So. Much. Cheese. I am bored of food. The usual suspects of meat, deli things and baguettes have been done to death. Even the more special occasion foodstuffs are failing to appetise. It seems I really can have too many good things.
After the relentless onslaught of saturated fats inflicted by Christmas my body was craving something healthy, fresh and easy to eat. Something to soothe my jaded digestion and ease me into the health-kick my waistline is crying out for. Scientific studies have proved what so many mamas already know to be true: chicken soup sorts you out.
Certainly, the thin, semi-clear flavourful broth with its frugal slivers of chicken and vegetables nourishes without irritating. Gentle and light its perfect for a belly that’s been chugging on booze, cheese, meat and crisps. However, I’m a bit obsessed with pho, ramen and la mian and all manner of Asian noodle soups. I love the perfectly balanced flavours of slowly simmered vats of broth with skilfully hand-pulled noodles but I am also addicted to the cheap thrill of Koka or Nissin Cup Noodles. Tongue-tinglingly full of MSG they satisfy an urge but leave you feeling a bit dirty afterwards.
A guilty brunch of mine is to pimp up an instant noodle soup: throw into the usual soup mix a splash of Chinese rice wine, some toasted sesame oil, soy, ginger and garlic. Handful of coriander, a sliced chilli and a poached egg. That way you can nearly pretend it’s healthy…
As I was feeling a bit icky in general I didn’t really want to subject my stomach to any dubious chemical enhancers. I figured the best way to get what I needed was to cook the chicken soup from scratch Jewish style but with Asian aromatics, adding noodles and fresh coriander just before eating. In no way is my version authentic but it certainly hit the spot. The broth was intensely flavoured without being overpowering. It was quaffably addictive and ridiculously healthy, leaving me feeling light and sated rather than stuffed, sleepy and sick. I have more cooked chicken left over than I’ve broth to match, but as it hasn’t absorbed the soup flavourings, its perfectly suited to use in sandwiches or pastas etc . Anything you’d use left over roast chicken for really.
It felt alien boiling a whole bird instead of roasting, but its something I’ll be doing again ….
Asian-Style Chicken Noodle Soup – Serves 4 as a noodle soup with plenty more chicken meat.
1 chicken (about 1-1.5 kg) jointed (I’m rubbish at this so just took the legs and wings off so it fit comfortably in the pan)
*you could just use chicken leg, thigh and wing pieces if you wanted instead
1 red onion peeled and halved
2 star anise
3 inch peeled chunk of ginger
5 pieces of garlic, unpeeled but smashed with the back of a knife so the skin is broken
2 sticks of lemongrass bashed about
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons of Chinese rice wine
1) In a large lidded saucepan or lidded wok add the chicken, the rest of the ingredients then fill with cold water so that it’s just covered.
2) Cover with the lid and heat slowly on a medium to high heat until its simmering merrily, periodically removing with a spoon the white scum and oil that rises to the surface.
3) After about 1 hour to 1 ½ hours the meat will have turned opaque white and it will be cooked. Remove the chicken and drain the liquid through fine sieve discarding the vegetables but keeping the liquid.
4) Strip the bird of as much meat as you can, cutting or shredding into bite sized pieces (and get rid of the skin as its gross when boiled).
5) Taste the broth to see if it needs more salt. If it’s too strong, add a splash of boiled water. Let it cool for about half an hour or so and remove as much of the fat that has risen to the surface as possible.
Assembling the Broth – 1 bowlful
1 inch ginger - finely sliced into a very thin matchsticks
1 small handful of coriander roughly chopped
½ red chilli finely sliced
½ finely sliced spring onion
1 small handful of dried noodles – you can use a packet of instant or egg noodles but I used Vietnamese flat rice noodles.
Poached egg or hard-boiled egg (sliced in half)
Handful of cooked and sliced chicken meat
1) Heat a bowlful of broth in a saucepan till simmering, add the noodles cooking to packet instructions. Add the chicken just before the noodles are done.
2) Pour both noodle, chicken and broth into a deep bowl, add the egg, the coriander, the chilli, the ginger and the spring onions.
3) Eat and drink up and feel virtuous.