This elegant, velvety soup has been an English favourite at state banquets and sophisticated dinner parties for centuries. So why not serve it at yours?
For the broth:
1 whole chicken, about 1.3kg/3lb
1 carrot, peeled
1 rib of celery, cleaned and trimmed
1 onion, peeled
1 sprig of fresh tarragon
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half
1 bay leaf
200ml/7fl oz white wine
For the soup:
50g/2oz plain flour
150ml/5fl oz best double cream
1 handful of chopped fresh tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Put all the ingredients for the broth in a pan and almost bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and gently bubble for 1½ hours until the chicken is tender. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly, then pop the chicken on a plate to cool, strain the stock and discard the vegetables.
2. Return the stock to the heat and cook at a rolling boil for 20 - 30 minutes or until the stock has a good flavour. Strain well.
3. In another large pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Continue stirring as it bubbles for a couple of minutes, without browning, and then pour in half the stock. Stir well until you have a thickish sauce and then add the rest of the stock and boil for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from one of the chicken breasts and cut into little chunks (keep the rest of the chicken for sandwiches, salads or chicken pie). Add to the pan with the cream and tarragon. Season to taste, heat through and serve immediately with white toast and fine butter.