This poached chicken and orzo soup is like a hug in a bowl. And let’s face it, those are the only hugs we will be giving for a while more.

Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta, but you could use any pasta, or barley. I make this regularly with lots of different vegetables and eat with some wheaten bread.

For stock I recommend Carol’s Stock Market from Derry. She makes the best-quality homemade stock, all with natural products, that you can buy.

I like celeriac and think of it as a much underrated vegetable. I like it with the bacon in this recipe for the added taste. For the best apple juice look for the Apple Farm in Co Tipperary.

The Traas family have been growing apples in Holland since the 1800s. Some generations later, the family moved to Tipperary where they have been growing fruit since the 1960s. There is no added sugar and it is an excellent product.

Each of these soups freeze well, but remember that the cream will separate when you defrost. Just bring to the boil and hand blend.

Happy cooking,



Poached chicken and orzo soup

Serves four to six

Poached chicken and orzo soup. \ Photography: Claire Nash. Food styling: Janine Kennedy

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 bay leaves

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, plus extra to garnish

1.7 litres (3 pints) water

2 chicken stock cubes

4 boneless, skinless chicken fillets

175g (6oz) orzo

2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

sea salt and freshly ground black


To serve:

sourdough baguette and butter

  • 1 To make the stock, place the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves and thyme in a large pan with the water. Bring to the boil, then crumble in the stock cubes and simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables have released their flavour.
  • 2 Reduce the heat to low, then add the chicken fillets and poach for 12-15 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a plate and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
  • 3 Meanwhile, stir the orzo into the pan and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until tender.
  • 4 When the chicken has rested for 5 minutes, shred the meat using two forks and return to the soup while the orzo is finishing cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the chicken and orzo soup into bowls (discarding the bay leaves) and scatter the extra thyme and the parsley on top. Serve with chunks of sourdough baguette spread with butter.
  • Celeriac and potato soup with smoked bacon

    Serves four to six

    2 litres (3½ pints) chicken stock

    (from a cube is fine)

    5 garlic cloves (3 peeled and 2 thinly sliced)

    1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

    500g (1lb 2oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped

    1 celeriac, peeled and chopped

    100g (4oz) smoked bacon lardons

    300ml (½ pint) cream

    100ml (3½fl oz) unsweetened apple juice

    2 tbsp rapeseed oil

    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    To serve:

    buttered brown soda bread (optional)

  • 1 Place the stock, peeled garlic and half of the thyme in a large pan over a high heat. Add the potatoes, celeriac and half of the bacon and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
  • 2 Stir in most of the cream, reserving a little to garnish, along with all of the apple juice and use a hand-held blender to blitz until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • 3 When almost ready to serve, heat the oil in a small frying pan and sauté the rest of the bacon lardons for a few minutes, until crisp and lightly golden.
  • 4 Stir in the sliced garlic with the rest of the thyme and cook for 30-60 seconds, until crisp. Reheat the soup until warmed through, then ladle into warmed bowls and swirl in the remaining cream, then top with the smoked bacon and garlic mixture.
  • 5 Serve with buttered slices of brown soda bread, if liked.