As much as I adore the long warm days of summertime, there is magical feeling as autumn softly approaches. Jewel coloured garments appear and how thrilling to enjoy warming, soft knits gently caressing the skin. Crisp mornings followed by midday warmth give way to a general greying of sky and dampness of air. But, deep colour remains everywhere to enjoy; in the trees and leaves as they gradually change from green to deep ochre – reds, yellows and browns not forgetting the market shelves, crammed with fruits, nuts and sweet, plump vegetables.

My mind can't help but wander to food and the kitchen. A craving for earthy, warm flavours and aroma. Yet, days bide for those heavier dishes of winter – it is time for deep, developed flavour but set against gossamer light textures.

Soups and broths are my solution to this dilemma. Seasonal produce carefully selected for maximal freshness and endless flavour combinations, limited only by imagination. The difference between a good and great soup is the liquid in which the constituents are simmered. Making stock is well worth the effort – My preference is chicken stock; a carcass crushed and combined with with herbs and various hardy vegetables, ready to be bubbled to flavour over some several hours. Some would (perhaps rightly) consider this an overly onerous task; so forth with here is solution is to prepare 2 meals from 1. Poached Chicken from which its cooking broth is utilised as a flavoursome base for soup.

Poached chicken is often overshadowed by roast; a difficult argument to counter - the crispness of skin against succulent pale flesh. Instead, I propose to alternate cooking methods dependant on the primary destination of the meat. Poaching retains a succulence which is second to non. Deliciously tender meat to combine hot, with pasta dishes, or cold in sandwiches and salads. Simply place the chicken into a sturdy pot and fill to about 2/3 of its depth with fresh, cold water. Add a little sea salt, black pepper, a few sprigs of thyme and a lemon, halved. Then bring to the boil, reduce the temperature to a slow simmer, cover and continue to cook for about 1½ hours (for a 1.5kg bird) or until the juices run clear. Turn off the heat, setting the chicken aside to rest.

The stock is now ready to strain and use, or cool then chill, making it easier to skim off excess fat.

Soup is essentially a stock-broth in which components are combined, wih thoughts to colour and flavour coo, then cooked and served either with pieces intact or puréed. The choice is purely based on preferences of the day and all quantities are mere suggestions:

Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

  • reserved stock from your poached chicken
  • a wedge of pumpkin or butternut squash, skin removed and cut into evenly sized pieces
  • 2 or 3 carrots, peeld and chunked
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • sea salt and black pepper

Place the pumpkin and carrots and sprigs of thyme into the stock, bringing to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are soft. Either allow to cool a little then puree or just taste, season and add extra thyme leaves if you wish, then serve piping hot.