Friday 9 May 2014

Spicy Low-Carb Roast Chicken & Tomato Soup with Halloumi Croutons

This creamy winter soup is spiced with a light touch because I want its hero ingredients (glorious roast chicken and ripe tomatoes) to sing out like a two-angel choir. I cannot resist a ready-roasted chicken, with its sticky golden skin and melting flakes, and fresh tomatoes - packed as they are with lip-smacking umami - add irresistible depth of flavour. This recipe contains not a speck of wheat or corn, nor any similar thickening agent. Although cooked tomatoes contain some teeny-weeny carbs, they have a low glycaemic-index ranking, making this recipe suitable for diabetics, or anyone on a low-carb, high fat regime.

Spicy Low-Carb Roast Chicken & Tomato Soup with Halloumi Croutons

You can, of course, roast your own chickens from scratch, but why bother? I don't think it's possible to achieve, in a domestic oven, the fall-apart texture and all-over goldenness produced by an industrial rotisserie. I use Woolies roast chickens because I think they're the best, but any good ready-roasted bird will do.

Like all good soups and stews, this dish tastes more beautiful and complex the day after you've made it.

Because it contains no starch, this soup relies for thickening on fast and furious boiling. It's an old-fashioned idea that soups need to be simmered for hours; I believe that a quick cooking time helps to retain the sparkle of the fresh ingredients. (More about that here - My Top Tips for Making Memorable Soup.)

This soup relies on fast boiling to reduce its tomato & leek base to a beautiful intense thickness.

If you're in a rush and don't want to make the quick stock called for in this recipe, use two 500 ml cartons of chicken stock in its place.

I've added the halloumi croutons because I desperately miss the carb-packed bready ones. Halloumi cheese makes a gorgeous substitute for crunchy cubes of oil-sizzled white bread, but it is bulging with calories, so I try to add just a few nuggets to soups, and to the top of steamed or braised veggies.

Please choose a very firm halloumi cheese for perfect croutons - if it's at all soft or yielding to a finger-prod, it will collapse in the pan and leave its sticky brown crust behind when you try to prise it away. For more advice about frying halloumi, click here > Top tips for frying halloumi.

Low-Carb Roast Chicken & Tomato Soup with Halloumi Croutons

2 small ready-roasted chickens
1 litre water
500 ml boxed liquid chicken stock (or two teaspoons of concentrated chicken stock or jelly - such as a Nomu fond, or a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot - dissolved in the same amount of water)
4 large leeks, white and pale green parts only
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
9 ripe tomatoes
1 x 410 g tin whole or chopped Italian tomatoes
1/3 cup (80 ml) dry white wine
salt and milled black pepper
1 tsp (5 ml) chilli flakes, or more, to taste
1 tsp (5 ml) ginger [the dried powder]
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
¼ tsp (just a pinch!) cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml) cream
4 Tbsp (60 ml) finely chopped curly parsley

For the halloumi croutons:

a small block (about 150 g) halloumi cheese
4 Tbsp (60 ml) sunflower or a similar vegetable oil, for frying

Rotisseried chickens like these Woolworths ones drive me
into rapures. They're always a bit flabby the time I
get them home, but the flavour of the skin is gorgeous.
Remove the wishbones at the neck ends of the chickens (this is easily done by hooking your fingers underneath the bones and tugging them away). Using a sharp knife, remove all four breasts, each in one piece, taking care not to dislodge the skin.  Set to one side and keep warm.

Strip the remaining flesh from the chickens, removing any skin or gristle. Tear it into shreds, cover and set aside. Put all the bones and skin into a small deep pot and add a litre of water plus 500 ml chicken stock (see my notes in the ingredient list and opening paragraphs, above).  Bring to the boil and cook at a lively bubble, uncovered, for 30 minutes, skimming off any scum as it rises.

While the stock is boiling, prepare the leeks by trimming off the dark-green upper parts and making a long horizontal slit three-quarters of the way through their lengths.  Fan out the ‘pages’ of the leeks under a cold running tap and rinse away any grit hiding in the outer leaves.  Now cut the leeks into fine slices.

Heat the olive oil in a new pot and add the sliced leeks. Fry them over a medium heat for 5 minutes, then cover with a lid and braise gently for 10-15 minutes, or until they are soft.  Stir in the garlic and cook uncovered for a further 3 minutes, without allowing the garlic to burn or catch.

In the meantime, cut the tomatoes into quarters and place half of them in the jug of a liquidiser (or a food processor fitted with a metal blade).  Add a ladle or two of the hot chicken stock so the blades can turn freely, and whizz to a fine pink liquid. Now add the remaining quartered tomatoes and the tin of tomatoes, and blitz until just blended. If you don't have a liquidiser, you will need to grate all the tomatoes, or chop them finely.

Tip the whizzed-up tomatoes into the pot containing the leeks, add the wine, and season with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat under the pot and cook over a very high heat for 15 minutes, skimming off any pink foam that rises to the top.  This mixture will reduce and thicken quite quickly. Pour the stock into a colander set over a bowl, and discard the bones and skin (or give them to the dogs).

Now measure out one litre of your chicken stock and add it to the pot containing the leeks and tomatoes. Reserve any remaining stock. Turn up the heat and cook at a fast rolling boil for about 25 minutes. You'll know it's ready for blitzing when the liquid has reduced by about a quarter, and is beginning to look thicker.

Blitz the soup using a stick blender, then add the
chicken and spices.
Blend the soup to a fairly fine purée using a stick blender (or a liquidiser). Add the chilli flakes, ginger, cumin and cinnamon, along with the shredded chicken bits you set aside earlier. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 6-8 minutes.

Add the cream - a dribble at a time, stirring well between each addition to prevent it from curdling - and check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. If the soup seems a little thick, thin it down with a little of your reserved chicken stock.

Now for some last-minute preparation. To make the halloumi croutons, heat the oil in a small frying pan.  Cut the cheese into pieces the size of playing dice, and pat them very dry on kitchen paper to remove any brine. Fry the cubes over a medium-high heat for a minute or two, turning once, and watching them like a hawk because they brown and burn in a flash!

Drain the cubes on several layers of kitchen paper, blotting them well to remove any oil.

Cut the reserved warm chicken breasts into 7-mm slices, making sure each slice is topped with a strip of golden skin.

To serve the soup, ladle it into bowls, scatter with a few halloumi croutons and top with slices of roast chicken breast. Shower with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 6-8.

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1 comment:

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