Eaten everywhere in Mexico, this simple, nourishing soup is often served as a main course. The vegetables may vary, but it is almost always served with lime, chopped onions and green chiles. Chicken stock is a major ingredient in many recipes, so it is wise to make it in advance and freeze it. It can be frozen in ice cube trays, and the cubes stored in plastic bags. Chicken parts such as the back and neck can also be used.

1 whole chicken, about 3 lb (1.5 kg), cut into serving pieces
10 cups (80 fl oz/2.5 l) water
1 whole carrot
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon salt
6 black peppercorns
1 small spring parsley
1 small onion, quartered
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) canned or cooked chickpeas
1 chayote (vegetable pear/choko), peeled and quartered
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 3 pieces
2 ears (cobs) corn, each cut into 3 pieces 2 carrots, thickly sliced 1 cup (3 oz/90 g) sliced cabbage 2 sprigs cilantro (coriander) 1 sprig spearmint 1 cup cooked rice (about 2 0z/60 g uncooked) (optional) 3 limes, sliced 4 chiles serranos, seeds and membranes removed, and chopped 1/2 cup (4 oz/125 g) chopped onion

- To make the stock, rinse the chicken and giblets and place in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the water, whole carrot, garlic, salt, peppercorns, parsley and onion. Bring to a boil, skim the surface, cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour. Let cool, remove the chicken and degrease the stock.
- To make the soup, add the chickpeas after the stock has cooked for only 30 minutes. Cook 30 more minutes, then discard the parsley, onion and whole carrot. Add the chayote, potato, corn, sliced carrots, cabbage, cilantro and spearmint. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. - To serve, put a piece of chicken and some vegetables in each bowl, add some rice if you like and pour the hot broth over. Pass the lime slices and chopped chiles and onion separately.

Serves 6-8