Let’s face it. Free-range may be the favourable choice in terms of animal welfare, environment, health and taste, but all these benefits come at a cost. Your wallet weeps at the prospect of having to pay double, perhaps even triple the price of a standard factory farmed chicken. How can you possibly afford the luxury of free-range?
Well – you can, if you stick to two principles. First of all; eat meat less often. There are so many delicious vegetarian recipes out there – rid yourself once and for all of the idea that a meal isn’t proper without meat and stuff your face with veggies. That way, when you do buy meat, you have the cash to splash on free-range.
Second; know how to make your chicken stretch, be sure to get your money’s worth. I remember watching a TV-programme called ‘Hugh’s chicken run’, where people bought cheap whole chickens and took only the breasts, discarding the rest of the chicken – just plain stupid. Especially when you buy free-range, you want to make the most of your chicken. The carcass makes excellent stock for risottos, stews and soups.
For this recipe, I had a leftover chicken carcass which, when stripped of remaining bits of meat and boiled with vegetables, makes a warming and comforting soup. I love making chicken soup almost as much as I love eating it. The scent of chicken filling the kitchen and corridor as it simmers gently in the pan – not much can compete.
1 leftover chicken carcass
1 bay leaf + thyme (dried)
chicken or vegetable stock (powdered or a cube)
100 g pearl barley
5-6 leaves wild garlic (or; a few cloves of garlic)
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
parsley, to finish
1. Strip the chicken carcass of meat, put meat in a bowl and the carcass in a large saucepan.
2. Peel the onion and quarter it, cut one carrot into big chunks at chuck it all in the saucepan with the carcass. Add bay leaf, thyme and stock cube or powdered stock, and fill the pan with cold water, just enough to cover everything. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for about an hour.
3. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, cook the pearl barley as instructed on the packet – normally they recommend cooking for an hour, which means it will be ready at the same time as the chicken stock!
4. When the full hour is almost up, slice the leek into rings and dice the two remaining carrots. Chop up the wild garlic and the parsley.
5. Strain the chicken stock through a sieve, discarding the carcass and vegetables. In the now empty saucepan, heat some olive oil and sauté the leek and carrots for 5 minutes. Return the chicken stock to the saucepan along with the cooked pearl barley, the chicken meat and the wild garlic. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
6. Season to taste; perhaps add a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with a generous sprinkling of parsley.