Fiery chicken, chickpea & harrisa soup. | Marc Fosh

When I first started my career in the kitchens of a large five star hotel in London, one of the first sections I worked in was the butchery department. I don’t think they really exist now, but in those days the butchery department was an incredibly cold, tough environment for a soft, wet behind the ears seventeen year-old straight out of catering college.

It was full of sharp knives, butchers saws, cleavers and meat hooks hanging from the wall with extremely heavy, wooden chopping blocks that needed to be constantly cleaned with loads of salt and scrubbed with big wire brushes. It was an intimidating place to work. The head butcher looked very scary to me, as strong as an ox, he was definitely not a man you would want to disappoint. He pushed everyone extremely hard to work as quickly as possible because practically every other section in the kitchen depended on us to supply them with their basic ingredients for the busy, lunchtime service. Everyday an endless supply of huge cuts of meat, game birds and countless boxes of chickens would arrive that needed to be prepared, broken down and stored swiftly and expeditiously.

My first job was always the chickens. Initially it took me five minutes to break down a single chicken, but after a couple of weeks I could do it in less than a minute easily. The breasts would be removed for the fricassée de poulet à l’ancienne, the fillets for club sandwiches or escalope; the legs had to be cut into two pieces (thigh & drumstick) for Coq au vin or completely deboned for Ballontines, and the livers would be separated for the parfait de foies de volaille. The carcases and necks would then be cleaned and made ready to prepare the stocks and sauces for the saucier.

All this made me realise that a whole chicken is such a valuable and versatile ingredient, and if you get a little creative, it can easily supply fast, tasty meals for 3-4 days easily. At home, I prefer to slowly poach a whole chicken first to make a wonderful, clear stock. I can then use the cooking liquid to make a clear soup with vegetables and noodles that can be easily spiced up with a little chopped ginger, a couple of chillies and soy sauce. The next day I might make a creamy chicken, mushroom & pea fricassee with the breast meat or maybe Mexican tacos or a chicken salad. With the legs I’ll probably make some kind of curry or a delicious chicken stew lemon & artichokes, and the next day I might make a stir-fry with the leftover rice and the rest of the cooked chicken picked from the carcass. If you are going to make a stock they do need a little care and attention, but if you follow the basic rules, you’ll be rewarded with clear-looking, healthy broths with intense flavours that are true and clean.

Fiery chicken, chickpea & harrisa soup

Once you’ve made your chicken could also make this really quick and delicious soup in no time at all.

Serves 4

  • 1 x 410g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 carrots, peeled & diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled & diced
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 200ml milk
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • A handful of parsley leaves, chopped Seasoning

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add the onion, potato, carrots and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened but not coloured.

2. Add the chickpeas, spices, harrisa paste and chicken stock, and then bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Add the milk, lemon juice and then blend to a smooth puree. Season to taste; pass through a fine sieve and then ladle into soup bowls.

4. Garnish with cooked chicken, parsley leaves and serve immediately.


My Easy Poached Chicken

Serves 6

  • 1.8-2kg whole chicken
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • A few whole black peppercorns

1 Place the whole chicken breast-side down in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.
Place over a high heat and bring to the boil.

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2 As soon as it begins to boil, reduce the heat and remove any grease or impurities that have risen to the surface. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 20 minutes. Do not boil.

3 Continue to degrease and remove all the impurities as they rise to the surface.
Remove from the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow to stand for 1 hour before carefully removing the whole chicken.

4 Then pass the stock through a fine sieve. Remember if you make fresh stocks you can also freeze them down to use later if you have any leftover.

Smooth chicken liver parfait with onion-apricot chutney

Serves 6-8

  • 350g unsalted butter
  • 500g chicken livers, trimmed and soaked in cold milk for at least 2 hours
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 4 tbsp cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 80g clarified butter*
  • A few fresh sage leaves

1 To make your clarified butter, heat the butter in a pan over a very low heat. Cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes until completely separated. Skim the clear butter off the top place in a bowl. Set aside about 80 grams to cover.

2 Drain the chicken livers and pat dry with a clean kitchen cloth.

3 Heat a little of clarified butter over a gentle flame and add the chopped onion, garlic & thyme.Cook for 1-2 minutes to soften and then add the chicken livers. Cook the liver gently for 3-4 minutes and add the brandy to the pan.

4 Flambé the brandy and add the cream. Place in a food processor and blend until smooth with the rest of the warm, melted clarified butter. Season well with sea salt & freshly ground pepper.

5 Pass through a fine sieve and pour the mixture into individual ramekin or bowls. Cover each one with a little clarified butter, a couple of sage leaves and a pinch of sea salt. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to set. Serve with chutney and toasted chunky bread.

*Clarified butter is a form of “clean” butter where certain solids are removed and only the pure butterfat remains. Unsalted butter is slowly melted, allowing the milk solids to separate from the transparent golden liquid and for any water to evaporate. Milk solids also cause the butter to spoil, or become rancid so clarifying the butter ensures that when you use it to cook certain things they will have a longer shelf life.

Onion & apricot chutney

  • 2 large onionsfinely sliced
  • 12 dried apricots, chopped
  • 200ml orange juice
  • 2tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2tbsp brown sugar
  • Seasoning
  • A knob of butter

Heat the butter in a saucepan over a gentle flame. Add the sliced onions, chopped apricots, orange juice, sugar and sherry vinegar. Cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. Season to taste. Place in a jar and cool for at least 4 hours.