Delicious meatballs in a mouth-watering broth.
In the darker days of autumn as the ominous gloom of winter descends, I often find myself yearning for a bowl of healing chicken soup. We make quite a few versions at home and it’s rare there’s not a pot of broth bubbling on the stove. Sometimes I boil a whole chicken with a load of veg, then strip off the meat and throw it back into the broth with a dollop of aïoli. Mum makes a great soup of blended chicken with a ton of tarragon, wonderfully nourishing to combat the lurgy. But here we have a much-loved classic, with the addition of these divine meatballs, which are zingy with lemon and rich with ricotta. They have the most delicate texture and are light and juicy as can be.
for the meatballs:
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 120g fresh breadcrumbs
- 150g ricotta
- 1 egg yolk
- a generous bunch of fresh tarragon (15–20g), finely chopped
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 10g flaky sea salt and a generous crack of pepper
- olive oil, for frying
for the broth:
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 celery sticks, finely sliced
- 3 carrots, halved lengthways and finely sliced
- 1.7 litres chicken stock
- 250g orzo
- 20g fresh dill, finely chopped
- 20g fresh parsley, finely chopped
- crème fraîche, for serving
- To make the meatballs, roughly chop the chicken, then place in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the rest of the meatball ingredients apart from the oil and blitz again until well combined. Take a small amount of the mixture and roll into a patty, then fry in a large, heavy-based pan with a splash of olive oil until golden on each side – this should only take a few minutes. Remove, leave to cool, then have a taste. This should give you an idea of the seasoning, so adjust the rest of the mixture as necessary. Once you have done so, roll the rest of the mixture into small meatballs. Fry in batches until golden on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan and adding more oil as necessary. Set the meatballs aside on a large plate or tray while you cookthe vegetables.
- Using the chicken fat that has rendered from the meatballs, fry the onion with a pinch of salt for 10–12minutes, until completely soft and sweet, taking care it doesn’t brown. Add the celery and carrots, fry for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock. Put the lid on the pan and bring up to a simmer for about 10–15 minutes, until the veg is tender. Then add the meatballs and orzo and cook for another 6–8 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Taste for seasoning, then stir through the herbs and serve in warm bowls with a dollop of crème fraîche.
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