Chicken goes particularly well with orzo, the tiny rice-shaped pasta, as neither overwhelms the other. That being said, this soup is full of flavour, enhanced by a splash of chilli sauce and a squeeze of lemon at the end. I like it because you can prepare the main part hours in advance, leaving only the final hotting up to do when you crash through the door, desperate for something warm to eat. That’s because the labour can be divided by poaching the chicken well in advance, stripping the meat off the bone and then leaving both the stock and the meat in the fridge until 10 minutes before you want to eat it, which is all the time you need to cook the pasta in the stock.
I use two drumsticks and two thighs for this recipe, but you could use breasts. Do make sure the meat is on the bone, however, as you want the goodness for the stock.
Rinse the chicken pieces under the cold tap and place in a saucepan. Cover the pieces with cold water, bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat so that the water simmers. Cook for 45 minutes. (The chicken will be cooked after about 25, if you are in a hurry, but I like a richer stock, which comes from the longer cooking time.)
Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a chopping board to cool. Using fingers, discard the skin and remove the chicken from the bone. If it is breast, shred the meat into strips; if legs or thighs, tear into small pieces, discarding pieces of cartilage and any fatty bits.
Pour the cooking liquid through a sieve into a measuring jug, being careful to leave the cooking scum behind on the bottom of the pan. Make up the stock with hot water to 750ml, pour into a clean saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente. This will take around 5–6 minutes. Add the chicken, three-quarters of the chopped parsley and a squeeze from the half lemon. Stir through the soup. Ladle out into bowls and sprinkle the remaining parsley leaves on the top. Quarter the remaining lemon. Serve with chilli sauce and the lemon quarters to hand.
Recipe from Friends Food Family: Recipes and Secrets from LibertyLondonGirl, by Sasha Wilkins (Quadrille, £18.99)
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