Avgolemono - Greek egg and lemon soup

Comfort food: Chicken, eggs and lemon make a great combination.
Comfort food: Chicken, eggs and lemon make a great combination. Photo: Marina Oliphant
Dietary
Gluten-free

I think soups are one of the great cultural signposts of a nation. In almost every country, they are at the heart of home cooking and gathering around a kitchen table for winter sustenance. The Italians have their stracciatella, every Jewish mother has her chicken noodle variation, but I had so many requests for the classic Greek soup - the avgolemono. It has a light and creamy texture and delicate, tangy flavour. Once you get used to the almost frothy texture, this soup becomes instantly loveable - especially with kids.

Ingredients

1/2 a free-range chicken*

salt

80g short-grain rice

2 whole eggs

juice of 1 1/2 - 2 lemons

chopped parsley (optional)

Method

1. Rinse the chicken under cold water and put into a pot just large enough to fit. Cover with cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Skim the surface, lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 2 hours.

2. Remove the chicken to a bowl and allow to cool. Meanwhile, pour 1.5 litres of the chicken stock into a pot and add the rice. Cook for 15 minutes until the rice is soft.

3. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin, and add to the soup. Season with salt and keep warm over a low heat.

4. Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until slightly stiff, then beat in the juice of 1 1/2 lemons. Whisk the yolks in a separate bowl and pour into the eggwhite mixture.

5. Remove the soup from the heat. Take a ladleful of the hot liquid and whisk into the egg mixture. Repeat with two more ladles of stock, then pour the mixture back into the chicken soup and stir to combine. Check for seasoning - you may want to add more lemon juice to your taste and serve.

To serve: Let the soup stand for a few minutes before serving - it really does improve the flavour. If you want to reheat the soup do so gently over a low heat because if it boils, the eggs will split.

*This soup is all about the flavour of the chicken, so use free-range chicken and eggs because it will taste so much better.