Chicken Stew

British Jewish Penicillin with an Asian Twist

This is great for using up any leftovers from a roast, is budget friendly and healthy. This post is more of a guide than a recipe.

My version bears only a passing resemblance to the stew my grandmother made in that it contains chicken and carrots – I think that’s it in terms of similarity although I’m sure hers was authentic Jewish food. Mine can only be called that because I’m Jewish and I make it. It’s probably not Kosher either, although using Marigold Vegan Bouillon would probably remedy that.


  • Cooked chicken carcass or leftover cooked chicken and stock (I’m using 600ml of stock)
  • Onion
  • Leeks
  • Red chilli or chilli flakes or powder
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Mixture of vegetables. I’m using 4 carrots, 2 parsnips, a sweet potato, half a butternut squash.
  • Red lentils (two handfuls, about 2/3 cup)
  • Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon

The Bit You Can Skip if You’re Rushed – Chicken Carcass

First, strip the chicken carcass. I have three bowls when I’m doing this. One for bones, one for skin and chewy bits that I give to the dog, and one for nice meat that I’m going to keep and add to the stew. If you are unlucky and you don’t have a dog, you can add the gristle and skin etc to the carcass to make the stock but it will add extra fat. Put the carcass into a large saucepan with a halved onion and some salt and almost cover with cold water. If you want you can also add carrot and some celery. I don’t like celery so I don’t. Add any bones from the legs or wings – basically all the horrible bits. Put the nice bits of chicken that you can eat in the fridge to add to the stew later. Feed what you will to the dog.

Put the carcass on to boil – you’re looking to reduce the liquid by about 1/2. Just boil it down for a while. I put this on after lunch and let it boil until I’m ready to start cooking, but it doesn’t have to take that long. Just don’t let any fussy kids or fussy grown-ups see it as it doesn’t look great. When this is done, strain the liquid into a jug or bowl and put the solid remains into the food compost bin.

Making chicken stock with the carcass

If you’re using leftover roast chicken and there’s any gel like material in the roasting tin don’t use that yet, but hold onto it to add to the stew later. This is really tasty stuff so don’t waste it.

Alternatively if you don’t want to be bothered with all of this just use cooked leftover chicken and when it comes to stock use ready made.

Drained chicken that I used to make the stock. The yellow bits are lemon – I used lemons to cook the roast chicken and I have left them in for this. This is pretty scary looking.

The Stew

I’m not going to put amounts in here because this is to taste. If you like a thin stew that’s more like a soup then use less vegetables and a lot more liquid. If someone is ill, use more garlic, ginger and chilli because these help unblock noses. If you like ginger, use more ginger. If you hate garlic, leave it out. I used 2 cloves of garlic, one large red chilli and a thumb sized piece of ginger. This gives quite a chilli kick, so if you just want the chilli to add a gentle warmth then use half.

Chop up a leek or two by quartering them lengthways then slicing into small pieces. Soak the leeks in cold water for a few minutes and then drain them. You’re looking to rinse out any little bits of grit or mud that can sometimes get in at the top. If they’re large untrimmed leaks I do this a couple of times. If they’re extra trimmed and beautiful don’t worry, just chop them up and rinse. If you don’t like leek, use an onion instead.

Cut up your veggies into similar sized chunks, use whatever is in season or whatever you like. I vary the amount of vegetables depending on how many people I want to feed.

If you’re using fresh chilli, ginger and garlic then prepare those. I freeze my fresh ginger and chilli, so I cheat at preparation for those by using a microplane grater straight into the pan for all of it as well as the garlic.

Using a microplane for a frozen chilli – this is what’s left over

The microplane works really well for frozen chilli and the seeds just sit on the top so are automatically removed. Fresh chilli isn’t always available in my local shops, so freezing it works well for me and I’ve not noticed any difference in flavour.

When you’re ready to cook the stew (this takes about 2 hours for best results), take a large saucepan (I use the one I made the stock in) and add a small knob of butter and some olive oil. Add your leek and cook for a few minutes, then if you’re lazy like me you can microplane in the chilli, ginger and garlic. If you’re working from fresh, let the leek soften first and then add those ingredients and cook until you can smell the garlic is cooked – probably about 3 minutes or so (the smell of garlic changes as it cooks, but you don’t want it to go brown or get bitter. Soft and cooked is what you’re going for, not browned).

Cook leeks with ginger, garlic and chilli

Tip in the chopped vegetables, mix it all up and put a lid on for 20 minutes on a low heat to give everything time to soften. Add a little water if you’re worried about anything burning or sticking, but if that’s happening you may have the heat too high. There should be enough moisture in the vegetables to stop that. Resist the temptation to keep taking the lid off and stirring it. Just let it be for 10 minutes and check.

Mix vegetables with leeks

When the vegetables are beginning to soften, add in a handful or two of red lentils if you’re using them (I measured this at 2/3 cup). Then add in your stock (from your drained chicken if you’re using it, otherwise a chicken or vegetable stock of your choice) and top up with cold water if needed depending on how much liquid you need to just cover everything. If you saved any gel like stuff from the roasting tin, now’s the time to add it. Give it all a stir and bring it to the boil. For the lentils, you need to let this boil uncovered for 10 minutes. You can skim off any foam that rises to the top, but you don’t have to. When it’s boiled rapidly for 10 minutes, turn it down and let it stew on a low heat. Add a lid and top it up with boiled kettle water if needed and depending on how much liquid you want.

After cooking for about an hour

When it’s been boiling away for an hour give it a taste to see if it needs anything – maybe salt or pepper? I often add a bit of Marigold at this point just because I love the taste of it. Remember that the flavour will come down a bit when the chicken has been added.

The final stew

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add your chicken pieces – the nice bits that you saved. I let the chicken sit on the top rather than stirring it in as if it makes its way to the bottom too quickly it can burn and it’s difficult to stir the stew with dumplings or matzo balls sitting on the top, which you should also add now if you’re making them.

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