Finally with a little time on my hands, I am back to my kitchen in a productive and busy manner. With little time before the baby arrives, I had envisioned stocking the freezer to the brim with snacks and meals for when our hands are full. To do this though, I have to empty the freezer of the useless items. Right now, if you open the door, items such as gooseberries, frozen party food left over from Christmas and shop bought bread, fall out.
So as with my usual tradition of cleaning out the freezer begins, I found myself making lots of soups and snacks. Two weeks ago, we were busy trying to buy a car for myself. I already had a car but was desperate to buy a bigger and better model that could fit in all our needs, i.e. buggies and a dog. When we got home from a not so successful car buying attempt, we were starving! So I rummaged through the freezer and found a box of shredded chicken pieces that I had put in there and some chicken stock. A full roast chicken is always too much for just the two of us so I tend to dissect the leftovers and freeze the meat and make stock from the carcass. And so was born the idea of my Greek chicken soup.
My father always brings me lemons from his trees in Corfu. The flavours and aromas from these lemons are far far better than anything I can buy here. So with lemons from his recent visit in the fridge and some feta too, I concocted this soup. Obviously when Greek lemons are not to hand (pretty much always) normal Irish lemons do the job just as well.
This soup is basically a glorified chicken noodle soup. Sometimes I add carrots and celery (not very Greek I know) and sometimes I don’t. It just depends what I have in my fridge, likewise with the herbs, dill is wonderful in this but also oregano and some thyme. Just add what you might have to hand. But the lemons really add a depth of flavour and the feta makes it rich and creamy. The chicken from a leftover roast chicken is great in this but if you aren’t having a roast chook, boil some chicken breasts and tear apart when cool.
MY GREEK LEMON AND CHICKEN SOUP
- 500 g left over shredded chicken (about 3 chicken breasts)
- 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
- 1 large or 2 small carrots, finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
- grated zest of 2 lemons
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, depending on how garlicky you like things
- 1.5 ltrs of chicken stock
- 100 g roughly ( 1 cup ) of dried orzo pasta,
- 100 g feta cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- pinch of chilli flakes
- a handful of chopped dill
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- small bunch of thyme sprigs
- 1 tsp chopped coriander for garnish
In a big saucepan/casserole dish, fry the onions in the oil. Let them soften for about 3-5 minutes but don’t let them colour too much.
Add in the lemon zest, garlic and chilli flakes and stir.
Next add in the carrots and celery and cook on low heat for about 3 minutes.
Throw in the dill, oregano, thyme, shredded chicken and chicken stock and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Once the vegetables have softened, throw in the orzo and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. The orzo absorbs a lot of the liquid so if you have added a little too much orzo (like I do, I sometimes get a bit excited and don’t measure how much I put in) then add a little more stock or just boiling water.
Once the pasta is cooked, take off the heat and crumble in the feta. Stir and allow the feta to melt. This makes for a really nice creamy soup.
Ladle into bowls, garnish with coriander and serve with a side of sourdough bread.