Poached chicken spring soup with crispy chicken crack

After many a chicken roast over winter, I have a freezer full of both chicken stock and chicken frames waiting to be made into stock. I also have more lemons that I know what to do with at the moment; lucky I’m addicted to their citrus tang. This soup was a practice run for Evan’s turn to cook for the Monday Soup Club they do at his work (replaced with Monday Salad Club in summer; Waiheke Primary is full of great initiatives like this). We stirred in an avgolemono mix – whisked egg and lemon – at the end to lend it a dairy-free creamy silkiness. You could use whichever vegetables you like in this – baby turnips, asparagus and other spring veg would all be good.

Serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers for lunch the next day)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

1 carrot, sliced on the diagonal

1.5–2 litres homemade chicken stock

2 large boneless chicken breasts, skin carefully removed and reserved

200g green beans, trimmed and halved (asparagus would be as good if not better, if in season)

200g frozen baby peas (or fresh if you’re lucky enough to have them)

2 eggs

juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over a medium-high heat and when glistening, add leaks and carrots. Cook for 2–3 minutes, until beginning to soften, then add garlic. Cook for a further 2 minutes, until garlic is transparent but not browned. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add chicken stock, followed by skinless chicken breasts (whole). Cook for about 6 minutes, until chicken is just cooked through. Remove from stock, turn off the heat, and leave chicken to cool slightly. Don’t worry if there is a little pinkness in the middle still; it will cook fully once added back into the soup.

While the chicken is cooking, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast-iron pan big enough to hold the chicken skin. Once the oil is glistening, lay the chicken skin flat and apply pressure with a fish slice; this will help the skin to crisp up. Once the fat has rendered and the skin has begun to detach from the pan and is nicely golden, turn over and repeat on the other side, until the skin is crispy, taking care not to let it burn. Remove from heat, sprinkle with sea salt and slice.

Once the chicken breasts have cooled enough to handle, use your hands or two forks to shred the meat.

Return the pot to a medium heat, add the green beans, peas and shredded chicken to the stock and cook for 2–3 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked through and the vegetables are tender, taking care not to overcook them.

While the vegetables are cooking, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice, then remove the soup from heat and stir egg/lemon mixture in slowly (it’s important to remove the soup from the heat first otherwise the egg may separate).

Season to taste and serve soup with crispy chicken crack as a garnish, along with fresh herbs of your choice – I used torn-up basil leaves.

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