Most food cultures has its own version of chicken soup. No wonder – nothing brings out the flavour of chicken like boiling it over a low heat until you have the most beautiful stock. Besides, it makes for a filling meal, serving many more than other ways of preparing the chicken does.
In Turkey, chicken soup is a simple affair, with stock, small pieces of pasta and a little lemon. Similar soups are also served across the Middle East, often uncharacteristically unspiced and adding grains or pulses rather than pasta. I’m not going to claim that this is an authentic Middle Eastern chicken soup, but those are clearly my inspiration here, adding green lentils to a beautiful chicken stock with some carrots.
There’s something very pleasing and comforting about chicken soup. No wonder it is believed by many to have medicinal properties, and often appears on dinner tables around the world at the smallest cough or runny nose. Medicinal nor not, there’s no denying a warm bowl of home made chicken soup makes life a little better.
I use chicken legs, but you can easily use any other fatty cut (i.e. anything but breast) – or indeed a whole chicken. If using a whole chicken, increase the amounts of other ingredients accordingly. I brown the chicken and carrots before adding water, making for a darker and, in my view, more flavoursome broth. If you want a finer looking variety, go a little more gently. Serves 2-4, depending on the amount of comforting required.
Chicken soup with green lentils
- 2 large bone-in chicken legs or equivalent thighs/drumsticks/wings
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm slices
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 bunch parsley stalks, tied with a string (no leaves) (optional)
- 200 g dry green lentils (I prefer puy lentils, but any variety is fine)
- 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
- oil, to fry
- salt and pepper
- Brown the chicken in a heavy based pot over a high heat. The chicken will release its own fat, but add a few drops of oil if needed. Set aside. Add the carrots and cook until slightly charred in places (don’t stir too much or they won’t brown). Set aside.
- Turn down the heat and fry the onion until soft but not browned, 8-10 minutes. Add more oil if needed.
- Add the chicken, carrots, thyme, bay leaf, parsley stalks (if using) and a little salt and pepper to the pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and leave, uncovered, for half an hour.
- Add the lentils. Keep simmering until the lentils are soft, 15-25 minutes – the cooking time of lentils can vary quite a bit according to variety, and even from batch to batch. Add more water at times if necessary.
- When the chicken is completely tender and the meat easily comes off the bone, remove from the pot. Shred the meat. I usually finely chop some of the browned skin, too, but leave that out if you wish.
- Add the shredded chicken back into the pot. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm.