Souper Duper

24 Jan

Noodle soup is comfort food par excellence. Whether you’re coughing and sneezing, or have a queasy stomach, or are just feeling down and out, a steaming bowl of broth, noodles, and meat and/or vegetables will simultaneously soothe and revitalise the body and mind. It also satisfies without heaviness, making it ideal for my attempt to eat more healthily.

Recently I’ve been eating a lot of pho (pronounced like “fur” without the “r”), a Vietnamese staple. Beef shin and bones are simmered for hours with spices including ginger, star anise, and cinnamon to make a clear, deep-flavoured broth. Then chopped spring onions, rice noodles, and very thin slices of raw beef fillet go into the broth to cook.

Once the soup is on the table, you can season it to your liking – fresh holy basil, chili, and lime juice for zip, hoisin sauce for a little sweetness, fish or soy sauce for a savoury kick. The possibilities are infinite, but I end up adding a little of everything to my bowl. The combination of spicy and herbal, savoury and sweet wakes me up every time.

Pho Tai

At the other end of the scale is classic chicken noodle soup, the kind that everyone’s Jewish grandmother makes. It’s quite plain compared to pho, with the flavour of good chicken coming first. You can add all different kinds of vegetables and flavourings if you like– feel free to use whatever’s in your cupboard or fridge.

Jewish Penicillin

Feel free to use packaged broth for the soup if that’s what you have on hand, but homemade chicken stock is super easy to make, and it will put your results on a whole other plane of deliciousness.

Just strip any leftover meat off the roast chicken you’ve made (or bought from the shop) and put it aside. Put the carcass in the biggest pot you have with big chunks of raw carrot, celery, onion, plus herbs like bay and thyme and some salt and pepper. Fill the pot with water until the chicken carcass is just covered. Cover the pot and heat it up to a simmer on the hob. Turn the heat down to low, and leave the stock to simmer for about two hours. When done, strain through a colander.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes one big bowlful

500ml homemade chicken stock
1 small carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into pound-coin-thick slices
50g small pasta shapes (think orzo, or little stars and shells)
1 big fistful shredded pre-cooked chicken
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, ring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the carrot and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the pasta and cook for the time it says on the package. Add the chicken and leave for another minute. Taste for seasoning and serve.

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