This is the most delicious, wholesome and easy chicken recipe. It is somewhere between a soup and a casserole – and if you want to make it even more substantial (or simply make it go further), you can serve it with rice or noodles, you can add some small sized pasta (such as orzo or minestrone) or a handful of pearl barley. You can even thicken it with a little cornflour and serve it with potatoes and vegetables. It tastes wonderful because the chicken is cooked whole with the vegetables and herbs, much in the same way that you would make a chicken stock so none of the flavour is lost. There is something wonderfully comforting about this recipe. I tend to make a big vat of it (using an extra large chicken and adding a few extra vegetables) so I can put some in the freezer. I normally include leeks as well but I didn’t have any this time…and just nipping out to the shops is not an option at the moment!
- a large chicken (ideally free range corn-fed)
- 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
- 4 sticks of celery, sliced
- 3 onions, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- a few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
- a head of broccoli, chopped
- Pour 2 tbsp oil into a large, deep-sided pan just large enough to fit the chicken in (I use a casserole). Over a medium to high heat, brown the chicken well on all sides. Set aside.
- Boil the kettle.
- Add a little more oil to the pan if needed and cook the bacon until brown.
- Turn the heat down, add the celery, onions and carrots and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute.
- Move the vegetables towards the sides of the pan and place the chicken on top. Pour hot water over the top until the chicken is half submerged. Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours, adding the chopped broccoli for the last 15 minutes. By this stage the chicken will be falling away from the bone.
- Remove the chicken from the pan. Debone and de-skin the chicken, carefully picking all the meat from the bones. Return the meat to the pan. Discard the bones – in effect, you’ve already used them to make stock so they will have no further use. (If you have dogs, any soft offcuts make a perfect treat to add to their supper!)
- Bring the soup back up to temperature, season to taste and then serve.
- Alternatively, it can be divided up, cooled and frozen.
If you want to thicken it, mix 2 tbsp cornflour with 2 tbsp water in a small bowl. Bring the soup up to simmering temperature. Gradually stir in the cornflour mixture and allow it to thicken – you may not need it all.