This is a political blog, but politicians need to eat and this subtle, warming and delicious soup is ideal after a hard day’s campaigning. One thing to insist on, you must use home made chicken stock, from a good quality chicken, and then the soup will have a most delicious flavour. You don’t have to use organic, but organic chickens don’t have much fat, and the soup needs some for flavour. A plump free range bird is ideal.
Ingredients: A fresh, plump, free range chicken. 2 large onions. 2 large carrots. 1 large or 2 small butternut squashes. A packet of peeled chestnuts. A large handful of sultanas. Home made chicken stock.
To make the fresh chicken stock. Fill a large pan with 2/3 cold water. Wash the chicken, and put it in the pan, with any giblets if you have them, two bay leaves, and the onion and carrots, roughly chopped. The water should totally cover the bird. Bring to the boil, skim off the scum, then lower the heat right down to a low simmer. After 30 minutes, remove the bird and carve the breast off in two large pieces. It will be cooked through, but deliciously moist and juicy. You can also remove some of the thigh meat for a risotto or curry. Return the remnants of the bird to the pot and simmer for one and half hours.
Prepare the squash. Cut the squash in two and scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into three or four pieces. Put the unpeeled squash on a baking tray into a hot oven and cook until the squash is soft. Let it cool, then strip off the skin, and put the squash into a large bowl. Roughly mash. Pour enough chicken stock onto the squash to make a soupy consistency, but not too runny. Then add one onion that you have finely chopped small and fried until soft. If you like spices, add a dash of cinnamon, a grind of nutmeg or both to the onion as it cooks. Thrown in some chestnuts, (halved) and a handful of sultanas, or even a few chopped dried apricots if you prefer. Season. (If you are feeling thrifty, fish the carrots out of the stock, blend, and add to the soup. If not just chuck them out.)
Return this soup to a pan, heat through, check seasoning and serve in warmed bowls or large mugs. If your guests are very hungry, cut the juicy pieces of chicken breast into chunks and add some to each bowl. This soup is sweet/savoury, and fragrantly warming.