When we’re sick in our house I make Chicken Soup. This soup recipe is so synonymous for “helping when you’re sick” that our daughter, Lianah, calls it “sick food”. She actually loves “sick food” so much, that sometimes, even when noone is sick, she’ll ask for “sick food”! This recipe is appropriate for when you’re getting sick, when you are sick, when you’re recovering from sickness, and for post-natal women. It’s also nice, as Lianah says, even when you’re not sick.
It’s easy and delicious and only requires a few ingredients. The only “tricky” thing about it is scooping off the foam in the beginning as it starts to come to a simmer. Which isn’t so much tricky, it just means you have to hang around as it’s coming to a boil.
The secret to a really nice “chicken tasting” chicken soup is to use a whole chicken. You will not need to add any stock cubes to this recipe, cooking a whole chicken will give you plenty of nice flavour.
What you’ll need:
1 whole (raw) chicken. I get the “La Ionica” chickens from my local butcher. It’s generally a 1.6kg chicken. Or I get organic chicken if I see them. Try and get the best quality chicken you can afford. It’s the main ingredient of the dish, so it’s worth the investment!
3 garlic cloves, peeled, but left whole (I crush them slightly with the back of the knife)
2 slices of ginger (sliced about 3-5 mm thick). You can leave the peel on and you can leave them as slices you don’t have to grate it or cut into matchsticks. If you don’t have ginger, or don’t like ginger you can leave this out. I frequently don’t have fresh ginger when I need it, or it doesn’t look very nice at the shops so I often make this recipe without the ginger.
2 – 3 spring onions/green asian shallots cut into batons. Take the outer layer off and trim the white tendrilly/root ends off (about 1 cm off from the end), and trim the dark green bits off as well. You only need the white and light green parts of the shallots. Cut into batons/sticks about 4-5 cms long. You might have about 6 – 9 little batons.
Salt – about 2 tsp (yes 2 tsp, you are making a huge pot of soup-don’t skimp on the salt or it won’t taste nice! I use Maldon sea salt)
Whole black peppercorns – a good pinch – you might have 20 or so.
What to do:
Put all the ingredients except for the salt and pepper, in a large, deep pot. Fill the pot with cold water, leaving about 5 -6 cm from the top.
Bring to the boil.
When it’s just about to boil, you will notice that white foamy bubbles start foaming on the surface. Scoop these off. Turn the heat down so the soup can simmer. For the next 10 minutes (give or take), periodically check the soup to scoop off anymore foam that comes to the surface. The foam are the impurities coming out of the chicken. The scooping off of this foam is not essential, however it does result in a clearer liquid at the end.
Once you’ve had enough scooping, add the whole peppercorns and salt.
Continue to simmer with the lid off, for about 1 – 1.5 hours. You will know when it’s done when you go to take the chicken out and it starts to fall apart. Take the chicken out and set it aside on a plate. You can use this chicken in your soup, or the next day in a chicken and wombok (Chinese cabbage) salad. The liquid will have reduced. Scoop out the spring onions and garlic and ginger and discard them.
I ladle the soup in bowls with rice noodles (vermicelli usually), some of the shredded chicken, and fresh finely chopped spring onions. If I have some chinese veg, like wombok (chinese cabbage) or buk choy, I chop these up and throw them into the pot of hot soup to cook at the end (once I’ve taken the chicken out). Chinese veg don’t take that long to cook (literally only a few minutes).
Any left over soup can be eaten over the next few days or frozen. This soup works really well as a base to a thai coconut soup that I make as well!
Try it and let me know what you think! Jacinda