February half term is always a strange holiday. We are knee deep (literally for some) in the depths of winter here in the UK, all the more so because of the dreadful weather that we have been having. We are very lucky here in Lincolnshire that we have not been flooded (well, we did have to spend ONE afternoon shovelling water away from the garage). I feel for the poor people in other parts of the country who have lost their homes, or had to temporarily move out, or whose lives have been disrupted in some other way by the floods.
Disruptions come to all of us at some point, and I feel I have had more than my fair share of disruptions recently. As many of you will already know, I am writing a book, but my progress has been hampered by a significant disruption in my personal life, the details of which I cannot go into here and now.
At times of stress and distress, the small comforts of life seem to provide even more comfort than usual. I have been finding that baking and cooking are forms of therapy. Doing something normal, and something that it is intrinsically lovely, is so important for maintaining a sense of wholeness and just keeping going through a crisis.
Today I am fortunate to have all my children at home with me. We have been all doing different things this morning, but there has been a buzz of activity and a sense of company in the house, which I have welcomed. We all came together, as we always do, for a meal at lunch time. Yesterday we had a roast dinner, and there was just a little bit of chicken left over, so I made a chicken soup. I was rather pleased with the results, so I thought I would share it. This is for those people who need a little comfort in their lives. Remember that book 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'? Well, I never read it, so I have no idea what it was about, but I genuinely believe that a homemade meal, shared with family or friends, feeds the soul as well as the body.
Approx. 100g left over roast chicken, cooled and diced
4 slices of pancetta or a large handful of cubed pancetta
1 stick of celery
4 - 5 button mushrooms
1 tsp of dried tarragon (replace with another herb if you don't have tarragon
Left over chicken gravy topped up with boiling water to around 1 litre
1 tbsp olive oil
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Prepare the veg, by chopping it all into small dice. You are not going to blend this soup, so it is really important to get all the veg the same size, as you are making a 'soffrito' (click on the link for info about this) . You don't want it quite as small as you would if you were making a sauce, but smaller than you would chop it for a pie; so about 1cm square is about right.
Chop the pancetta into 1cm pieces and dry fry in a large pan (preferably with a solid copper base). When it is just turning crispy, but not too crispy, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the herbs and the veg. Give everything a good stir.
Fry the veg with the pancetta and herbs for a few minutes, stirring every so often, until the veg is just turning golden and starting to soften. Don't over-fry. You shouldn't let the edges start to go brown.
Add the chopped chicken and the gravy stock and stir. Bring to just below the boil slowly, reduce the heat immediately pop a lid on and simmer gently for a maximum of ten minutes. Serve sprinkled with the parsley.
I'm crazy about yarn, Scotland, food, my husband and my three girls, and I live in a perpetual state of organised chaos. Some just call it creativity.