Serves 4-6

At the point where winter gives way to spring, it's good to hedge your bets with a soup that's not too thick. There's something comforting about a chicken broth made with spring leeks and a chicken carcass, boiling fowl or simply some chicken legs, as I've used here. If you have a chicken carcass left from a roast then that's perfect for turning into your next meal and if there is not enough meat left on it, it won't break the bank to buy a couple of chicken legs. If you can get your hands on a boiling fowl, just simmer it according to the recipe, and use the leg meat for the soup and the breasts for sandwiches or a salad.

At the point where winter gives way to spring, it's good to hedge your bets with a soup that's not too thick. There's something comforting about a chicken broth made with spring leeks and a chicken carcass, boiling fowl or simply some chicken legs, as I've used here. If you have a chicken carcass left from a roast then that's perfect for turning into your next meal and if there is not enough meat left on it, it won't break the bank to buy a couple of chicken legs. If you can get your hands on a boiling fowl, just simmer it according to the recipe, and use the leg meat for the soup and the breasts for sandwiches or a salad.

I always keep some pearl barley in a jar in the larder as it's a handy and not too stodgy addition to a soup or stew.

2 chicken legs, or a boiling fowl
2 leeks, one roughly chopped and washed, the other cut into rough 1cm squares and washed for the garnish
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
2 litres of chicken stock or a couple of stock cubes dissolved in that amount of water
50g pearl barley soaked in cold water overnight
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the chicken legs or boiling fowl into a large saucepan with the roughly chopped leek, onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Pour over the stock and some water if the chicken isn't covered. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours, skimming every so often. Remove the chicken and leave to cool; strain the stock through a fine meshed sieve. Meanwhile simmer the pearl barley in salted water for 20-30 minutes until tender then drain.

Check the strength of the chicken stock and re-simmer for a little longer if it needs strengthening. Add the other chopped leek and pearl barley, season if necessary and continue to simmer until the leek is tender. Meanwhile remove the meat from the chicken, discard the skin (or crisp it up in hot fat for a salad or snack) and cut the meat into chunks and add to the soup.

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