by Karen Swan
Chicken soup. It’s the food equivalent of wrapping yourself up in a wool blanket, slipping on some bed socks and cuddling in front of an open fire as the rain falls against the windows, isn’t it?
On days when I want to feel nourished, or am feeling under the weather, I need the clean comfort of a clear broth, spiked with sweet corn, tender chicken and bright green, restorative vegetables.
This soup, though a little labour intensive, is number one on my list of go to “Help, the whole family has the sniffles!” family meals.
Cooking the whole chicken overnight in the slow cooker is a spectacular way to make the most of this incredible broth. Even better if the day dawns grey and cold and you can hook into the soup for a nourishing brekkie!
The shredding of the chicken and straining of the soup does take a little time, but it’s lovely, pottering in the kitchen time. A cup of tea at hand, some calming music, and it’s a little corner of kitchen bliss!
The broth itself will divvy up beautifully, and you can also divvy up the chicken meat. The vegetables and other add ins can be left to the receiving mama to add as she re-heats.
Or, you can simply make the broth and divide it into portions for home use. On the night I served this, I cooked some brown rice in the stock, drained it, then added it to the bottom of the bowl with the choy sum, before pouring over the soup.
As with all soups, please adjust the seasoning to suit your tastes. I found I needed to go fairly heavy on the salt to get the taste I craved (however, I didn’t use the specified amount of soy sauce).
1 whole, organic chicken.
6 spring onions – chopped
1 knob ginger – sliced (it will fill about 1/3 of a cup)
5 star anise
4 garlic cloves – peeled and bruised
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns (or more to taste)
3/4 to 1 cup of soy sauce (choose salt reduced if you prefer)
Fresh chilli to taste (optional)
2 pieces of lemon or mandarin peel (optional)
Salt to taste.
Rinse and dry the chook.
Put the chicken, whole, into the slow cooker and cover with around 2 litres of water.
Add your aromatics: spring onions, ginger, garlic, soy, star anise, sugar, peppercorns, peel and chilli.
Turn the slow cooker to LOW and cook for 12 hours. (meaning: close the lid, turn it on, grab some flannel pj’s and go to sleep!)
Remove the chicken and allow to cool a little before shredding the meat, removing the skin and any other icky bits. Reserve the meat for when you’re ready to serve.
Line a sieve with two or three paper towels and slowly drain the stock – don’t do what I did and forget to put a bowl under the sieve; nothing more heartbreaking than the moment you realise that delicious stock is going down the sink!
Put the stock back in the fridge to allow any of the fat to solidify on the surface (Or not! Nothing wrong with a lovely rich stock!) and remove with a spoon.
I like to run it through another lined sieve as I pour it back into the pot to re-heat, but this isn’t necessary.
You could divvy up the stock at this point, ready to freeze.
Re-heat the broth.
Line the bottom of a soup bowl with some leafy green veg, the shredded chicken, fresh corn kernels, and, if you like, some fresh slivers of ginger and garlic.
Pour the hot broth over the top.
Sprinkle with fresh spring onions and an extra drizzle of sesame oil and/or soy sauce.
I like to cook some brown rice in the stock and add that to the bottom of the bowl.
What’s your go-to meal when the family is poorly?