Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Chicken soup.

Dazed head has no thought in it.

So here is a recipe instead –

Complete cheat’s clean, soothing chicken broth.

This does four. I’m hopeless on quantities so you may want to adjust.

Poach two free-range chicken breasts gently in chicken stock if you have it or water with Marigold Bouillon powder if you don’t. (No horrid Knorr; it will go greasy and taste disgusting.)

Meanwhile, cook a double handful of pearl barley in plenty of boiling water, with a dash of Marigold if you fancy it or a good pinch of sea salt if you don’t. About half an hour to forty minutes. Don’t be afraid to boil the hell out of it; it cannot spoil as long as you give it lots and lots of water.

Remove chicken breasts once they are done – about ten minutes. Throw in two big chopped leeks and a couple of sticks of chopped celery. Simmer for another ten minutes. Check for seasoning.

Slice the chicken into thin ribbons; drain the pearl barley; put into big white bowls, pour the broth with the celery and leek over; add a scatter of very finely chopped parsley. Oddly, common curly parsley is best for this, rather than its posh, flat-leaf cousin.

Perhaps a tiny bit of black pepper if you are feeling in the mood.

That’s it.

This is completely phony and I made it up out of my own head and the purists will be fainting away. Where is the onion? What, no garlic? Why does the meat not come from a whole bird, lovingly raised by nuns and poached gently in a proper court-bouillon until tender?

I don’t care. Sometimes I want something easy and quick but delicious and wholesome at the same time. The only poncey caveat I have for you is that the chicken must be free-range, and the best you can get, or you end up with a broth that is composed of white scum and the taste of despair.

If you are that kind of person, you could add a carrot.

Or, not.


Today’s pictures:

The HorseBack horses were having a blast this morning:

24th Feb FB3

And dear Polly the Cob was at her loveliest:

24 Feb 5

The red mare is actually covered in her least becoming rug at the moment, because we have gales and sleet. The road to Glenshee is already closed. But here she is from a few days ago, all red and rugless, contemplating the Universal Why:

24 Feb 3

Stan the Man really hates having his picture taken, which is why he always looks rather quizzical and melancholy in photographs. He is sitting on sufferance until I release him to go after those tempting creatures which are rustling in the undergrowth. My lovely Pigeon adored posing for the camera and used to give me doggy smiles. Not this serious gentleman. In life, he is actually a very jolly, busy fellow, constantly hunting for sticks, digging holes in which to bury the horses’ carrots, crazily plunging into the hay stack after mice, and haring off into the woods in vain pursuit of crafty pheasants, who are always ten steps ahead of him. He has never caught any living thing, which is quite lucky for me. I may be a countrywoman, but I’m not good with the agonising deaths of small things. But he never, ever stops trying. It’s almost mean of me to stop him in his tracks, even for a moment:

24 Feb 4


  1. How did you know that this was exactly the day I needed a soothing chicken broth recipe? I am unfortunately too wrung out to make it tonight, but I will think about it and have imaginary soothing.

  2. In general I am tremendously ambivalent about a cooked carrot. Chicken barley broth is my only exception.

  3. I never thought to precook barley. Excellent!

  4. Ha! Love the recipe—despite being a vegetarian. My favorite part is not being afraid to boil the hell out of the barley. Let the purists faint.


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