My last post was Chunky Vegetable & Pasta Soup: warming, satisfying and meat free. I thought I would follow it with an equally warming and satisfying one that includes just a little meat: some chicken and bacon. I am very fond of red lentils too, which cook down to give the soup a warming, slightly grainy thickness. Although the original recipe specified fresh meat (a boned chicken thigh) I substituted leftover chicken, adding it later in the recipe as it was already cooked. It is always good to have a variety of ways to use up the remains of a chicken – or even some of the Christmas turkey! I suspect we will continue to have warming winter soups for some weeks yet so I am sure I will be making this again and very soon.
This is yet another hit recipe from my favourite soup recipe book, initially from the library but then bought with some birthday present money: Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert. In the book it is called The Number One Winter Soup, a rather strange title and although I agree that it is a first class recipe, I did feel I wanted something more helpfully descriptive. Apart from substituting leftover chicken as I had some available, in place of a chicken thigh, the recipe is more or less as it originally appeared. I did add a few more lentils to make the portions a little more generous and I have included this information in the instructions below. (The lower figure is the amount of lentils given in the original.) This dish is easily adapted by adding a little more of any of the ingredients that are particular favourites plus, of course, it could be completely meat free if the chicken and bacon were removed, vegetable stock substituted and a tin of favourite beans added.
Winter Vegetable, Chicken & Bacon Soup (The Number One Winter Soup)
1tbsp olive oil
4ozs/125g streaky bacon (about 4 rashers)
1 boneless fresh chicken thigh
4ozs/125g cooked chicken (or turkey)
2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
2 leeks, sliced
3pints/1.7litres weak chicken (or turkey) stock
175g/6ozs red lentils (can increase to 225g/8ozs)
2tbsp chopped fresh parsley (plus a little to garnish)
¼tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil and butter together in a large saucepan. Cut the bacon into small pieces and gently fry until golden.
2. If using fresh chicken cut into small pieces and add now. Cook for 3-4 minutes on a gentle heat until it starts to brown. (Pre-cooked chicken is added later to prevent it from breaking up.)
3. Stir in the onions, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnips and leeks. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 10minutes until they are starting to soften.
4. Add the stock, lentils, thyme, bay leaf and parsley (remembering to reserve a little parsley to garnish). Bring to the boil, cook for 10 minutes uncovered, then put on the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 30minutes. If using leftover chicken add this 10minutes before serving, which gives enough time for it to adequately heat through.
5. Before serving check and adjust the seasoning. Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with the reserved parsley and with some crusty bread on the side.