Easy Leftover Chicken Soup

They say that chicken soup cures all that ails you. Obviously this isn’t accurate. Heartbreak, cancer and mother-in-laws still seem impervious to this wonder drug, but it is true that it can make you feel better about a lot of stuff. If you already have a  cooked chicken carcass for whatever reason, then not only is it pennies to make, but a low effort way to stretch a roast chicken to an extra meal. I think this is fairly important, especially given the price of quality free range or organic chicken.

I don’t often make my own stock, in all honesty. There is nothing particularly difficult about stock making, but having the time and the raw materials to hand at the same time is something a bit beyond me. You can get perfectly good stock these days in little bottles, so the incentive is not often there. But for this soup, there is no reason not to. This is not, though, a recipe for a perfectly clear amber stock, suitable for sauces and demi-glace, but rather a fairly lax way to get a tasty soup out of existing ingredients. You will only be cooking the stock for an hour or so, and I am not going to start suggesting skimming, or anything of that nature. There are other recipes out there for that.

For the stock base:

  • 1 cooked chicken carcass, mostly picked of meat
  • 1 carrot, cut into three
  • 1 leek, cut into three
  • 1 celery stick, cut into three
  • few of pepper corns
  • bayleaf, thyme leaves (if you have them)
  • pinch of salt
  • cold water to just cover

Put all the ingredients into a pot, and bring to a simmer slowly. Simmer for an hour, do not boil. Leave to cool, and then strain through a fine sieve.

For the soup:

  • anything you like, really. I made my soup tonight with a couple hundred grams of gnocchi, 50g cooked chicken and some parsley, but some other nice things to add might be:
  • cabbage or chinese leaves
  • carrots
  • mushrooms
  • beans
  • rice or pasta
  • any herbs
  • cooked ham or bacon
  • peas, sweetcorn
  • splash of cream

If using dried pasta or rice then heat the soup to a gentle boil and add these, allowing plenty of time for them to cook before adding the other ingredients. Gnocchi is good because it cooks in less than three minutes – about the same time as it takes to heat through cooked chicken, peas or sweetcorn. Add the remainder of ingredients for however long it takes to cook them usually.

Alternatively, for a soup with a bit more body you can sweat off a chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in a pan before adding veg like parsnips and potatoes and a dash of white wine before adding the stock. Up to you. Anything cooked should go in in the very last few minutes.

Paradise by the Fridgedoor Light (Meatloaf)

I’ve never made meatloaf before. Actually, I’m not even sure I’ve eaten meatloaf before. It just never appealed. But, in the interest of doing new and different things, this was a perfectly worthwhile experiment. I don’t believe there is a hard and fast recipe for this – most recipes I read before embarking on this project had plenty of ‘optionals’ and ‘preferables’  in them. After all, this is essentially a store cupboard dish. So, I’ve gone along and done what I wanted, mainly gaining inspiration from Momma Cherri’s Soul in a Bowl Cookbook. I guess the only real solid suggestion that I have, is that you could replace up to 25% of the beef for something like pork or veal mince. Oh, and that a slice of leftover Meatloaf would be delicious in a white bread sandwich with relish of your choice the next morning. This is enough to  serve four with buttery mashed potatoes, a green veg and some gravy.

Meatloaf cooked

  • 500g minced beef (Not economy, but not extra lean either)
  • 1/2 stick of celery
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • three of pieces of stale white bread
  • 1 FREE RANGE egg
  • tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • tbsp mustard – I used dijon- probably anything apart from wholegrain would do. No, even wholegrain would do.
  • 1 tsp cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 6 rashers streaky bacon

Preheat the oven to Gas 4.

