Here's a practical diet tip that you don't often hear: get sick.
A tummy upset is what you need to get started on that diet you've been meaning to get around to. Worked a treat for me last week. I'm down two kilos already. I was going to start my "before I go travelling diet" sometime soon, and fate, with the help of a nasty little virus, decided that my diet starts now. For the first few days eating anything was a lost cause, but then I came goodish after three days, and could at least eat some soup.The virus then helpfully decided to move out of my stomach and occupy my lungs and throat. Little blighter (cough, cough). I'm almost well again now, but I am sure some of the credit for my recovery came via the chicken and vegetable soups that I had a couple of times this week.And so with health restored, I decided that it was time to replenish my depleted supply of medicinal chicken and vegetable soup, and do a posting on that (and in the process learn a bit more about using my new mini digital travel camera). I'll provide the recipe at the end, but here's the basic steps.Any combination of vegies would probably do, but this is the classic set: carrots, a leek, onion, celery, potato, swede, parsnip.
Dice potato and swede (you could use turnips instead of swede, which I think is called rutabaga in some other lands).
Dice celery then take a blurry photo of it.
Mix all the prepared vegies together, stand back and admire, point shoot.
Place 1.5kg chicken in pot, along with 3 litres water (I cheated and included some home-made chicken stock in that 3-litre quantity).
Add chopped vegies (and the water level should rise to just cover the chicken)
Add two bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme and a handful of black peppercorns.
Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and once boiling (and that can take 20-30 minutes) turn heat down low so the pot is barely simmering, but uncovered, so the liquid reduces slightly. Let it all simmer away slowly for 2 hours.
Remove chicken from the pot (it'll be falling apart by this stage) and let it cool. While the chicken cools, lightly mash the vegetables to help thicken the soup a bit.
At this stage I forgot to take a photo of the next step: ie, add 1 cup of tiny pasta. So then I had to fish out one teeny little square of tiny pasta, sit it next to a peppercorn, and take a macro shot of how tiny my teeny pasta is.
Strip all the flesh from the cooled chicken and chop into dice, add back to the pot. (Almost there!)
This photo needs a 'scratch and sniff' attachment, as it smells so chickeny/vegetably!
However, before you enjoy it, and this is the magic ingredient in turning a nice soup into a very, very nice soup: freeze it for a few days. For some reason all the soups I make taste so much nicer after they've had a spell in the freezer. Not just chicken soups, either. I won't eat my wintry pea and ham soup until it has been frozen for a while, and my leek and potato is the same, too.
All this soup shot lacks is bread. Good, crusty bread to dunk into it and mop up the last of it. My favourite lunch, a good soup with crusty dunking bread. And in the case of chicken and vegetable soup, it's genuinely medicinal. Apparently there are anti-inflammatory compounds within the bones of chickens, and provided you make chicken soup using chicken on the bone (and not just fillets) you'll get the anti-inflammatory goodies, as well as all the vegie goodness too.
OK, here's the recipe and it's an old one from the June 2004 issue of our magazine, and it's by our wonderful cookery writer Tracy Rutherford, whose always work beautifully. You might notice that I haven't followed the recipe precisely, but for starters I suggest you do it Tracy's way if you want to make a batch of old-style home-made chicken and vegetable soup.Tracy Rutherford's Real Chicken Soup
1.5kg whole chicken
1 bay leaf
large sprig thyme
1 large leek, sliced
3 large carrots, halved and sliced
4 sticks celery, sliced (reserve tops)
3 litres water
2 good quality chicken stock cubes (such as Massel)
1 cup (190g) stellini, or other small soup pasta
1. Place the chicken into a large, heavy-based stockpot. Cut a square of muslin and place the peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme on it. Bring the ends together to form a little pouch, and tie securely with kitchen string. Add to the pot.
2. Pour 3 litres of cold water into the pot, along with the vegetables. Bring slowly to the boil over medium-low heat (this will take about 30 minutes). Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 2 hours. The water should not be boiling during this time, just barely simmering.
3. Carefully lift the chicken from the pot – use two pairs of tongs, or a large slotted spoon and tongs. The chicken will fall apart, but into large pieces, so just take them all out. Let the chicken cool slightly, then pull the meat from the chicken, and chop into smaller, bite-sized pieces suitable for soup.
4. Meanwhile, using a potato masher, roughly mash the vegetables in the soup. Add the stock cubes and stir to dissolve. Return the chicken to the soup.
5. If you have time, chill the soup so that the fat floating on the top solidifies and is easy to remove. When ready to serve, bring to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Chop the reserved celery leaves and stir into the soup; season to taste.Once I was a sick man, but now I am on the road to recovery thanks to Tracy's medicinal soup. Thank you Tracy!