It’s late August but perversely I'm thinking about soup for dinner. It’s been frigging horrible out there lately, it just hasn't stopped pissing down with rain and it’s cold with it. Anyone would think I lived in the UK and not a sun-kissed, palm-fringed Caribbean island *glances out of window and does a double take*. Shit.
Anyway, the legend that is Nigel Slater had a cracking looking soup recipe in The Observer magazine a week or so ago, chicken, butter bean and tarragon, so I gave that a go and in case you didn't see it, I'm going to share it with you.
This recipe ticks a number of boxes for me. Firstly I frigging love chicken soup, always have. Secondly, I also love butter beans, not sure why, I think it’s a textural thing, they feel smooth like a pebble but are soft and mashy when you bite into them, yeah I'm weird. Finally, guess what? I also love the aniseed whack of tarragon, especially with chicken. It’s like this recipe was made for me.
If that wasn't enough, there’s also a very ‘on trend’ element in the form of chicken crackling garnish. If you haven’t tried it yet, you've got to give it a go. Basically roasted, crispy chicken skin. It’s filthy, but lovely.
A note about chicken thighs – use them often! They’re dirt cheap, the meat actually tastes of something and if you’re shredding it up anyway, what difference does it make what part of the animal it came from. As usual, you should also be using lovely, happy free range chickens and not those grey, anaemic looking, extra value, 5 kilo tubs of sad, assorted chook bits for £3 that are probably a jigsaw puzzle of a butchered tramp.
Oh and eat this with good crusty bread, slathered in butter if you’re feeling particularly carefree. If you’re in Bristol, Mark’s Bread baguettes are frigging perfect. I love them. Anyway. That recipe….
Chicken Butter Bean and Tarragon Soup
3 large onions
A little olive oil
2x 400g tins butter beans
1 litre chicken stock (if you have homemade use it, if not the gel pots will do).
4 large chicken thighs, with skin, on the bone
5-6 sprigs of parsley
6 sprigs tarragon
Peel and roughly chop the onions. Melt the butter in a saucepan with a splash of olive oil. Throw in the chopped onions and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.
Drain the tins of butter beans and stir them into the onions along with the stock. Bring to the boil.
Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and put to one side for later. Sling the now skinless thighs into the stock then lower the heat and let the whole lot gently simmer for 40 minutes.
While you’re waiting, stretch the chicken skins flat on a foil covered baking tray. Season with salt and pepper. Stick into a low oven (150C) until crisp and golden (Nigel reckons 15-20 mins, but it took a fair bit longer in my oven, more like half hour). When done, set aside on kitchen towel.
Remove the chicken thighs from the soup. Pick all the meat from the bones and tear into large pieces. Chop the tarragon and parsley, then in a small mixing bowl, gently stir it through the chicken with a little salt and pepper until it’s coated in herbs.
Using an electric blender, blitz about half the soup to a creamy puree (Or all of it, if you like your soup non-chunky). Divide between four bowls. Add a heap of herby chicken thigh and a piece of chicken crackling balanced on top.