A fantabulous 'Soup Swap' recipe that freezes very well
Originally posted at: http://fourunder4plustwo.blogspot.com
Did you know that January is Soup Swap month? Neither did I, until a few days ago. A friend invited me to participate in a soup swap, and I thought it would be a great idea. I make a LOT of soup in the winter months. Actually, I make a lot of soup all year round. This means I've gotten pretty good at it, or so I'm told. I'm including a recipe for a basic chicken soup that is always very popular- I regularly bring this one to friends who are sick, having babies, going through a rough time...who doesn't feel better after a nice steaming bowl of tasty chicken soup, after all? Yes, I am THAT friend. You know the one- the Soup Lady.
A caveat: I buy our chicken breast on the bone usually, which is what you will need. I'm also REALLY picky about the meat we eat and drive out of the way to buy drug-free, free-range chicken with no water injected, etc. i.e. not what you will find at the grocery store. I suspect that this contributes significantly to the awesome taste and is why people like it so much, but in the end any chicken breast on the bone should do.
Delicious chicken soup:
4 chicken breasts-bone in, skin on
4 (ish) celery stalks
4 (ish) medium-sized carrots
Italian seasoning, or whatever herbs you like (about 3 tsp)
chicken soup stock (less salt)
1 300g (ish) package of pot barley
pepper (to taste)
bay leaves- 4 or 5
THE NIGHT BEFORE: Put a package (about 300g) of pot barley to soak in a large bowl of water. (Rinse it first). I let the barley soak for a good 12 hours to let it fully expand.
THE NEXT DAY: Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil (Fill it 3/4 of the way). Do not add salt. When the water is boiling, add in the 4 chicken breasts. I always put mine in when frozen, and it takes about 45 min for them to cook all the way through. In reality it might not take that long, but in order to distill the base into a strong enough concentrate for a soup base, it's useful to leave it in that long. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the water and place it in a mixing bowl (or whatever) to cool for about 30 min.
During this time you can peel and chop the carrots (however floats your boat- I do mine width-wise, thinly). Rinse and chop celery stalks- I usually slice them in half, lengthwise, then chop. You can also drain the barley fully. Get out a second large pot (or huge mixing bowl, if you don't have another). Place a fine strainer over the opening and pour the water from the chicken into the 2nd receptacle. There are always some floaties when boiling chicken on the bone- this gets rid of those, while preserving the flavour of the base for the broth.
If using the one big pot, wash it while the broth is out, then transfer the broth back to it. Add the celery, carrots, barley, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, and pepper (I use fresh-ground pepper). Depending how much water is left after boiling the chicken (i.e. how much broth you want in your soup), you may want to add more water at this point. Adjust the amount of chicken stock accordingly. If using sachets (which I prefer), for a 3/4 full pot I will use 8 (lower salt) OXO sachets. If using bouillon cubes, I will use 2. It's easier to add more after tasting as cooking than to make it too salty by adding too much at the beginning. The balance is important.
De-bone the chicken. I boil 4 breasts to get the base for my soup but only use the meat from 2 in a soup this size (broken into finer bits, by hand, this is lots), leaving me with leftover chicken to use in other recipes (curries, stir-frys, fajitas, sandwiches... the possibilities are endless!). Add the chicken to the soup and bring it to a boil over lower heat (around 3). You don't want it to boil too quickly or else the carrots won't cook, and you don't want it to boil too long or else the broth will evaporate and you will be left with sludge.
p.s. You can use potatoes instead of barley, if preferred. They take longer to cook, so dice them in smaller chunks (about the same size as the carrots) so that things will cook evenly.
p.p.s. Have you heard of this product from Epicure? It is amazing! It looks expensive, but considering that you only add about 3-4 tsp per huge batch of soup, it's not. It goes a long way and adds so much flavour. Not strictly necessary, but adds a lot of pizzazz!
IF FREEZING the soup: Remember that potatoes change texture after having been frozen. Sill good, but less firm. Some people mind it, some don't. If you've used barley (which we prefer at my house), the barley will absorb a lot of the broth when frozen and then thawed. You may want to add some chicken broth (or water and OXO sachets)- just enough to make it more wet again.