I've written about my grandmother's soup before, here
and here, but those are both attempts to capture a
special Romanian soup called "chorba". That soup is quite complicated and can
be a hassle to throw together when all you want is something warm & nutritious
to help fight off a coming cold so I wanted to share her typical chicken soup
for my dear friend Noreen who's in need of such a thing right now.
- 1 whole chicken Generally for this sort of thing, bigger is better, but
as it forms the base of your soup, you want a proper oily one too. I tend to
opt for a free-range one over a larger battery-cage type one as these tend to
be a little less... I don't know, sterilised.
- Some carrots I usually opt for a minimum of 3, but will happily add as
many as 8. Honestly, there's no downside to adding more veggies as it only
makes your soup tastier and healthier.
- Some parsnips See the above rules for carrots
- 1 bunch of celery: Again, volume is good here, so don't be stingy as this
stuff is pretty cheap and adds a lot of flavour.
- 1 large white onion
- Lots of salt: Don't be stingy.
- A fist full of fresh parsley: You really can't overdo this, but
generally I take a pack from Tesco and dump the whole thing in.
- Garlic (chopped up and tossed in with the veggies)
- Olive oil (in case your chicken doesn't have enough oil in it already)
Over the years, I've adapted my grandmother's recipe to suit Christina's and my
tastes. Where the two methods have diverged, I've noted them below, but
honestly, you can mix and match and the results will still be yummy.
It's pretty simple: get a big pot and put your chicken in it. Then, fill that
pot with enough water that it totally covers the chicken by about 3cm (~1" for
the American savages that haven't yet figured out metric 😜). Put that pot on
the stove and crank it up to medium heat.
A note about the heat at this stage: this step has two purposes: cooking
the chicken (salmonella is a bitch) and creating your stock. If you crank the
heat to maximum, you'll cook the chicken alright, but you won't have enough
time to leach the goodness out of the skin and bones. If you're in a hurry,
you can crank it up to 75% at most, but a tastier soup comes from a slow, even
hours-long boil at a low heat.
Add some salt while it's cooking. How much? Lots. Take what you think a
soup should have in it and triple it. I have one of those boxes of idodised
salt in the cupboard and I open the mouth wide to pour about 5 turns of salt
into the pot myself.
Cover it, and let it slowly come to a boil. Depending on how impatient you
are, this can be about 30 minutes or 3 hours. If you've got the time, I highly
recommend the patient route. Besides, you have other things to do while you
Note that while it's cooking, some white fluffy goo might float to the surface
(it varies by chicken). Just scoop it off with a slotted spoon every once in
Now that the stock is doing its thing, lets get to the other tasty bits. But
first, a note about divergence.
My grandmother's recipe calls for all of the ingredients above, but notably,
she doesn't put the onion & celery in the soup. They're added for flavour,
but removed before serving. Christina likes these bits though, so we chop them
up with the rest of the veggies and leave everything in.
Given the above, if you're going Grandma's route, you'll wanna chop the onion
in half and chop the celery stalks into halves as well. She also tends to cut
the other veggies unusually large... that's your call I guess.
If you're going with my adaptation, then you'll want to cut all of the veggies
down into bite-sized chunks (and the onion even smaller: diced). Dump them all
into a big bowl or two and wait for the chicken to finish.
3. Chicken Out, Veggies In
You've just spent a bunch of time sucking the tastiness out of your chicken and
into that salt water. You can tell we're ready because there should be little
bubbles of oil floating on the surface of your water and the chicken skin
should be showing signs of peeling back from the flesh.
A note about oil bubbles: This is the sign of some good broth: a good
oily chicken tends to produce lots of yummy bubbles, so if you feel like your
broth doesn't look sufficiently bubbly, even after an hour of cooking, feel
free to add a tablespoon of olive oil at this stage.
Remove the whole chicken from the pot and put it aside. As it'll have a lot of
water in it, I don't recommend just plopping into a cutting board, but rather I
tend to favour putting it in a casserole dish to cool down. Be very
careful as (a) the chicken is very hot, and (b) it's likely hiding pockets of
boiling water. Use big long metal tongs or something. Be creative, but safe.
Once it's out and cooling down in the open air, take all of those veggies you
chopped up and toss them in the water. Regardless of whether you opted for the
veggies-all-in option or the flavour-only-subset, everything goes in right now.
Put the lid back on, reduce the heat, and let it simmer on low. The timing
after this point isn't all that important. So long as your veggies simmer for
at least 20 minutes, you'll be fine. If they simmer for an additional 4 hours,
that's cool too.
Chicken Back In
Once your chicken has cooled down, you'll want to cut the meat off and into
bite-sized pieces. Go through the whole bird and take as much as you can,
making sure that you don't accidentally include any bones or inedibles. Put
all of your edible bits right back into the soup.
That's basically it. We've combined the two age-old food groups: salt and fat,
with some vegetables & domesticated bird meat. It's yummy, but it can still be
a little better.
Chop up your parsley as finely as you can and dump it all into the pot. Then,
grind some black pepper into the pot for taste. I usually do about 12 turns of
my grinder and then add more to individual bowls, but I love me some pepper.
I always forget this part, but it's critical: the noodles are cooked
separately. Pick a noodle type (we tend to favour fusilli, but my grandmother
prefers angel hair pasta.) toss it into a pot of boiling salted water and cook
whatever you want for this sitting.
Put a handful of cooked pasta into each bowl and then ladle your soup from the
big pot into each bowl. Do not put the noodles in the soup pot unless you
intend to eat all of it today (unlikely, you cooked a whole bird). Generally
you cook the noodles you need for each sitting
That's it! Enjoy your foodz, and let me know how it goes! If you like it,
I'll let my grandmother know you appreciate it :-)