Stock key to good soup

STOCK: Tried, tested and tasted terrific.
STOCK: Tried, tested and tasted terrific.

With cold weather there is nothing more heartwarming than a good bowl of soup.

When it comes to soup allow me to make a statement: "a worthy stock is the cornerstone of any good soup". That hasn't changed through the ages. What has changed is the time people take to make soup.

Busy lives mean shortcuts. I recall my grandmother talking about a soup "bunch" which back in her day cost a penny and bones were lagniappe (a gift from the butcher) where pounds and pounds of meat trimmings were gifted to customers who added greens and made great stocks for all sorts of culinary use. Back then most households concocted wonderful essences for every day consumption as finished soups.

Good fresh bones, lots of vegetables (trimmings), herbs and seasoning were all the essences contained unlike the ingredients I noted on a packet of pre-made Home brand stock while at the supermarket.

The packet read: Ingredients - reconstituted chicken stock (95 per cent) (water, chicken bones, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf) chicken premix (multi dextrin, con tapioca, or corn) natural roast chicken flavour (salt, yeast extracts, multi dextrin from potato) lactic acid (270), anti- caking agent (SS1), sunflower oil, natural flavours, salt, sugar, vegetable powders (onions, garlic, sweetcorn), wheat fibre, black pepper, vegetable extract powder (Chinese cabbage), yeast extract, natural celery flavour.

The chicken stock I made today simply had the chicken (I noted some whole legs of chicken at a reasonable price) parsley and thyme, peelings from washed carrots, parsnips and onions along with peppercorns and sea salt. Once the chicken is cooked (I used four whole legs) remove to cook and taste the stock. If it is not full of flavour return the stock to a simmer and reduce it by 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

While I tend to leave my seasoning of soups to salt, pepper and perhaps herbs as a garnish, several other ingredients are useful including wine, sherry, beer (lager) and stout. Likewise the colouring of your stock can be relatively simple as well. Onion skins are very useful as they will give your stock an amber colour, as is tomato or tomato peelings or skins which will give it a slightly reddish tinge.

For a darker coloured soup caramelised sugar is another useful component. Grains can also be a useful addition to your good- tasting homemade soups.

My grandmother made a very tasty chicken soup which she would whisk up in a matter of minutes. I thought I would share how it was produced with you today.

GRANDMOTHER HAWKES' SIMPLE CHICKEN SOUP (4 portions, or about 1.25 litres)

3 cups good chicken stock

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup cooked rice

1/2 cup cream (heated)

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sprinkling of smoked paprika

Cooked chicken meat (I used the meat from the legs for both the soup and some croquettes)

1. Bring the chicken stock to the boil, turn down to a poaching temperature and add the chopped celery. Poach until the celery is tender.

2. Now add the cooked rice and continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes.

3. Now add the heated cream along with the parsley, adjust the seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add any cooked chicken meat you may have on hand and your soup is ready to serve.

4. Garnish with a little smoked paprika.

Bon Appetit

Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/ Bainfield Rd roundabout.

The Southland Times