Food & Wine
Maggie Beer shares her surprising secrets for perfect chicken soup
There’s nothing more comforting in winter than a bowl of chicken soup. But despite the winter warmer meal being a classic, it can be a hard to perfect.
Step in Maggie Beer, one of Australia’s most beloved cooks. Speaking to 9Kitchen's What the F is for Dinner? podcast, the 73-year-old grandmother shared her tips for perfecting the bowl of goodness – and the one common mistakes to avoid.
Firstly, Maggie likes to use winter vegetables such as fennel, parsnips and swedes.
“What you need in winter is heartier vegetables. I love winter fennel, parsnips and the old-fashioned swedes,” she told 9Honey food editor Jane de Graaff.
As for the herbs, Maggie suggests cooking with chervil instead of parsley.
“Parsley has so many antioxidants, it's amazing but chervil is something you only get in winter, it's really great. What you get is this lovely aniseed flavour that picks up these heartier winter veg,” she said.
The Aussie chef also likes to roast the vegetables in the oven with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil before cooking them on the stove.
“Roasting them extracts more colour and flavour out of them,” she explained.
Maggie also advises to add chickpeas or lentils to the soup as it offers “so much more goodness” to the liquid.
“But if you're going for barley, cook your barley separately - and add it in the end. Don't cook it in the stock because it would become like a porridge,” she said.
Another surprising tip was to use “old” chicken as the flavour gets better with age.
“You get good flavour development. If something is only five weeks old, which chicken can be, it's got no chance of having flavour,' she said, adding that she likes to cook her chicken with skin on.
“I'd be looking for free range and no antibiotics.”
When Maggie is creating a chicken soup, she said she takes her chicken out of the stock to let it rest, before she chops it up. She adds the meat back into the pot after the soup is finished cooking.
And the common mistake to avoid? Bringing the soup to the boil.
“You'd just toughen the chicken if you boil it. If you do a slow simmer, you get more flavour,” she said, adding that boiling the soup just makes it lose flavour – and can lead to overcooked stock.
“One of the ways to test [if the stock is overcooked] is when making any stock with chicken, lamb or beef, if there is no flavour left in the meat around the bone, it's because all your goodness is gone.
“I know people might have a go at me because it's bone broth but I'm flavour driven so that's where I'm coming from.'”
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