This is one of the best things I cook. It’s like a substantial version of the chicken soup my family grew up with.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 1 hour 40 minutes
- 1 medium-sized chicken, about 1.6kg
- 4 leeks
- 300g long slim carrots, preferably with greenery
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped bouquet garni, plus more parsley stalks
- 200ml dry vermouth
- 55g pearl barley about
- 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Remove any discoloured layers from the leeks and trim and discard the dark tops. Cut into 4cm lengths and wash thoroughly under running water. Trim the carrots, leaving a little tuft of greenery if there is any. Wash really well, but don’t peel. Cut fatter carrots into halves or quarters lengthways.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole over a medium heat and brown the chicken on all sides. Try not to tear the skin as you turn it over (I use wooden spoons), and season as you go. Remove the chicken, set it aside and add the onion and celery to the pot. Sauté gently until the onion is softening but isn’t coloured, about five minutes.
- Return the chicken and add the bouquet garni, parsley stalks, carrots, a good grinding of black pepper, the vermouth and 800ml of water. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat right down, cover and poach the chicken for 1½ hours. The water must not boil – it has to be gentle or the chicken will become tough. With 45 minutes of cooking time left, add the barley. With 15 minutes left, add the leeks. At the end, add the chopped parsley.
- Serve in big broad soup plates, giving each person some of the vegetables, barley, broth and chicken. My mum serves boiled potatoes with this, which you can break up in your broth, or buttered wheaten (soda) bread. I must admit to gilding the lily a little and offer cream, mustard and sometimes even horseradish.
Recipe from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry (Octopus, £22). Order a copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.