It started with a lemon

Yummy lemon chicken soup with orzo

It started with a lemon lurking at the back of the fridge...

Then thoughts of what to do with a leftover chicken carcass from the weekend...

Then the discovery of a forgotten packet of orzo at the back of the cupboard. And so...

A stock was made and the chicken stripped. Then the other ingredients plus carrots and a large leek from our stores, plus fresh herbs from the garden (oregano, rosemary and lemon thyme), plus plenty of freshly ground black pepper, all combined to give a soup invented for a rainy day with the taste of holiday memories.

I always smile and think of my mum when making chicken soup in whatever form as she would never let the carcass go to waste in her kitchen. Chicken stew with beans and dumplings was her go to midweek meal.

This version was yummy, so I've jotted down what you need to do if you'd like some of the same, plus I have some notes on suggested substitutions if what I happened to have doesn't fit with what you have. I do love the process of just looking and thinking of what there is in the kitchen and then coming up with something that fits. I find it's especially useful to have that flexibility nowadays when we can't always get what we want for a particular recipe during Lockdown.

This soup also fits with the change in the weather this week!

  • 1 leftover chicken carcass
  • 1 large leek
  • 2 large carrots
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon - zest and juice (whizzed in the microwave for 30 seconds to maximise juice)
  • 100g orzo
  • A good handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped and/or simply picked off the stem if the leaves are smaller
  • Half a litre vegetable or chicken stock (optional - only needed if the orzo soaks up most of the original stock and a cube + hot water will do)
  1. Place the chicken carcass and any loose bones in a large pan and cover with water
  2. Bring to the boil on the hob, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool
  3. Skim off any fat off the liquid, then strip the chicken meat off the carcass into the liquid and discard the bones
  4. Chop the leek into fine rounds. Make sure you use all the edible parts of the leek by stripping off the tatty outside leaves. You'll find plenty of extra leek inside to add to the soup, green parts and all
  5. Quarter the carrots lengthways, then chop into small chunks and add to the liquid
  6. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper to taste
  7. Add the lemon juice and zest and bring slowly to the boil
  8. Whilst this happens, chop and strip the herbs as required and add to the liquid
  9. Add the orzo and stir well from time to time to prevent it sticking
  10. When the soup has come to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender
  11. During this time, check on the orzo. If it's absorbed most of the liquid, add the extra stock, stir well, bring to the boil and then simmer within the same timeframe 
  12. Ladle into warmed soup bowls and serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread
Serves 4-6 generously.

Suggested substitutions

  • Shred two cooked chicken thighs and use an extra half litre of stock, or use tofu and vegetable stock plus extra vegetables for a vegan option
  • Mushrooms, peas, or roasted courgettes will all work well instead of or as well as carrots
  • Long grain rice or those bits of snapped off pasta lurking in the cupboard can be used instead of orzo, preferably wholegrain
  • Use dried mixed herbs instead of fresh
A top tip from Jane Perrone via Facebook...

Use a slow cooker for making stock from the carcass - "...stick it on and leave for a few hours!... only tweak is you need to use less water than usual as it won't evaporate, so break the carcass up or squish down so it's all under the liquid..."

My thoughts: this method will probably also remove the need to add extra liquid for the orzo ๐Ÿ˜Š


  1. Looks divine...I have never put lemon in my chicken soup. I will give that a go next time!

    1. Andy's aunt used to make us lemon chicken sometimes when we visited, so I knew the flavour combination would work. I think you'll enjoy it - let me know what you think :)

  2. Looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe. My mum also used to make lemon chicken so can imagine that this will taste yummy!

    1. Enjoy! Lemon and chicken is such a good combination :)


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