Filling, fulfilling chicken soup

Good soup is high quality nutrition in a rush. Since most of the goodies are in solution they get to work exceptionally fast. That’s why all international cuisines feature soups, from Italian Minestrone to Vietnamese Pho Bo.

To make this winter soup for six shivering diners, you will need:

  • 1,5l water
  • 1l freshly made chicken stock
  • 50g freshly ground Parmesan cheese


For chicken stock:

  • 4 chicken backs
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 200g butternut
  • 200g cabbage
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 50g macaroni
  • Sprigs of thyme and parsley tied in a bunch with cotton thread
  • 1 can white beans

Begin with the chicken stock. Feel free to substitute with the industrial stock cube or stock powder of your choice. Alternatively prepare the fresh stock in 1,25l of water. Coarsely chop the backs (releases marrow into the mix), the onion, the carrot and the celery stick. Bay leaves are traditional seasoning that add the taste of dust or sand, depending on the quality of the bay leaf. See the bay leaf as optional.

Bring this to a rolling boil, skim off the scum and reduce to a gentle simmer. After 40 minutes, strain, squeezing the boiled solids to remove every trace of stock. Pour the litre or so of fresh stock into a large saucepan, and top it up with 1,5l of fresh water. Bring to the boil while you prep the vegetables.

Finely shred the cabbage, peel and dice the butternut, crush, peel and mince the garlic, peel and thickly slice the onion, scrape and dice the carrots, chop the celery, and slice the white parts of the leeks only. Add these ingredients, plus the tied-together bunch of parsley and thyme to the boiling liquid and immediately reduce to a simmer.

Drain and rinse the canned white beans and reserve under cover.

Let the contents of the saucepan simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, then add freshly ground black pepper and a little salt, both to taste. Go easy with the seasoning, adding tiny increments between taste samples since it is impossible to remove excess should this unpleasant circumstance come to pass. Add the rinsed white beans and the macaroni to the pot. Let the macaroni cook in the soup for about ten minutes, then remove the used-up herbs and do the final adjustment for salt and pepper as required.

Serve this magnificent winter soup in large, previously warmed bowls. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over each serving. Provide freshly baked bread or soft rolls, plus softened butter for spreading. Small bowls of freshly chopped parsley plus chopped chives or spring onion tops give your guests the opportunity to add to the flavour and aroma of their soup servings. If the weather is truly freezing, a shot of dry sherry per bowl of soup revs up the flavour and provides the welcome illusion of additional warmth.