This is one of my favourite things to do with a whole chook. It’s great when you’re in the mood for something that’s light and full of fresh seasonal vegetables, and (like almost everything I cook, you may have noticed) it’s a dish you can alter according to what you have to hand and what flavours you happen to fancy.
Start with a large pot of liquid. If you have chicken stock, use that or a mix of stock and water to get a lighter result. But if you don’t, don’t despair, last time I made this simply starting with plain water, and built up a flavour profile as it cooked. Add some flavourings of your choice – last time, I was in the mood for the warmth of star anise and fresh ginger. Or you could try whole lemon and paprika – let your tastebuds direct you. Bring the liquid to the boil and then lower in the free-range whole chicken. Let this poach at a fast simmer for 20 minutes or so. In a frypan with a good slosh of olive oil, soften a roughly chopped onion and as much garlic as you fancy. Add baby turnips, radish, sliced celery, sliced cavalo nero and sautee briefly with the onion and garlic, then pop it all into the soup pot and stir. Add more olive oil to the pan and then some soft brown sugar and whole baby carrots (halve lengthways if they’re too big). Sautee to give the carrots a sweet glaze, then add them to the pot. Now, if you’ve started with plain water, you need to build up some more flavour – add sauces like soy, oyster or Worcester, plus salt and pepper. Let it cook for another 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, then taste and add more seasoning if needed. Let it all cook gently, for another 10 minutes or so, until the carrots and potato are cooked through but not yet breaking up. Towards the end, add fresh herbs – Thai basil, coriander for Asian style; basil, thyme or oregano for a Euro taste. Or add a herbaceous hit by drizzling over some runny pesto (coriander, rocket or basil).
Serve as is, or with a bowl of steamed rice to make a more substantial meal. Just dig into to it with the soup ladle and the soft chicken will give way and break into portions. Incidentally, My kids lapped this up, and it’s a great way to tempt them into a few servings of vegetables they might not normally fancy.