Home > Ethical Consumption, Food, Provenance > Chicken Soup for the Soul

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Preparation Time: 30 minutes Cooking Time: 60 minutes Yield: 6

My daughter, Alex, had her wisdom teeth removed under general anaesthetic late last year. After I brought her home from the day clinic, she asked me to make her some chicken soup, noting that with her mouth being so terribly painful, it was all she felt she could eat. “Besides”, she mumbled through the pain, “chicken soup is real comfort food, and that is just what I need right now.”

I asked my wife, Eppie, for her recipe, and it arrived in two rather disjointed SMS’s. Being somewhat cryptic, I had to kinda adapt it as I went along, so what follows is originally Eppie’s Fantastical Comfort Food Chicken Soup, now my Chicken Soup for the Soul.

 

Ingredients, Selection and Preparation

1 x fresh chicken (or the equivalent in pieces): If a whole chicken, remove the package of giblets in its tum, and rinse thoroughly. If you’re using pieces, you might want to rinse them as well.

1 x large onion: peeled and finely chopped

2 x medium turnips: peeled and cubed

2 x celery sticks: chopped. Young, light green and crisp is best. Slice the sticks not more than 5 millimetres thick, after trimming them. If the leaves are crisp and not too green, then you may choose to include them, but shred them finely before adding. Be aware that the leaves tend to be more pungent than the stalks.

1 x cup of 4-in-1 soup mix: For the uninitiated (which I’ve realised many of you may be!) soup mix is a combination of dried split peas, barley, lentils and groats and arguably is one of the most important base ingredients in a soap such as this one. It is useful to boil the 1.5 litres of water before you start, pour in the measured cup of soup mix, and give it a good stir. Set it aside to soak while you do the rest. This way, if you’re NOT pressure cooking, you’ll ensure that the soup mix rehydrates completely, thus releasing all of the flavours, and aiding with the thickening of the soup.

1 x tbsp vegetable or chicken stock powder(optional):I generally blitz my chicken soup into a puree, since it gives a better fusion of flavour. If you don’t blitz the soup, you end up with what amounts to a chicken and vegetable broth. The choice is yours, but you’ll need to add stock at this point, to improve the flavour of the broth.

2 x 400gm tin skinned plum tomatoes: You can use any tomatoes of course, even a kilogram of skinned fresh ones, but I prefer the plum tomatoes, since they give much better flavour and colour. Before dumping the tomatoes into the soup pot, I tend to pick over them to remove any residual skin, then I chop them using kitchen scissors while they are still in the can. This allows the tomatoes to break down more readily during cooking.

1.5 litres of water

A couple of lugs of olive oil

Freshly ground course sea salt and black pepper

Method

To Pressure Cook or Not to Pressure Cook?

The pressure cooker is a much maligned and usually ignored cooking utensil. Contrary to popular belief, pressure cooking does not detract from the flavour of a meal, in fact, it usually improves it.  As a general rule of thumb, and this is largely a personal opinion, you should avoid those made from aluminium in favour of those made from stainless steel, since it is more robust, and less likely to poison you over time! Whilst cooking conventionally is somehow seen as being more sexy, pressure cooking, when appropriate, is just fine. So, if you are going to use a pressure cooker, from here on, read “pressure cooker” where I write saucepan.

The Onions: Heat a couple of lugs of olive oil in a medium size saucepan and fry the onion gently until soft. Use no more than a medium heat, otherwise the onion might burn and become bitter.

The Rest: Add the balance of the ingredients (turnips, carrots, celery, soup mix, tomatoes, water) once the onion is fried to your liking, taking care not to pour water or the tomato juice into a very hot saucepan, since it may well splash you with hot oil! Generally, I’d add the chicken (either the pieces or the whole chicken) followed by the tomato, water, turnips, carrots, celery and finally the soup mix. Give the contents a good stir, turn up the heat, and bring it to the boil, stirring periodically to prevent sticking.

If Pressure Cooking: Seal the pressure cooker, and cook for thirty minutes.

If NOT Pressure Cooking: (Normal cooking) turn the heat down low and simmer with the lid tightly on the saucepan for about forty five minutes to an hour, or until the veggies and chicken are cooked through. Make sure the soup mix is also cooked.

Finishing Up: Remove the chicken (or pieces), from the saucepan and set aside to cool. I strip off the skin at this point, since it tends to be very fatty. Using a pair of kitchen tongs if the chicken is very hot and you’re in a hurry, strip the chicken flesh off the carcass or the bones if you’re using pieces, and return to the soup pot. Using a hand or stab blender (a normal blender will work as well but is more of a mission!), blitz the soup until it has a lovely smooth consistency. If you do not have access to a blender of any sort, be sure to break the chicken into smallish pieces before you return it to the soup pot.

Serving the Soup: Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and serve with lovely crisp warm bread.

Depending upon your attitude to parsley, you might want to garnish each bowl with some, freshly chopped. Personally, I do not care for parsley in soup, but I know many people do.

If you serve the soup unblended, remember to give it a good stir before dishing up each bowl. That way, you’ll ensure that everybody gets the full spectrum of ingredients and flavours in each serving.

Enjoy!

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