Give Me Five: Chicken noodle soup

Chicken soup is soothing, nourishing and delicious

Chicken soup is renowned for its medicinal qualities

Chicken soup is renowned for its medicinal qualities

 

Chicken soup is renowned for it’s medicinal qualities; it’s the original superfood. I don’t mean the creamy chicken style, but rather the glistening broth with shreds of meat, usually thick with noodles.

It’s so restorative and is often referred to as “Jewish penicillin” due to the fact that it’s usually prescribed to keep a cold or flu at bay. It’s light, full of flavour and easily digested. I add some Chinese Five Spice to mine, and it really needs little else. I love miso paste. It’s worth buying a nice organic one; I use Clearspring Brown Rice Miso.

Miso is a paste made from fermented soya beans, a koji culture, sea salt and water. After many months, the resulting miso has rich and complex flavours and an abundance of umami, the fifth taste. So many dishes benefit from a little of the paste. I add it to gravy, stews and marinades. It’s fantastic on roasted vegetables, especially aubergine, and is lovely in French onion soup.

You can also use it in sweet dishes. Add to chocolate recipes as you would a pinch of salt. A little in home-made caramel sauce tastes amazing. In order to maximise the enzymatic benefits of the miso, it’s usually added at the end of cooking. I add it early here so that it helps to develop the taste of the broth and chicken, but you can add half at the start and half at the end. Stagger it with the Chinese Five Spice in order to maintain a fresh flavour.

I use egg noodles in this recipe, but tagliatelle or even pasta bows can be used. I often add lots more vegetables too, such as mushrooms, spring onions, ginger, garlic, pak choi, green beans and spinach. Adding raw, finely sliced vegetables just before serving is nice.

The Hemsley sisters, London’s healthy-eating darlings, have bags and clothes emblazoned with their mantra: Boil your bones. Their Filipino mother regularly made them huge pots of broth from beef or chicken bones. They simmer theirs for six to 12 hours, depending on whose bones they’re boiling. To most of us, this is a good old-fashioned stock. What was the Sunday roast would often become the base for a soup on Monday. It’s a thrifty thing to do, and, while it’s not always convenient, it’s always worth doing.

I usually leave my stock to cool, then freeze it in half-pint-sized Ziploc bags. It is perfect for adding to risottos, stews or soups – anything that needs an injection of pure flavour and depth.

It’s hard to gain that level of flavour from a stock cube, even one of those newfangled gelée instant stocks. I once chatted to a taxi driver who revealed to me his favourite food: stock sandwiches. Simply crumble a beef stock cube between two slices of buttered white bread, then devour. I jokingly asked if it would work with chicken stock cubes, and he replied that, yes, in a pinch he has had to use chicken cubes (but you must never, ever use vegetables ones). I imagine it to be similar to Marmite: a mouthful of salty, intense flavour cushioned somewhat by the thick white bread.

 

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP: SERVES 4-6

 

The five ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 2tbs brown rice miso paste
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped diagonally
  • 200g egg noodles

 

From the pantry

  • Mint leaves to garnish
  • 3 pints stock or water

 

Method

Pour the stock or water into a large pan. Make a thick paste with the miso, then keep adding water until it’s evenly dissolved. Add it to the pan.

Add one teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice, and chicken breasts. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 12 minutes. Next add the carrots. Leave simmer for eight to 10 minutes, until the carrots are just done.

Remove the chicken breasts; shred using two forks, or slice neatly. Return the meat to the pan along with the remaining teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice and the egg noodles. Simmer for three to five minutes until the noodles are just done.

Serve right away, scattered with mint leaves or coriander. Shredded spring onion is a lovely garnish too.

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