We love the idea (and the reality!) of a weekend cook-off. Part of the key to living healthily is getting organised. How often do you grab something rubbish to eat only because you don’t have an alternative? For mother whose brood are of school age it might of course actually be easier to do a marathon cooking session during the week – though if you work as well, then it’s really worth setting aside an evening (one when you hope to not feel too exhausted) – or putting someone else in charge of the children for a Sunday morning, and getting busy.  

If you’re a student, cook-offs are a fantastic and cheap way to make sure you fuel yourself properly, they are also quite a sure way to impress your friends with easy supper party feasts. They are a great excuse to hunker down in the kitchen, pop on some tunes, pour yourself a large glass of herb-infused water or comforting tea (otherwise you may forget to drink), and get chopping. It helps if all your knives are sharpened if you’ve planned in advance what you want to achieve and if you’ve been super efficient and done a check-list of ingredients. And don’t forget to buy something to keep all your efforts in – we love long-lasting classic Tupperware – more ecologically friendly than it’s cheaper disposable counterparts.

There is pretty much nothing as comforting as filling your kitchen with the scented fug of steaming pots and herbs and spices, and who better to ask for advice than Amanda Cross? We start our series with Chicken and Apples, because as Amanda says “what better way of banishing those winter sniffles than the combination of that well-known adage – an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and the quintessential cure-all chicken soup – the classic Jewish penicillin!”


6-8 Servings



Ingredients for Classic Chicken Stock

  • 1 whole Chicken
  • 2 Chicken stock cubes to really lend depth
  • 2 ½ litres of cold Water
  • 1 Onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Leek
  • 1 Celery stick, roughly chopped (if you have them knocking around you can also add broccoli stalks and fennel fronds - it's all about adding flavour!)
  • 1 handful Thyme
  • 1 sprig Rosemary
  • 2-3 Bay Leaves or 1 Bouquet Garni
  • ½ Lemon (using a whole lemon will give it more of a citrusy overtone, so it depends on your prederence)
  • 5 Garlic cloves (garlic has antibacterial qualities)
  • 8-10 Peppercorns

Ingredients for turning stock into soup

  • 1 cup of Pearl Barley
  • 1 large Carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 1 medium Leek, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 2 sticks of Celery, cut into strips lengthwise and finely chopped
  • 3 additional Garlic cloves


  1. For the stock: Put all the stock ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and cover with a lid.
  2. After 45 minutes, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and large fork and pop onto a plate or baking tray and allow to cool enough to remove the meat without burning yourself - about 15-20 minutes. Too many people overcook the chicken, so removing at this stage will ensure tender meat.
  3. Once you have trimmed off the breast and leg meat, place the carcass back into the stock. Gently simmer uncovered for 1 extra hour until frarant and golden.
  4. The 2 ½ litres will reduce down to approx 1.8 - 2 litres. Drain the stock through a sieve or colander into another saucepan. Discard the contents of the sieve.
  5. To turn into soup: Add vegetables to the chicken stock and gently simmer covered for 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and pearl barley is tender.
  6. Add half of the chicken meat or more if you fancy a really hearty soup and a generous handful of roughly chopped parsley and the zest of ½ a lemon.
  7. Season with black pepper and extra salt if required.
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