Hurray! Soup weather has arrived. For me, Monday’s lunch is also Wednesday night’s dinner. I simply double the recipe then freeze it in meal-lot quantities. A good soup is a meal in one bowl, nutritious and easy to eat.
Soup is as old as the history of cooking. It was an economical way of using cereals (roasted and ground into a paste), animal bones and vegetable trimmings cooked in water to produce a hearty meal for rich and poor alike.
While chicken soup is undoubtedly the world’s favourite, there are many variations based on the traditions and character of a country’s cuisine.
In China, old hens are used as the base together with flavourings such as root ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil. The soup is boiled for hours to extract the goodness from the chicken bones.
Jewish chicken soup is prepared with herbs such as parsley, dill and thyme and served with matzah balls or dumplings. It is believed the soup provides relief from colds and other illnesses and it is certainly a comfort food. As the proverb goes “Worries go down better with soup than without it.”
LEMON CHICKEN SOUP
If the lemon has thick skin then discard the pith. Use the rind (finely grated) and the flesh (chopped).
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1kg chicken drumsticks
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
500g potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 thin-skinned lemon, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seed
6 cups chicken stock
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy saucepan. Sauté the seasoned chicken in batches until the skin is golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Sauté the onion and garlic on medium-low until softened but not brown. Add the potatoes, lemon and fennel seeds. Stir well.
Return the chicken to the pan with the stock. Season. Simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the chicken is falling off the bones.
Remove the chicken and cool a little. Discard the skin and bones. Shred the chicken and return to the saucepan. Simmer on low for another 10 minutes. Add chopped parsley, if preferred.
Great served topped with thinly sliced lemon and yoghurt or sour cream sprinkled with and sumac. Serves 6.
SMOKY BACON & LENTIL SOUP
First, rinse the lentils a sieve under cold water. I used manuka-smoked bacon prepared by Hendersons. It is traditionally cured and does not contain chemicals.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
150g smoky bacon, finely chopped
1 each: carrot, celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g can diced tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
5 cups vegetables or chicken stock
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan. Sauté the onion on medium, until softened. Add the bacon and sauté until lightly browned, stirring often.
Add the carrot and celery and sauté, stirring, until slightly softened. Add the garlic, tomatoes, lentils, herbs and stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils have softened and the vegetables are cooked.
Great served with crusty bread. Serves 6.
SPICY PUMPKIN SOUP
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, diced
1kg peeled and diced pumpkin
1-2 teaspoons diced chilli
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cream
Garnish: 1/2 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, coriander
pinch cayenne pepper
Heat the oil on medium-low in a heavy saucepan. Sauté the onion, until tender. Add the pumpkin, chilli, stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the pumpkin is tender. Purée until smooth. Just before serving stir in the cream.
To make the garnish, lightly whip the cream with the seasonings. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a little of the whipped cream and some chopped chives. Serves 6.