The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 1 July 2006

Chicken Vege Soup

I love cooking soups. So simple, yet can be so tasty and good for you. Soups are a nutritious way to warm up yourself in the cold cold season. I made this soup a couple of weeks ago so I've forgotten the exact quantity of the ingredients, but that's the beauty of soups - anything goes. When adding chicken meat to soups, I usually boil whole chicken breasts in water until they're cooked (reserving the boiling liquid for use in the soup), then shred them and mix in the soup at the end of the cooking process. However this time round, I wanted the chicken to actually have some flavour so I cut the chicken up first into bite-sized pieces, and marinated them overnight in soy sauce, mirin, pepper and cornstarch. I then browned the chicken pieces with oil in a saucepan over high heat for a minute or two, and later added them in the last five to ten minutes of the cooking process. I made my own chicken stock, although the store-bought ones are good to use - just make sure that there are no added junk like flavouring or preservatives in the stock (the Campbell brand is pretty good).

I think that it's important not to add seasoning (e.g. salt or soy sauce) too early in the cooking process as the potatoes and other vegetables would absorb a lot of the salt and you'll end up using a lot of salt to make up for it. Season the soup towards the end and your body will thank you for it.

Remember, the quantity doesn't really matter, and feel free to experiment with different ingredients.

750g chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated with:
some pepper and 1 tabspn each of soy sauce, mirin and cornstarch
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, cubed
1 parsnip, cubed
1 turnip, cubed
1 swede, cubed
3 potatoes, cubed
3 stalks of celery, cubed
1 small-ish head of brocolli, cut into small pieces
4-5 cups of chicken stock, and enough water to cover ingredients with liquid
1x410g can of mixed beans, drained and rinsed (this helps reduce the gas-producing factor of beans)
1x410g can of corn kernels
2 eggs, lightly beaten
spices - cinammon, nutmeg, ground ginger and chinese five-spice powder
herbs - parsley, basil, rosemary and a pinch of thyme
Salt/soy sauce and pepper to taste
1-2 tabspn of red miso paste
Some sesame oil to add some fragrance to the soup

1. Heat some oil in a saucepan to a high heat, then add the chicken pieces, stirring frequently for a minute or two to seal the chicken. Remove chicken from saucepan, and there will no doubt be good stuff stuck at the bottom of the pan - if you're careful not to have burnt it already, this stuff is flavoursome so don't waste it. Just add some stock, and scrape it all clean and reserve the liquid + 'scrapings' for use later.
2. Heat some oil in a huge stock pot, and sweat the onion over medium heat until almost brown. Add the garlic, carrots, parsnip, turnip, swede and potatoes and stirfry for a further minute.
3. Add the stock and water, and bring to a simmer. Add the brocolli and celery and let the soup simmer until the vegetables are almost cooked but not soft (i.e. they still have their shape and have a bit of crunch to them) - this will take maybe 20 minutes?
4. Add the spices, cans of mixed beans and corn kernels and the chicken. Let this simmer for a further five minutes, at which point you can stir in the miso paste, add the eggs and season with salt or soy sauce and pepper to taste.
5. Stir in the herbs just before serving.

And voila, a great dish for the winter season - serve with bread or rice or great on its own.

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