A few weeks ago when my children and I were unwell, I went searching for the ultimate in health-promoting, comforting and most importantly… delicious-tasting soups. It was a given that it had to be based around chicken, but when I came across this rather lovely recipe featuring leeks, garlic, lemon and a little pasta, I knew that I’d found exactly what I was looking for! It is a recipe that I’ve adapted (ever so slightly) from one of my favourite Neil Perry cookbooks, called ‘The Food I Love’.
I’m absolutely kicking myself that I didn’t discover this soup years ago… all those years that have passed when we could have been indulging and restoring ourselves through the colder months of the year. Therefore, starting immediately is our belated, but now completely embraced tradition of chicken soup to warm the body and soul.
Chicken & Orzo Soup | Gather and Graze
- 300g Free-Range Chicken Breast(s)
- 8 Peppercorns/1 Star Anise/1 Bay Leaf
- 100g Orzo/Risoni Pasta (or any other small pasta shape)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Leeks (washed and sliced finely)
- 2 Cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 Litre Good Quality Chicken Stock
- Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese to serve (optional)
- A Handful of Chopped Flat-Leaf Parsley (optional)
The first two steps of this recipe can be done well ahead of time if you like and then placed in the fridge until you’re ready to start cooking the leeks/garlic.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and add the peppercorns, star anise, bay leaf (or any other herbs, spices or aromatics that you desire). Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat completely. Place your chicken breast(s) into the pot with the poaching liquid and leave for about 2 hours. Remove to a bowl to cool, before shredding.
While the chicken is poaching, place a small saucepan filled with water on the stove and once again, bring to a rolling boil. Add some sea salt and then the orzo pasta, giving a quick stir to make sure none is stuck together and then cook until al dente (tender, but with a slight bite). When ready, drain the orzo and rinse gently with cold water. Set aside for later.
About half an hour before you want to serve dinner, place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, along with the chopped leeks, garlic and a little sea salt. Allow to sweat for about 10 minutes or so, until the leek has softened. Then add the chicken stock, lemon zest and juice (depending on the size and type of lemon, you may wish to add half of the juice at first and then taste to see if more is required) and simmer for another 10 minutes.
At this point it’s up to you to decide whether to puree the soup or not. With one of my children averse to the sight of cooked vegetables in any soups or stews, I decided that a couple of minutes of whizzing the soup with a stick blender was the only way that he might enjoy it. It worked!
Now add the shredded chicken and orzo into the soup and stir gently to combine. When the chicken and orzo are warmed through, the soup is ready to serve.
This soup is lovely as it is, or perfect with some finely-grated parmesan cheese and some chopped flat-leaf parsley scattered on top… with some crusty bread on the side too!
* Recipe slightly adapted from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ cookbook