Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oriental wisdom: one chicken, two meals for the body and soul

It is a real grey, wet Sunday. Rain, rain, rain.

As I am sitting in front of my computer sorting through the recipes I have lined up for you, I am listening to my kids playing in the other room. There is squealing and laughter. I hear some loud sounds, then a thud. More laughter. And then come the tears and shouting, one of the many fights between siblings that take place every hour at our house. I just checked on them a few minutes ago and restored the peace. I am not getting up again, they have to learn to sort things out on their own.

A car passes outside my window. I hear the water from a puddle splashing onto the sidewalk. It is good to be home. I listen to the familiar sound of the referee's whistle and the audience chanting and cheering on TV as F. lies on the couch in the living room watching the Sunday game.

Half of Italy is underwater this today, not just Venice. The levels of the Po river are rising alarmingly and many cities in Piedmont are at risk. Liguria, Genoa in particular, is on its knees. Hundreds of people are working and digging, the city is reacting. This will not bring back the people who died, it will not give the two children back the life that lay ahead of them. That is how the world goes. Some of us sit in the warmth and safety of our homes while others grieve the loss of their loved ones. Unfortunately this happens every day, everywhere.

But for today my thoughts go out to those families. In Genoa, in Naples, in Thailand.

This recipe warms the body, the heart, the soul. The chicken is tender, the broth savory and complex. On the first day, it is delicous on the rice you serve with the chicken. The second day it reaches a whole new level as a soup in its own standing, with little nuggets of meat, any seasonal vegetable you care to add and some noodles of choice.

It is true what they say, chicken soup for the body and for the soul.

When I saw this recipe posted on Not Quite Nigella, I knew I had to make it. She adapted it from a recipe published by Marion Grasby. Thanks Lorraine, thanks Marion! This has become a new family favorite.

Ingredients for chicken
1 bunch coriander/cilantro
garlic, 10 cloves
black peppercorns, about 10
5 whole star anise
a whole chicken
1/2 cup dark soy sauce (I used regular, my chicken didn't turn out as dark Lorraine's)
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar 

Ingredients for soup
Leftover stock (and chicken if you have any left) from chicken
pumpkin (I used some leftover roasted pumpkin)
Swiss chard
bonito flakes
udon noodles

Cut the coriander, roots and leaves, and set aside some leaves for garnish. Place the rest in a mortar with the peeled garlic and pepper and bash until you obtain a paste. In a large pot, preferably cast iron, cook the paste in a little vegetable oil for about a minute. Add the whole chicken and brown on each side. Next add in the soy sauce, the fish sauce, the star anise and the sugar. Then pour in enough cold water to cover or almost cover the chicken (if it doesn't, you can turn the chicken over halfway through).
Let  simmer for about one hour.  In the meantime cook or steam some white rice.
After an hour lift the chicken out of the stock and place on a serving plate and let it cool.
Save the stock and use it to make a soup, adding seasonal vegetables, noodles and sprinkling with some bonito flakes for that extra umami if you have any on hand.

Lorraine also suggests using the stock in the place of water to make a savory rice dish.

Oh, by the way, if you feel like playing a guessing game, hop on over here. Although if you read this blog, you already know the answer!


  1. Yum! Any recipe that Lorraine posts HAS to be delicious! And your rendition is so mouth watering!
    So sad what is happening in Italy. I could not believe my eyes when I saw it on TV. I was so worried as I have some relatives in Genova... luckily they are ok! I am so glad there is no major river in Milan!!!!
    A big hug from the (terribly) warm Sydney... 30C and counting... wish I could send some of this heat your way to help drying things up! <3

  2. This looks delicious and warm and comforting. Perfect dish for bad weather!

  3. Ooh I'm so glad that you made it and liked it! :D I saw your comment this morning and couldn't wait to check the website and see it. You did a gorgeous job-it's definitely bad weather food. And thanks Manu! :)

  4. There are few things in life as warming as a good Asian noodle soup. This one looks particularly gorgeous!

  5. There's nothing quite as comforting as chicken soup, and this looks like the perfect simple, clean version. I love the Not Quite Nigella blog - it's always providing me with inspiration!

  6. A multitasking wonder of a soup; like good mum's. Gorgeous, as always.

  7. I had no idea what was happening in Italy; hope your loved ones are safe from harm. I had chicken on my mind this last week and what I love about chicken is I can use up every last knuckle! Great post. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Manu - it is the kind of recipe that just turns out perfect. Simple and full of flavor. Glad your relatives are safe.
    Pola - I love all the different flavors added by the exotic spices.
    Lorraine - you are a neverending source of inspiration
    Frank - thank you. I totally agree...about Asian noodle soup of course! ;o)
    LittleLoaf - Lorraine rocks.
    Tori - thank you. What would we do without you Australians giving us great ideas??
    ToB - we are that kind of family: once we are done with a chicken there is practically not even bone left.

  9. A beautiful, comforting bowl of food for sure! As I was reading your post, in the background outside, I could hear my children laughing and then fighting and then back to laughing...xo

  10. Hi, I am back from my travels and trying to catch up with all my favourite bloggers. What a lot of great recipes to welcome me back to your blog this evening. We witnessed the flooding in Bangkok first hand and now it is also happening in Italy, all so very sad. Stay safe.

  11. Care's Kitchen - more laughing and fighting can go on in an hour than you could ever imagine. Right?
    Lindy - welcome back. Luckily we are safe and the sun is finally shining today. Hope you had a lovely time despite the flooding...

  12. The soup looks especially comforting... Much needed with all the rain that fell last weekend.

  13. We were on the autostrada just after the first landslide happened and had to turn back. We watched in horror as the rest of the events unraveled. Return to France and the same is happening in the South. We worry as one son is in Milan and the other in Venice. I wish they were home so I could offer them warmth and comfort in a bowl of soup such as this. I love this kind of Asian soup rich in flavor as the centerpiece of the perfect evening meal.

  14. Beautiful, warming soup and beautiful, warming post/tribute to our suffering neighbors.

  15. Last week-end was a nightmare in Northern and Central Italy, then also in the Southern one... and it was "just" rain... all because of negligence :(

    I really love how you use this chicken to make two wonderful meals :)


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