I have a friend who picked up a nasty flu on a recent trip to Far North Queensland. I know, I know, it’s difficult to have sympathy for anyone who gets to swan around the tropics for six weeks in the middle of a Melbourne winter, but I took pity on her anyway. She’s laid up in bed with a bad fever, has barely eaten in days, and doesn’t have a mum in town to boss her around enough to make her eat something.
Naturally, I thought I should intervene with a pot of chicken soup.
Chicken soup is a very, very easy dish to make. And it is simple to vary depending on the level of complexity in the cooking process that you are after. At its quickest, you can just whack all the ingredients in a pot, cover with water, and let it simmer for an hour. Today I had a bit more time up my sleeve, so I took the time to brown the chicken legs and sautee the veg separately to really bring out some flavour. Then I whacked it all in a pot, covered with water and let it simmer for an hour.
Complicated, I know.
You can use any cut of chicken for this soup, though I don’t advise using chicken breast as it will toughen and you won’t get as much flavour out of it as you would other bonier cuts. I usually use either chicken wings or chicken legs. Chicken wings will impart the most “chickeniness” to your soup, however they are fattier and the simmering process renders all the fat out of the wings which will drift to the surface of your soup like an oil slick. Ideally you could track down some Chicken Lovely Legs (don’t you just love the name of that cut?), which are skinless chicken legs trimmed of the bit of bone that sticks out the bottom, like the “handle” of a chicken leg. This is a great cut of chicken for soup as all the fat underneath the chicken skin has been removed so you don’t get that slick of fat floating on the top of your soup.
When I am super-organised I will make the soup the day before, put it in the fridge overnight and skim the fat off the top when it has solidified. This is the best way to get rid of any residual oiliness.
If you can’t find any lovely legs (I lost mine when I hit 30… boom tish!) you can remove the skin from a chicken leg by cutting a circle around the knobbly end of the bone and pulling the skin off. It is worth the extra effort, as it definitely results in a cleaner broth. Just be careful that the knife doesn’t slip as your hands will be pretty slippery.
This is the perfect dish to cook for children, or anyone for that matter, who is not feeling well. It has a lot of fluid, which we all need when we’re not well, and it is easy to digest. The flavour is simple and very unobtrusive, so it’s not an assault on sensitive tastebuds or tummies. It’s warm and steamy, so will help clear out blocked nasal passages, and it’s also soothing on a sore throat. A bowl of this soup feels like a big warm hug from your mum, which is generally all any of us want when we’re not feeling well. And when you’re sick it’s always comforting to know that someone loves you enough to make a pot of soup especially for you.
My daughter tends to freak out a little at very watery soups. She’s just never quite got the concept of a thin soup, so when she is sick I serve this with toast and let her dunk it in the broth. This way she still gets some liquid, and then she’ll eat the chicken and veg in the bottom of her bowl.
Many cultures have their own version of chicken soup. Whether you’re sitting down to a bowl of Jewish penicillin, or slurping on noodles in a spicy bowl of pho, all these soups help you feel better when you’re under the weather. My version is fairly European, inspired by Maltese brodu that has been made by mums and nannas in my family for generations. I hope this recipe helps you help someone you love feel better soon.
26 July 2012. PS… I’ve been sick the the flu since the day after I took this soup to my friend, so be careful you don’t catch whatever lurgy they have when you drop the soup off!
Under-the-Weather Chicken Soup
|Prep time||10 minutes|
|Cook time||1 hour|
|Total time||1 hour, 10 minutes|
- 8 chicken legs, with skin removed
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 handful of parsley (Finely chop the stalks and keep the leaves for later)
- 6 juniper berries (These are optional, though they do impart a light sweetness to the broth)
- Salt and pepper
- 5 bay leaves
- A long strip of lemon peel
|Brown chicken legs and remove from pot. Then brown all the vegetables in some olive oil, just enough to start bringing out the flavour.|
|Place all the ingredients in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for around an hour until the meat starts to come away from the bones.|
|Remove chicken legs to a plate and let them cool enough so you can handle them without burning your fingers. Remove the meat. You can throw away the bones now. Chop or shred the chicken and return it to the pot.|
|Add the chopped parsley leaves and the lemon peel. At this point if you like, you can also add pasta (risoni is good), soup noodles, or a bit of rice. It depends if you want a light soup or something a bit more substantial. But remember that pasta or rice will swell and go soggy overnight, so if you plan on eating the soup the following day you might want to reserve some without the rice or pasta.|
|Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in each bowl and some crusty bread, or toast soldiers if you want some real comfort food. My nanna used to also pour a bit of beaten egg into the top of the soup too.|
|Give your patient a big hug, and chat with them while they slurp up the whole bowl.|