In the original recipe, Ms Jones suggests we roughly chop the veg, the onion and the garlic and put in a in a bowl, and using a handblender, chop the veg finely. I did this. Next time I would use a food processor with a lid or I would do it by hand, as  I didn’t find the suggested process any better than doing it those ways. But anyway, chop all the veg as finely as you can and put in a large bowl. Next, crumble in your bread, add your eggs, worcestershire sauce, mustard, seasonings and herbs and then your minced beef. Then roll up your sleeves and mix the lot with your hands until very thoroughly combined. The mixtures hould be fairly wet.  I must admit, reader, at this point I wasn’t completely convinced by the look of this. It looked pale and a bit.. unattractive. Battle on!

Get a 2 lb loaf tin and line it with the slices of bacon, leaving some hanging over the edges. Fill with your mince mixture and overlap the bacon pieces on the top, although, frankly, my bacon shrank  away, so don’t spend too much effort making it purty. Alternatively, you can get 4 slices of bacon and make two X shapes with them on a baking tray. Make two ‘loaf’ type shapes of mixture on top of these and overlap with the bacon. It will probably ooze a bit. Not the end of the world, by any means. Put in the oven and leave it to cook for about an hour for the big loaf or about 40 minutes for the two freeform ones.

meatloaf uncooked

To be honest, this was still a bit paler than I expected even when I cooked it, and was a bit sloppier than I thought it would be – I’ve addressed the quantities in the recipe in an attempt to address this. It was very tasty though.

‘Iffits’ Salmon & Pea Pasta

PeaandsalmonpastaThe first rule of Fightclub… No, no, sorry, wrong blog!

There’s only one rule for an ‘iffits’ dinner in my home  and that’s that you can only have it if its in the fridge, freezer or cupboards. There is no shopping for meals like this. Rather like Ready, Steady, Cook if you will but without the adhd presenter and the condescension of D-list telly ‘chefs’. Just you, your wits and your hopefully well stocked larder.Sometimes, if you’re lucky and you’ve been near the shops lately, you get a feast. Sometimes an ‘iffits’ dinner is like pasta, olive oil & garlic. But those are fine with me too.

By the way, just because you have it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should add it. I also had a slice of bacon, a red pepper, chillies, coriander and an aubergine. All of those would have made a lovely ‘iffits’ dinner  but in this dish they would have been fairly bad, I think. I would have been overjoyed  to see Courgettes, Capers, Dill or White Wine lurking in my fridge, but what I did have made a really good dinner, so feel free to shop for it. Served 2 hungry people.

I had:

  • 100g smoked salmon, shredded
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 100g petis pois
  • Small bunch of Spring Onions (On the turn), fairly chunky slices
  • 100g double cream
  • 300ml or so of chicken stock (made from powder)
  • Spaghetti
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Small block of Parmesan Cheese, grated.

So, I put the olive oil in a frying pan and softened the spring onions in it over a lowish heat. When they were cooked, I chucked in the mushrooms and sweated them down a bit and I think I added a little splash of the stock to help this along. When the mushrooms were cooked, I poured in the remainder of the stock and I turned up the heat. Its important to reduce the stock down by approximately half, so keep the heat up on a fast simmer and stir regularly. When it has reduced, put the spaghetti on according to the packet instructions  – mine took 10 minutes of boiling in a lot of salted water – and put the cream into the reduced chicken stock. As you should  be able to see, you’ll need to reduce this down too, so don’t reduce the heat. When it comes back up to the boil, put in the petits pois and lots and lots of black pepper. No salt, because the smoked salmon and chicken stock will be salty enough. Stir the sauce regularly whilst the pasta cooks and by the time it has, you should be left with roughly a third of the liquid you started with. If its too runny, and you don’t think it will stick to the pasta, keep reducing it. If its too thick, you can chuck in a couple of spoons of water from the pasta. Take the sauce off the heat completely. Drain the pasta and put it back into the saucepan. Put the smoked salmon into the sauce now (no earlier, you don’t want to cook the salmon, just warm it in the sauce) and give it a good stir.Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss, until mixed in thoroughly – I use a pair of tongs and a slotted spoon for that – and serve onto warmed plates. Sprinkle over parmesan. Scoff.