Best of broth worlds: I turned one chicken into four meals

With a free-range chicken, you get a delicious dinners and all that wonderful stock

Chicken soup with herb dumplings

Chicken soup with herb dumplings

 

We recently bought a huge organic chicken for €20 at our local farmer’s market. The legs were huge, there was an incredible amount of meat on the bird and you could tell it had lived a busy life outdoors. We eat chicken once a week, but I was able to get four meals from this one, along with plenty of stock.

In some larger supermarkets, whole fresh chickens are available for less than €4 each, somehow. The miserable little birds have terrible lives and the farmers that rear them earn next to nothing. The system is all wrong. Each bird needs to be slaughtered, plucked and packed, creating four times more waste than one organic, free range chicken. And even with a quarter of the meat there is still a carcass to dispose of and it is not worth making stock from.

One of my worst habits is freezing chicken carcasses that I don’t have time to make stock from. I save it for a rainy day. It may look like we have a very full freezer but there’s no ice cream or pre-prepared dinners in there – it’s mostly bird bones. I also freeze all of the organic vegetable peelings from carrots, along with anything else that would add to the stock.

I popped the big organic chicken into a huge stock pot, then added a few handfuls of vegetables scraps and onion skins. Once it came to the boil I lowered it to a steady simmer for an hour and a half. The result was perfectly poached, succulent meat and three litres of beautifully fragrant chicken stock. Very little needs to be added to a really good stock.

The dumplings are a bit of fun here. There’s almost no need for bread as they are basically little steamed scones. I love adding different herbs to them. Add whatever you have, be it a little finely chopped rosemary or thyme. The tarragon is really delicious, and just delicate enough to complement the broth.

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CHICKEN SOUP WITH HERB DUMPLINGS

Serves 4

1tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1l chicken stock
250g cooked chicken, shredded
2tbs plain flour
Salt and pepper to season

For the dumplings
120g flour
1tsp baking powder
½tsp sea salt
1tbs chopped chives
1tbs chopped tarragon
1tbs chopped parsley
100ml buttermilk
1 egg

Method
1. Pour the oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add finely diced carrots, onion and celery. Cook for five minutes until the onion is translucent.

2. Add the stock and increase the heat. Place the two tablespoons of flour in a small bowl, add just enough warm stock to make a paste. Pour the paste into the pot, whisking all the time so that no lumps form. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Leave to cook for five minutes.

3. Meanwhile make the dumplings. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the herbs. Whisk the egg and buttermilk together, then pour into the flour. Use a fork to gently mix it together till it forms a batter. 

4. Now return to the soup, lower the heat to a simmer and drop spoonfuls of batter into the broth. I usually make them a little larger than one teaspoon. Keep in mind they will double in size once cooked. Place the lid on and leave to steam for 15-20 minutes until the dumplings are cooked and fluffy. Don’t lift the lid before 15 minutes, as the steam will escape. Serve right away, dividing the dumplings between the bowls and top with some fresh herbs.

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