Chicken soup for the soul. I’m not surprised there are books written about it, practically worshiping its properties. We’ve been eating lots of chicken soup the last couple of weeks to ward off the colds and flus assaulting us at every turn. Nothing quite like the first winter at a preschool for a little person to bring it all home.
Apparently, the nutritious powerhouse is the chicken stock. We had run out, so I bought some for this chicken and corn soup recipe. It turned out a lot darker than I’m used to and I doubt much of the nutritious qualities are patient enough to survive life in a packet or powder, but it’s better than nothing.
However, we usually have a stock pile of chicken stock in the freezer. It’s a wonderful way to push several meals out of one chicken without too much effort. The trick is not to get to precious about it. I fell in love with Tamar Alder’s approach in An Everlasting Meal. She keeps the off cuts of vegetables in a container in the fridge ready for stock making. The tops, tails and skins of onions, ends of carrots, base of celery, stems of broccoli, and the like are all included.
I try to roast a chicken fairly regularly as it is one of the most economical and respectful ways to eat the bird, because it means eating most of the lovely creature. It also makes it more affordable to pay the extra cost for a chicken that has been allowed to roam free. When roasting, I cook more chicken than needed for that meal and once everyone’s had their fill, I strip the carcass and save the meat for sandwiches, salads, soups or pies, dramatically reducing the thought and effort I need to put into the next meal.
How to make chicken stock
Put the chicken carcass(es) in the biggest pot you own (or a large stock pot, if you have quite a selection) with the vegetable off cuts and any extra vegetables that are looking a bit sad, roughly chopped. Aim to have a good range of colours from the white or brown of onions, to orange of carrots and green of celery or similar. You can add herbs like, bay leaves, left over thyme stems, parsley stems and others if you have them on hand, don’t worry if you don’t. Fill the pot with water, bring to the boil and turn the heat down and simmer for a couple of hours. Allow to cool and strain.
In our house, it is often a Sunday night event and the order runs something like this, roast bird, eat bird, put stock on, put child to bed, watch television, tweet, take stock off heat, have a cup of tea, brush teeth, do something, put stock in fridge and go to bed. At some point the next day, strain the stock, pour into containers, mark the date on the lid, fit as much as possible in the freezer and put the rest back in the fridge.
Chicken and corn soup recipe
Or chicken, corn and noodle soup, if you prefer.
Several years ago, I had been hunting around for a recipe using fresh corn instead of canned with no luck. When I had some corn that was a bit too tired to eat off the cob I took my chance at making up my own recipe and it worked well. It does taste delicious with super fresh corn, but I tend to cook this as a way to use up corn that is languishing unloved in the crisper.
4 corn cobs or 2 cans of corn Two handfuls shredded cooked chicken or 3 raw chicken thighs or 2 raw breasts, depending on preference, cut into chunks Optional: a couple handfuls egg or rice noodles and a splash sesame oil (optional) 1 splash grapeseed or vegetable oil 1 onion 1 knob ginger, grated 2 cloves garlic, crushed ½ cup rice wine or dry sherry 1 ½ litres or 3 pints chicken stock A splash soy sauce 2 eggs (preferably free range), lightly beaten 2 tablespoons resh herbs, if you have them. Ideally, spring onion, mint and coriander, shredded.
1. Cut the kernels off the corn cobs and smash the kernels a bit with the back of a spoon.
2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion, ginger and garlic. This is one of my favourite scents in the kitchen, the start of so many good meals, from curries to stir-fries.
3. If you’re using pre-cooked or leftover chicken, ignore this and move to step 4. For raw chicken, throw it in the pan and cook until white all the way through. Take the chicken out of the pan and pop in a big jar or plastic storage container and seal the lid to keep chicken tender and moist (this also works well for stir fries).
4. When the onions are soft (or the chicken is out of the pan), add wine or sherry to the pan and stir until the liquid has reduced by half. Toss in the corn and give it a moment to say hello to the other ingredients in the pan. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Set the heat to low and leave for half an hour or so until the corn is soft and the flavours have got to know each other.
5. In the meantime, you can tackle the noodles option, if you or others at your table are in need of a more ‘substantial’ meal. Boil salted water in a separate pan and cook your chosen noodles according to instructions. Drain when cooked and toss with sesame oil if you have it, otherwise any good vegetable oil will stop the noodles getting too attached to one another. Add a splash of soy sauce, according to taste and keep covered and warm until ready to serve.
6. Taste the soup. If the corn is cooked and the flavours have settled, toss in the chicken. Stir in the soy sauce a little at a time, tasting as you go. You’re aiming to give the soup heart and depth without being too salty. Allow a moment for the soup to welcome the new comers. Drizzle the beaten egg into the pan.
7. Serve. If you’re using noodles, pop the noodles in the bowls of those who want it and ladle the soup on top. Sprinkle with herbs and enjoy!
Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine