This year, it's been a cold, dreary and wet February. When the weather is like this, germs abound. Unfortunately, last week both my husband and I were ill with cold and flu symptoms. My energy was low and I was feeling pretty rough. Even our appetites were reduced - something which rarely happens! On days like this, the only thing I crave is chicken soup. I genuinely believe that it makes me feel better. So, in true placebo style, it works!
It's full of lovely fresh vegetables and meat. Of course, being Mediterranean, I have to add pasta to it as well. Here's a list of the ingredients that I use:
5 chicken pieces (thighs or drumsticks)
100g small pasta shapes
2 brown onions
5 cloves of garlic
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
stock cube (optional)
I start off by making some chicken and vegetable stock. In a large saucepan, I put the chicken pieces, 1 of the leeks, 1 carrot, the bayleaf, 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and slightly crushed with the flat part of a knife), cardamom pods (slightly crushed), salt and peppercorns. I do not peel the vegetables, but I do wash and scrub them really well before placing them in the pot. I also leave the onion peel on, although I remove the top and root, as it gives a nice colour to the stock.
I add water to this pan, covering the vegetable and meat (but not enough to completely submerge them - see picture below). I bring this to the boil, skimming off any scum that comes to the surface as this will allow for a clear stock to form. Then, I cover it and leave it to simmer for 2 hours. In the meantime, I indulge myself in daytime telly wrapped up in a blanket with a box of tissues and another box of throat lozenges!
After the stock has simmered for 2 hours, I strain it. I make sure that my brain which is fuzzy from my cold does not forget to keep the liquid and discard the vegetables, rather than the other way around! Let me repeat that: I keep the liquid and discard the vegetables. I also keep the meat (see picture below), which needs to be cut into small pieces and added to the soup later.
The result of this 2 hours' simmering is a beautifully flavoursome stock.
Of course, when I'm in a hurry, I have been known to use a stock cube and hot water instead. But when I'm sick, I've got all the time in the world, and this homemade stock - well, it's so much better than the cube and water method!
After I have obtained this golden liquid, I chop the remaining vegetables and fry them in a little olive oil.
When they have softened slightly, I add the precious golden liquid and bring it back to the boil...
... at which point, I add the pasta. I like to use small pasta for this soup. This time, I used small ditalini, but any shape will do.
Leave the soup to simmer until the pasta is cooked, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and add the chopped chicken pieces. Serve it up in a bowl and enjoy its soothing properties!