I've been developing this soup for over 3 years. The goal of the soup was to create a nutritious soup, full of vegetables, for my daughter's family. The secret of the hidden vegetables is a separate pot is loaded with starches, tomatoes, apples, green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli and brussel sprouts that they normally would refuse to eat. This pot is boiled separately and then puréed with an immersion or regular blender. This delightfully thickens the soup and adds a sweetness, because of the apples and carrots and a depth of flavour and nutrition.
Why Hide Vegetables in Soup?
The idea of hiding the vegetables is that everyone knows that most kids have a very limited palate for vegetables. Most parents struggle with trying to achieve a balanced diet for children at mealtime. So clean out your fridge and put almost any thing you want in the special side pot that you know your kids with turn up there little noses at. Would you feel comfortable feeding your young kids spinach, brussel sprouts or kale? In this soup, all these nutritious vegetables get puréed into the soup and adds volume, thickness, nutrition and flavour to the soup.
For example ... my 5-year-old granddaughter hated tomatoes. I used to add a can of diced tomatoes to the main soup. The chunky tomatoes, after the simmering process, would almost totally break down. However, my granddaughter, if she even ate the soup, would spend many minutes picking out the tiny flecks of red. I asked her if she would like the soup better if there were there were no tomatoes in it? She glanced at me and smiled and gave me a big thumbs up.
Next batch of soup, I added the can of diced tomatoes to the special pot on the stove that was puréed into the main soup. Problem solved! After that, my granddaughter ate the soup up with no complaint.
A big step in the development of this recipe was when we bought an 8 quart Instapot pressure cooker. The first use was pressure cooking one of the chickens. This results in the base of my chicken stock being left in the pot. The second use of the Instapot is to further enhance the stock by pressure cooking mirepoix, bay leaves and chicken bones. This results in a very rich broth that I never could achieve on the stovetop.
I highly recommend you join the outstanding InstantPot cooking revolution. If you want to justify the purchase of this device ... it replaces your slow cooker, rice maker and yoghurt maker. It is a safe pressure cooker that will expand your cooking options.
Now The Recipe - 2 Chickens
The first step is to cook 2 chickens. One chicken is roasted the traditional way in the oven and one is pressure cooked with 1 litre of chicken broth.
I had two 3 1/3 lb inorganic chickens. The white top chicken was pressure cooked in my InstantPot with 1 liter of chicken soup for 19 minutes. I used a trivet, which makes life easier when it is time to remove the chicken.
After removing the chicken, you are left with a delicious base for my chicken stock.
A word about chickens. This recipe was made with inorganic chickens. Two weeks ago I made the same recipe with organic chickens and the broth was much more deep and flavourful! I REALLY suggest using organic.
Regarding the oven roasted chicken, I baked the 3 1/3 lb chicken for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees F. It turned out perfectly cooked.
Let the 2 chickens cool for an hour or two.
Remove and separate the meat from both chickens. I used the roasted chicken meat for an amazing Thai soup recipe. The roasted chicken meat has the best flavour profile for other dishes.
The pressure cooked chicken meat will be put into this soup recipe at the end.
Cut up the bones from both chickens with heavy kitchens shears or workshop tools like wire cutters or metal shears. The more you cut up the bones, the more flavour and gelatin in the chicken broth after pressure cooking.
Pressure Cook the Chicken Broth for 3 Hours
Add the following to the pressure cooker that contains the broth that was left after the cooked chicken was removed:
- Cut up chicken bones from both chickens
- Roughly chopped mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery) - see photo above
- 5 or more bay leaves
Now put the pressure cooker lid on and set the pressure on high for 3 hours. If you are short on time, 1 or 2 hours will do, but the chicken broth won't have quite the depth of flavour.
While waiting for the 3 hour chicken broth pressure cook time, you can prepare the special hidden vegetables. These are the vegetables that will be boiled and puréed with an immersion blender. Kids will not taste or find these vegetables. I add the vegetables to the soup pot along with 1 litre of bought or homemade chicken broth. If the broth doesn't cover the vegetables, add more broth or water.
Although I add different vegetables, each time I make the soup, I used the following roughly chopped vegetables and fruit in the soup this time:
- Large can of tomatoes ... either puréed, diced or whole
- Frozen Spinach
- 2 seeded unpeeled Apples
- 2 seeded unpeeled ripe pears
- 2 medium peeled sweet potatoes
- 2 medium potatoes - unpleeled
- 1 Lb of brussel sprouts ... ends cut off and halved
I suggest that you always include the mirepoix vegetables to keep the base flavour consistent.
Note: quantities don't really matter that much. Look in your panty and fridge for any fruit or vegetables that you might use for these hidden vegetables. Also, try to use some fruit to add sweetness to the pureed vegetables. These pureed hidden vegetables add a nice flavour and thickening texture to the final soup.
Kids will eat and enjoy all these veggies without knowing it!
Add the Hidden Vegetables to the Soup Pot
Cover the vegetables with chicken broth and/or water. I use the lid at the speed up the process. Use medium heat until a gentle simmer is achieved. Keep a fork handy to check for doneness. Some vegetables will be almost mush before all are cooked so they can be pureed. Depending on the vegetables and fruit you have added, it could take 1 to 2 hours or fewer.
Purée the Cooked Hidden Vegetables with an Immersion Blender. Let the cooked vegetables cool before blending.
If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender if you cool the vegetables enough. Do this in batches.
Next, strain the pressure cooked chicken broth. Place a large strainer on top of the soup pot containing the puréed hidden vegetables. Place the pressure cooked solids from the pressure cooker in the strainer in batches and press down on the solids with the back of a large spoon to get ALL the broth from the solids.
After straining the broth into the soup pot, the chicken vegetable soup has a great depth of flavour and a nice consistency, but nothing else. Now we are in the finishing steps of the recipe. Chop the following vegetables.
Add this mirepoix into the soup pot.
Now we need to add to the depth of flavour by adding some umami flavours to the soup.
Now add the following to the soup:
1 teaspoon of yellow mustard
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of ketchup (I promised my granddaughter that I would add this)
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas
I enjoy adding something to fill in the soup. I prefer 1 cup of barley but when I don't have that I add 1 cup of orzo pasta. The best fill in for young kids is 1 cup of alphabet pasta which I bought on Amazon.
Now to finish the soup we need to heat the soup and simmer for about 1/2 an hour to cook the barley/orzo/alphabet pasta and mirepoix. Stir frequently while simmering so any pasta doesn't stick in clumps to the bottom of the pot.
Next, add the chopped chicken from the pressure cooked chicken
For my daughter and young grandchildren, the soup is now finished.
I don't add pepper because of the young children. My daughter loves this soup without salt.
Please add anything you want to finish the soup. Add more vegetables, salt, pepper, and spices/herbs to taste.
Freezing the Soup
This recipe makes a large amount of soup. It freezes very well. Unless your family is very large you will need to freeze all or some of the soup. We usually freeze the soup in tupperware containers, properly labeled.
If you run out of containers, putting the soup in medium Ziploc bags is a good option. It is messier, but it saves freezer space as the bags freeze flat.