Fortunately, my mother arrived in HK just before I got ill, so she has been here to offer me her unyielding motherly TLC. Actually, this is not strictly true as she has her own schedule and her own friends to please, so has been out gallivanting during the daytimes, leaving me with plenty of water, orange juice and… her infamous Venezuelan chicken soup*.
We have grown up with this chicken soup, passed on lovingly to my mum by my abuela in Venezuela and so on. I was almost asked not to share it as it is a Segnini family secret but then we decided that the world needs to know how yummy this soup is. For me, this soup is usually associated with feeling poorly as it contains all sorts of goodies to give one one’s strength back. It is also ideal for a horrible wintry day, although Venezuela doesn’t really suffer many of these, so in fact it works perfectly on a hot summer’s day too!
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 whole chicken, washed, skinned and broken into pieces but left on the bone (chicken breast pieces can also be added for extra meat but it is important to have some meat on the bone for the stock to work)
1 large celery stick (leafy part best) broken into two or three big pieces
1 handful of coriander
1 large white onion cut in two
1 red pepper cut in two
2-3 whole garlic cloves
1 whole chilli (optional)
8-10 whole peppercorns
1 2-inch chunk of ginger (optional)
3 carrots cut into 2cm chunks
3 large potatoes cut into chunks
1 large piece of pumpkin, cut into chunks
1 leek cut into rounds
3-4 corn on the cobs cut in two
Salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken, celery, coriander, onion, pepper, garlic, chilli, ginger and peppercorns in a large pan with two litres of cold water.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer with the lid on for about an hour, until the water changes colour, becoming like a chicken consommé.
Remove celery and coriander. The onion, garlic and chilli may also be removed at this stage but I prefer them left in to create a stronger flavour.
Add the remaining ingredients, bring back to the boil and simmer with the lid on until all the vegetables have softened (approximately 30 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you are adverse to spicy things (aka a wimp) then the ginger and chilli can be taken out before serving (or just not added in the first place if you’re an outrageous wimp). Alternatively, to give the soup an extra kick, particularly if you’re feeling as under the weather as I have been, they can be cut into smaller pieces before serving.
I have always preferred my chicken soup attacked with a fork prior to eating: mush all the vegetables with a fork and shred the chicken away from the bone. This changes the consistency of the soup and is particularly effective when struck down by evil maladies as chewing can be pretty exhausting!
*Not unlike a good curry, this soup matures in flavour the day after cooking. On the third day it is even better. I am yet to taste how good it is on the fourth day but I would imagine the flavours will be even richer.