nourishing recipe for a family with picky eaters (and another idea for a double dinner).
If your kids don't like spicy or strong flavours, or 'floaty bits', leave out the chilli, the pepper, the cayenne pepper, the cumin and the paprika. When the soup's ready, put half of it into a blender, blitz until thick and smooth, and serve topped with grated cheese and crunchy little croutons.
To the other half, add all the zingy ingredients you left out (but half the quantity specified below) and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
I usually use tinned, drained sweetcorn kernels (not the creamed variety) because they are so convenient, but you could as easily use frozen kernels, or fresh ones cut from the cob.
Spicy Chicken, Tomato and Sweetcorn Soup
For the stock:
1 whole free-range chicken, trimmed of excess fat
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
a few stalks of parsley
a stalk of celery
a large bay leaf
a few peppercorns
2 whole cloves
enough cold water to cover (about 2 litres)
Place all the ingredients for the stock into a big pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the and simmer gently for an hour and a half, skimming any foam that rises to the top. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Strain the stock into a large bowl and discard the flavourings. When the chicken has cooled, pull the cooked flesh from the bones, discarding any fat or skin. Tear it into small shreds with your fingers, cover and set aside. At this point you can, if you are planning ahead, put both the stock and the chicken shreds into the fridge for a few hours, or overnight.
For the soup:
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-cm cubes
1 red chilli, finely minced [optional]
1 tin Italian tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons (45 ml) tomato paste
2 cups (500 ml) corn kernels (frozen, tinned or fresh)
1 cup (250 ml) split orange lentils
3 teaspoons (15 ml) ground cumin
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sweet paprika
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cayenne pepper or chilli powder, to taste
2 teaspoons (10 ml) dried oregano
salt and milled black pepper
a handful of fresh chopped parsley, or fresh coriander
chopped spring onions
sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, potato cubes and chilli and fry over a medium heat for five minutes. Remove any fat from the top of the cooled stock, and pour the stock over the vegetables. Bring to the boil. Add all the remaining soup ingredients and season well.
Turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and the potato pieces are quite tender. Tip in the shredded chicken. Cook gently for a further ten minutes. Check the seasoning, stir in the chopped parsley and serve at once, topped with chopped spring onions and a blob of sour cream or yoghurt.