This hearty soup is a complete meal in itself, loaded with vegetables, rice and pasta and sublime flavours that hail from the Mediterranean. If you don't have time to poach a chicken, use leftover chicken and home-made stock from the freezer or a good-quality ready-made one.
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
2 brown onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) pieces
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, chopped into 1 cm (½ inch) pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 sprigs each thyme, oregano and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
75 g (2¾ oz/⅓ cup) arborio rice
100 g (3½ oz) baby orecchiette pasta
100 g (3½ oz) baby spinach leaves
75 g (2¾ oz/½ cup) frozen peas
Extra virgin olive oil, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and crusty bread, to serve
1.8 kg (4 lb) whole chicken
1 carrot, chopped
1 brown onion, halved
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley stalks
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup firmly packed flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) extra virgin olive oil
1. To make the poached chicken, wash the chicken briefly under cold running water, remove the neck and giblets and trim any pockets of fat, then pat dry with paper towels. Put the chicken in a large stockpot, add the carrot, onion, celery and parsley stalks. Cover with cold water, bring slowly to the boil and simmer gently for 40 minutes, skimming any scum from the surface occasionally. Turn off the heat and cool the chicken in the stock for at least 1 hour. Remove the chicken, then strain and reserve the stock. Cool, then skim the fat from the surface. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the flesh into bite-sized pieces.
2. To make the parsley pistou, crush the garlic and parsley to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Season to taste and gradually incorporate the oil.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add the onions, celery, carrots and fennel, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and herbs and stir for 2 minutes.
4. Add 3 litres (105 fl oz/12 cups) of the reserved stock, the rice and pasta. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 8 minutes.
5. Remove the herb sprigs from the soup. Add 3 cups of shredded chicken (reserve the remaining chicken for another use), the spinach and peas and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the rice and pasta are just cooked.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls, stir in a spoonful of parsley pistou, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano and serve with crusty bread.