Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Bowl Of Comfort

Autumn is here and there are a few reasons I know this. It's March. The humidity has gone. I need an extra blanket on the bed at night. AND..... we all have colds! All four of us are coughing and sneezing.  As soon as the viruses start in our house, I do the only thing that might help; start a big pot of chicken soup.
All the old wives tales and titles like 'Jewish penicillin' may not make chicken soup a magical cure-all, but they do work as expert marketing. It's the first thing many of us crave the minute we get cold or flu symptoms. Whatever its healing properties may or may not be, you can't dispute that a nutritious meal, full of vegetables and protein, thats warm and easy to eat, must have some positive effect.

Rather than just throwing assorted veggies and chicken into a pot and boiling up for a long time, I have a different technique. The idea is to pack as much flavour in as possible, so before I fill the pot, I roast off all of the ingredients in the oven. This creates caramelization on both the chicken and the vegetables which then emparts a deeper flavour into the soup.

The chicken pieces used in this particular batch are wings, but I use legs, thighs or all three depending on what is available at the time. I always use chicken pieces with the bone still in because I believe that bones mean a better flavour. I sometimes use a whole chicken but I don't cut up the breast meat for the soup. Breast has less fat and therefore less flavour.  It tends to be drier so it is not well suited to soups or stews. I usually remove the breast and use it for something else.

The stock in this recipe was from a tetra pack off the supermarket shelf. Before you gasp in disbelief that I didn't use homemade stock, I do make it sometimes, but had none in storage on this particular occasion. I use bought stock when I have none or don't have time to make any, and I think that the tetra pack product is far better than powdered stock and a resonable compromise between powdered and home made. Having said that, I did save the bones from this batch of soup and make stock to freeze for another day.

As for the vegetables, feel free to include whatever your prefered vegetables are. I tend to use the ones listed in the recipe. It's a great way to use up the last few veggies at the end of the week as well.

Chicken Soup


6-8 pieces of chicken on the bone

1/4 jap pumpkin

4 carrots

3 zuccinis

1 large leek

2 cloves garlic

1/2 bunch celery

large handful of green beans

1.5 litres chicken stock

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs of thyme

salt & pepper

olive oil


Preheat oven to 200degrees C/ 390 degrees F
Chop vegetables and place in a baking dish lined with baking paper. Arrange chicken pieces among vegetables, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast in a hot oven for 30- 40 minutes, until chicken skin and vegetables are golden.

Remove from oven and transfer to large cooking pot, add herbs & stock and simmer on stove for 1 hour.

When chicken begins to fall off bones, turn off heat and remove chicken pieces from pot. Place chicken pieces and cool on a tray until they are cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, remove herb sprigs from soup pot and blend vegetables and liquid with a stick blender.  remove meat from chicken bones and shred up into bite sized pieces.  Return meat to blended soup and reheat.

Serve with crustly bread. I like to garnish with pesto and shavings of parmesan.

This is a thick and flavoursome soup which is a hearty filling meal rather than a light entree style soup. My kids love it and often come back for a second bowl. You could add noodles or pasta if you wanted but I find that adding starchy ingredients just makes it even more filling and not necessarily more healthy, so I leave it out. I don't think this soup needs it.

What is your 'comfort food'? What do you crave when you are not feeling well? Make my day and post me a comment! I love getting feedback from you...

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  1. oooh yummy Nonna made a clear chicken broth with celery/carrot/onion, pork and lamb meat balls in the soup and tonnes of fresh italian parsley...and sometimes some rice in it! This creation is really lovely.....have to make it really soon. Thank you my inspiration!

  2. Oooh the Nonna soup sounds good! Love the meat balls idea. I think you should make that for our next get together! I might steal the recipe....

  3. Love it

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  4. Made your soup, just finished my second bowl!!! It's really YUMMY!! Especially liked the chicken pieces, I was dubious with the puree, but it's really good. Thankyou!

  5. If you prefer a bit chunkier, you could always just mash with a potato masher. That's what my mum always did. But glad you liked it. Hope you're all feeling better xxx