This week has been a road to recovery, the non-stop chicken pox party has finally come to a close and the unwanted guests have left the building. Family Fuggle were in need of some vitamins, some feel good food and soul nourishing that preferably could be eaten from a mug.
Chicken soup: it's long been touted to relieve symptoms of flu, a cold or indeed the blues. I can confirm all of the above and more. In fact, simply walking to the end of our street and buying the chicken from Mr Archer (Brian Archer, 4th generation of butcher and currently been working for 45 years in the same shop) was quite the wholesome experience.
It's a recipe that takes care of itself, one that needs little of the cooks expertise and relies far more heavily on the quality of the few ingredients. We didn't have celery to hand but that would have only added an extra note.
Sadly, the pot is now empty and the bowls washed up but we shall start the week feeling like our vitamin tank is full.
1 x 1.8kg free range chicken
6 carrots, scrubbed clean
4 shallots or 1 large onion
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 or 4 stems of thyme
100g pearl barley
Fresh parsley, to serve
1/ Place the chicken in the largest pot you have. Cut 3 of the carrots in half and add them to the chicken. Quarter the onion and add with the thyme and peppercorns. Pour over enough cold water to cover the chicken. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, skimming any foam that rises to the top, until the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes.
2/ Transfer the chicken to a bowl and let it cool. Strain the broth, discarding the vegetables. Return the broth to the pot and add the pearl barley. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook the pearl barley for 30 minutes.
3/ Meanwhile, thinly slice the remaining carrots. Add them to the broth and continue to simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and add it to the soup. Stir through fresh parsley and ladle into bowls.