Chefs' cold and flu remedies that actually taste good

Chicken soup for the soul: Nicky Riemer makes broth to ward of the lurgies.
Chicken soup for the soul: Nicky Riemer makes broth to ward of the lurgies. Photo: Eddie Jim

Kick winter colds and the flu to the curb with these top tasting home remedies top chefs swear by.

The whizz bang immune boosting tonic

Mike McEnearney, executive chef and owner of Sydney's No.1 Bent St and Kitchen by Mike (temporarily closed, but two will be opening soon) mixes up a wonder tonic designed to boost immunity, fight colds and even cure a hangover. And he's been serving it up to his family and staff for years. The inspiration behind it came courtesy of his mother-in-law. 

"My mother-in-law had a Hippocratic garden filled with medicinal herbs that focused on the human body. She recognised herbs as medicinal, whereas I'd always recognised herbs as culinary. But what Hippocrates said is true, 'let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food'. 

"When I opened Kitchen by Mike in 2012, I wanted to have a green space with food that could sustain our restaurant, so I created a Physic Garden – a garden and educational space with five beds full of plants, herbs, fruit and vegetables arranged according to their traditional medicinal uses and focused on five parts of the body.

"As a chef, the gut is super important to me so I had a gastroenterology bed with dill and oregano and other herbs. The neurology bed had lemon verbena and German chamomile, for example. The dermatology bed had herbs including Italian parsley and nasturtium. The ears, throat and nose bed had Meyer lemon and lemongrass, and a cardiology muscular skeletal bed had herbs like ginger and turmeric. 

"Then, using the garden's medicinal herbs as ingredients, I created an immune boosting tonic I call The Morning After. I give it to my kids and the staff if they aren't feeling too well or are coming down with a cold. It's also good if you go out on a big bender and need to boost your immune system."

Mike McEnearney, of Kitchen by Mike and No.1 Bent Street.
Mike McEnearney, of Kitchen by Mike and No.1 Bent Street. Photo: Christopher Pearce

How to make it? It's simple. In a slow juicer, add the flesh of two nicely sized oranges or lemons – no zest or pips. "You can choose any citrus fruit you like - blood orange, pink grapefruit, anything citrus for the immune boost. We used to have this amazing Meyer lemon tree, so that's what I use."

Pop in half a bunch of oregano. "I add a good fistful of oregano from the gastroenterology bed, because the gut needs to be in good shape to absorb the nutrients of the food you eat. Oregano is anti-paraceutical and it's a digestive stimulant."

Add chilli. Then whizz. "Because it's for the morning after and there to lift you, I wanted the blood to rush to the body. So from the cardiology bed, I chose a chilli. 

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"After blending in a slow juicer, knock it back. It's hot, sharp and gets the blood pumping. But it's a great immune booster. We often make this tonic recipe, then add olive oil to create a beautiful salad dressings for salads at No.1 Bent St."

Mitch Orr of ACME in Sydney.

Mitch Orr of ACME in Sydney. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The lemon, honey and ginger cold cure 

It's an oldie but a goodie – the fail-safe lemon, honey and ginger hat-trick. Lemons are an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system and battle germs that cause a cold or flu. Ginger has been used for centuries thanks to its numerous medicinal benefits. The ginger bonus for cold and flu season is that it's diaphoretic, so it promotes sweating and helps work to warm the body from within. As for honey, well there are many health benefits to this antibacterial antioxidant, including relief from a sore throat and chesty cough.

Combined, they are liquid gold. And Mitch Orr, chef at ACME restaurant, swears by them. "I'm a big believer in a million cups of tea and tisanes like ginger, lemon and honey for warding off colds and flu," he says. "Palisa Anderson, co-owner of Boon cafe, basically forced Vallentines Honey on me when I had a sore throat, and I've been using it ever since."   

How to take it? "I take three teaspoons of the honey, 10 minutes apart before bed. I also take it through the day, depending on how bad my sore throat is." 

You can easily make a lemon, honey and ginger brew by mixing up the juice from a lemon and sliced root ginger with boiling water. Wait until it cools slightly before adding the honey, as boiling water can destroy honey's medicinal benefits. Let the flavours brew then sip away. 

For a bonus immunity booster, Orr also ups his vitamin C intake. "It's also very important to whinge and moan and garner as much sympathy from everyone as possible." Feel better?

Nicky Riemer of Melbourne's Union Dining.

Nicky Riemer of Melbourne's Union Dining. Photo: Supplied

The feel-good chicken soup

Nicky Riemer, chef and co-owner of Richmond's Union Dining, says you can't beat a good chicken and vegetable broth to ward of the lurgies. "It's all about a good chicken stock and vegetables for me," she says. "I share a home with my sister, and whenever one of us is sick, this is the 'go-to medicinal broth'. I use free-range chicken wings, home-made chicken stock and loads of vegetables like leek, celery, onion, garlic, fennel, cabbage, corn, green beans and spring onions."

Nicky says she discovered the recipe about seven years ago while living in Hong Kong, and it's been her anti-flu remedy ever since. "I was the head chef of a busy restaurant and I had a terrific local Hong Kong man who was my sous chef," she explains. "He introduced me to a chicken soup to ward off any ailment. He used to tell me that if I had a soup every day, I'd never get a cold. I may not have followed his exact instructions though! When I got the flu, he made me the most delicious chicken soup with cabbage, mushrooms and lots of chicken wings. I have to say, I felt better almost immediately. I've never been able to replicate his recipe exactly, but got pretty close.

"Ever since then, I make my version of the soup as soon as I get a cold or feel run-down - and always feel better. The important thing to remember is to roast the chicken wings first, then simmer in chicken stock. This broth will be the base of your soup. Then pick all the skin and flesh off the wings and add this back into the chicken broth with your favourite vegetables. Vegetables bought from a good market stall are the best."