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Sunday, February 5

Healing Soup

There are times when all we want is to be snuggled down in our bed with our pillows and duvet. The British call this a Duvet Day. I love the term because it succinctly sums it up. 

A Duvet Day is a day for hibernating. It's a day for staying indoors, preferably under the duvet. It's a day for not answering phone calls or emails. It's a day for taking splendid care of ourselves. In fact, it might be more than a day. If we are ill, or have suffered a great loss, we require time for healing. 

While it is rare for me to lose my appetite, it has happened a couple of times. I found the experience terrifying, for without appetite my other grand passions also disappeared. Without desire, what are we? 

One of the ways I take care of myself, when feeling under the weather, is to make a big pot of healing soup. It's packed with everything required to boost immunity and reduce inflammation. It's also enormously versatile. Yes, it's a soup, but it becomes something else entirely when poured over a mound of mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice. You can use it as a base for limitless meals like risotto, chicken pie, enchiladas, curry, and sandwiches. I'd go as far to say this is one of the most versatile things you can make.

This recipe makes a lot of soup. After removing bones, skin and fat, you will have approximately 5 liters of rich, golden stock and 2 kg of chicken.

What You Need

Big Stock Pot - 10 liters   11 quarts

Olive Oil- 125ml   1/2 cup

Onions - 2 large yellow

Ginger - 200 grams   8oz

Garlic - 2 heads

Chillies - Jalapenos or Seranade  4

Lemon - 4 large 

Apple Juice - 500ml   2 cups

Coarse Salt & Pepper - 1 heaping tbs each 

Turmeric - 1 heaping tbs

Cayenne - pinch, generous pinch if you like a little heat 

Sage - handful of fresh, or 1 tbs dried

Chicken - 2 medium, approximately 2kg   5lbs

Dark Greens - I usually use a handful of chopped spinach or kale for each serving. 

What You Do

Pour olive oil in stock pot. Peel and finely chop two onions. Add onions to pot and caramelize over medium heat, stirring often. While onions are cooking, peel and grate ginger. Add to pot to cook with onions. Peel and chop garlic, add to pot. Wash, de-seed and chop chillies, add to pot. Mix well. 

Juice the lemons and add juice to roots. Next, add apple juice, salt, pepper, turmeric, cayenne, sage, and chickens.  No need to cut the chicken. They will break down as it simmers. Add enough water to the pot to nearly cover chickens, without overflowing. 

Cover pot with lid and cook over medium heat for the first half hour, then lower heat to low setting and gently simmer for another two-and-a-half hours. Cooking at this low of heat, you should not need to replenish the water, but check every hour or so to make sure.

After three hours, turn off the heat and allow the chicken to rest in the pot, with the lid on until cool enough to handle. This will take at least a couple of hours. When chicken is cool enough to handle, you will need to separate it from the stock. 

Place a big colander into a second stockpot, or very large container. Gently pour the soup, bones and all, into the colander, so that the second pot catches every drop of the delectable broth. You will likely have to do this in a couple of passes.

Get out a couple more bowls to collect the bones and meat. Pick through the bones, removing all the meat, which will come apart easily in your hands. Toss bones and skin in one bowl and meat in the other. 

Refrigerate the broth, ideally overnight, or at least for several hours to allow the fat to rise to the top of the pot. When cold, skim the waxy layer of fat off the top and discard, or set aside the schmaltz (Yiddish for chicken fat) for making dumplings, or matzo balls to add to your soup.

Refrigerate chicken separately, adding it to your soup, once it has been de-fatted. 

As the greens quickly break down when added to the hot broth, toss them into the pot about five minutes before serving. They will add another colour and texture to your creation, not to mention even more nutrition. 

If you're not planning to eat your broth and chicken within a couple of days, freeze it. You will find it freezes very well. You can freeze the broth and chicken separately, or together. This is a wonderful meal to keep in the freezer when all you want is a quiet duvet day and a bowl of homemade chicken soup.

Ideas and Suggestions

I often save some of my broth for risotto. See recipe index. This leaves lots of chicken for other uses. You could try your hand at making chicken Cornish pasties, enchiladas, or this fabulous chicken curry for sandwiches. 

Bombay Meets Belfast 

To make quick and delicious chicken curry sandwiches, combine 250 ml  1/2 cup Mango & Chilli Chutney (plain Mango Chutney is fine too) with 250 ml  1/2 cup chopped pineapple, 250 ml  1/2 cup dried cherries,  250 ml  1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp curry powder. Blend well.

Add a generous handful of shredded chicken, maybe more depending on the size of your hands. Mix thoroughly. Taste. Adjust according to your preferences. Serve on Irish Barmbrack bread. This is a wonderful bread made with sultanas, ginger and mixed peel. If you can't find it, any quality fruited, or fruit and nut bread works well. This is combination makes one of my favourite sandwiches.

When we don't feel well it is natural, even necessary, to turn inward. This is the time to give ourselves our full, loving attention. This is the time for snuggling up with a pile of books and magazines; scenting your environment with essential oils such as lavender, rose, peppermint, eucalyptus, or Olbas Oil made with pure plant oils, clove, eucalyptus, juniper berry and cajuput. 

Listen to your favourite music. Take long, candlelit baths. Treat yourself to fresh flowers. Let someone read you a story with professional audio recordings. Watch movies, or whole box sets of a series you never had time to see. Make something beautiful for yourself alone. Treat yourself like a well-loved child.