I think it is fair to say that one of the things my husband Dan most enjoys eating is a big bowlful of my homemade chicken soup – “Jewish Penicillin”, as I often call it – especially during the colder months or if he’s feeling under the weather. Dan suffers from sinusitis so I often pep the soup up with warm spices and/or a hint of chilli, especially when his sinuses are blocked. He likes to take a flask of this soup with him to work, along with a protein-packed salad.
Chicken soup is made from chicken – traditionally a boiling fowl – simmered in water or stock with other ingredients such as vegetables and noodles, rice or barley, and perhaps some dumplings, and can take as long as two or three hours to prepare from scratch if you’re going for a crystal clear consomme. Chicken soup is extremely versatile and can be made with chicken wings or the carcass leftover from a roast chicken. It may be blended smoothly with a little cream or milk as a Cream of Chicken Soup; a thick broth with diced vegetables and barley or lentils; cooked with leeks and potatoes as the traditional Scottish favourite, Cock-a-Leekie soup; a warmly spiced Moroccan chicken soup rich with tomatoes, chickpeas, coriander and a little finely-sliced preserved lemon; in fact, there is a whole raft of chicken soup recipes from all over the world so the choice is yours. Be as adventurous as you dare!
The quick recipe I am sharing with you I have adapted from a Women’s Institute recipe from the post-war era. The WI recipe blends a little butter, plain (all purpose) flour, 600 ml water to which a stock cube has been added, together with 300 ml milk (if liked), an egg yolk and salt and pepper. My method is a little different as I prefer to use cornstarch, never add the egg yolk and whenever I make the soup I just go with the flow, so it usually has different flavours each time I make it. I often prepare the soup with poaching or steaming liquid from chicken or vegetables but if I do not have enough of it then I top it up with water and perhaps crumble in half a stock cube. The real beauty about this soup is that it takes only 15-20 minutes to prepare from start to finish.
This recipe can be easily modified for vegetarians and vegans. Simply swap the chicken stock with vegetable stock and use sunflower spread instead of butter – or neither (see recipe alternative below) – and in fact I often make a quick vegetable soup this way using water with either a Kallo yeast-free low-salt vegetable stock cube or a heaped teaspoon of Swiss Bouillon stock powde. Finish with a dash of plant-based ‘cream’ or a little coconut milk if you wish. If you need to feed a larger number of people, simply double the quantities and it will turn out fine. This basic soup recipe will provide 2 generous servings without the milk or 4 with it.
INGREDIENTS (serves 2 or 4)
- 25 g (1 oz) butter or sunflower spread, if liked
- 25 g (1 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour or cornflour (cornstarch)
- 600 ml (1 pint) chicken stock
- 300 ml (1/2 pint) milk or coconut milk, if liked
- one bay leaf
- finely chopped herbs of your choice – e.g. parsley, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, coriander
- diced cooked chicken or vegetables of your choice (optional)
1. If you are using butter or sunflower spread, melt it in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until the flour has ‘cooked out’. Gradually stir in the stock and milk or coconut milk if using, and the bay leaf, bringing it to the boil and then simmer, still stirring, until thickened.
2. If you do not wish to use butter or sunflower spread, in a large jug mix 25 g cornflour with a little of the stock until smooth, add the rest of the liquid and bay leaf, stirring well and pour into a large saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until smooth and thickened.
3. When the soup has thickened, take off the heat and cool slightly and strain through a fine sieve, returning it to the cleaned pan along with the chopped herbs and the chicken or vegetable dice, if using, and cook very gently over a low heat, stirring, until it is piping hot.
4. Serve immediately in bowls with herbs, crispy bacon or croutons to garnish and some good bread.
For a vegan or vegetarian version substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock and use coconut milk or plant’-based cream, if you wish, for a richer and creamier finish.
If you do not wish to add milk or coconut to the soup recipe, why not serve a dash of coconut milk or cream for a luxurious finish, upon serving.
If you do wish to add an egg yolk, do so at Step 3 once the soup has been strained and returned to the pan. Add the seasoning, herbs and diced chicken or vegetables if you wish and cook very gently, stirring, until the soup thickens.
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