As I sit here writing this, the morning sunshine has created a golden blanket over everything and the dew-soaked leaves and blades of grass shimmer like a thousand tiny diamonds. As I stepped outside this morning the fresh, crisp Autumn air surrounded me; the birds were singing their morning melodies and I had an overwhelming feeling of complete calmness. Which may I add was a welcome relief as I had had an awful nights sleep that night and woke feeling groggy to say the least! It was my own fault though, a mixture of going to bed too late (I am working really hard on getting myself off to bed earlier) trying to work out my new phone (I am quite technologically challenged!) and, alas, finding myself scrolling through Instagram and losing the sense of exactly what hour of the night it was. I am sure I am not the only one who finds themselves in this position. But enough of my little rant here, lets go back to the last few days.
The days that re-introduced us to the rain, the cold and the blustery wind that seems to have given everything in its path a re-fresh after a rather dry summer. As much as I love the heat and those sun-kissed days by the beach, I always find myself looking forward to the change in seasons. Cosy oversized jumpers, beanies and knitted house slippers make a reappearance and the nights are upon us much earlier. The nearby houses light up with a warm glow and the faint smell of wood-smoke fills the air. We are still yet to hear that crackle and feel the warmth from the open fire, but something tells me we wont be waiting too much longer.
My Saturday morning market expedition last weekend saw the stall holders rugged up in layer upon layer, scarves, beanies and gloves were all out on show and the handover of coins was being made increasingly difficult as the wind blew in off the bay dancing with the leaves and attempting to lift the shelters and tents from the ground.
Cauliflowers, beetroot, beans, pumpkin, eggplant and potatoes, silverbeet and pears all herald the start for those warming bowls of soup, slow-cooked dinners and hot mugs of creamy-delicious-tantalising-tastebud-concoctions that we can wrap our hands around and blow steam from the top before feeling that hot liquid-y goodness warming every inch of our soul from the inside out.
I was inspired not only by the weather but by the produce, of course, and one very fine looking "girl" to say the least. This Chicken, lemon, ginger and vegetable soup is delicate, full of flavour and all the goodness to fight any colds that seem to go hand in hand with the change in weather. Its also very filling and provides left-overs for a couple of lunches or easy dinners on the following days. Its actually better the next day as the flavours are left to work their magic and develop overnight.
Poaching the whole chook beforehand not only creates a beautifully moist, tender and flavoursome result but you also end up with a lovely stock too. I had some chicken stock in the freezer which I added in with the water but, if you don't have any on hand then just using water will be just fine too. And I shouldn't have to say it, but I will just to make sure, It really must be served alongside thick slices of sourdough spread generously with butter! and perhaps a sprinkling of salt flakes too.
This will serve about 4-6 people, or 2 with leftovers for lunch or dinner for the next couple of days.
For the chook
1 free-range (organic) chook
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed with the side of a knife
4 cups chicken stock + 8 cups of water (Or you can just use 12 cups of water) you just need enough to cover the chook.
Pop everything into a large pot and bring up to the boil. Reduce down to a simmer and continue to cook with the lid half off for 1 1/2 hours. I also, turn the chicken over for the last 1/2 hour of cooking. Then let the chicken rest in the broth for another 1/2 hour.Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface
Remove the chook from the stock and place into a large bowl. Strain the stock and set aside. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, carefully remove the skin (I love to lay this out on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle a little oil over the top and sprinkle over some salt then pop into the oven until the skin is crisp and golden!!) Then shred the meat and set aside.
For the Soup
1 leek, halved and rinsed well then sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 carrots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 chilli, finely sliced
5 tomatoes, roughly chopped
3cm piece of ginger, finely diced
3/4 cup of lentils
juice of I lemon
Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat, add in the leek, garlic cloves, carrots and zucchini and cook until starting to soften and turn golden. Add in the chilli, tomatoes and the ginger and give everything a good stir, cook for another couple of minutes then add the reserved stock and the lentils, squeeze in the juice of the lemon and then pop the lemon halves in too. Bring up to the boil and then reduce the heat so the soup simmers away gently for about 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
I always spoon out a couple and test about halfway through to gauge how much longer they will need. Once its ready, add in the shredded chicken and salt and pepper to taste. And remember, don't forget to serve it with thick slices of buttered sourdough.
Its also great to freeze as well. Just a quick note too, you may need to add a little extra water when reheating if having it for lunch or dinner the following days.
May it leave you feeling full of all the warm and fuzzies! x