Nothing beats the glory of being warmed from within by chicken soup, the universal cure for whatever ails you, writes Jill Dupleix.
Is there an app called "Chicken Soup Near Me"? Even knowing that a bowl of soothing broth and shredded chicken is within a five-kilometre radius would make anyone feel better, such is the healing power of a great chicken soup.
The thing about chicken soup is that when you know, you know.
Nobody needs to be told how good it is – nay, how essential it is. So let's move beyond the everyday, and explore where else chicken soup can take us.
Let's head off to China with Kylie Kwong and a bowlful of Hokkien noodles, incorporate winter vegetables such as celeriac with Neil Perry, check out my spicy chicken miso soup with its must-have poached egg, and go for Adam Liaw's start-from-scratch whole chicken and vegetable soup, the very definition of comfort food.
Or push your chicken soup skills even further with the tips shown here. They may give tradition a shake, but they never take their eyes off the prize – the glorious warmth of being loved from within by your chicken soup.
Add some corn cobs to the stock. Photo: William Meppem
Seven ways to soup it up
1. Amp up your chicken stock
Instead of making a classic chicken stock then turning it into a variety of different soups, tweak your stock in a single flavour direction right from the start.
For an Asian-inspired soup, add spring onions, ginger and smashed coriander roots or lap cheong sausage to the stock.
For a Latin American vibe, add toasted ancho chillies, charred tomatoes, and smoky chipotle in adobo.
And why stick with just chicken anyway? Add a ham bone or smoked pork hock for twice the flavour, or a few cobs of corn (the kernels shaved off) for a particularly silky, corny sweetness.
2. Turn it into chickestrone
Italianise your chicken soup with all the goodies from a hearty minestrone. That means vegies such as carrot, celery and zucchini, a can of chopped tomatoes and a cup or two of white beans, lentils and small soup pasta as well as your cooked, shredded chicken.
To serve, top with lots of grated parmesan and black pepper and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.
3. Go green
When green leaves and herbs are cooked they lose their brightness and you're left with something dark and mossy-green. Instead, inject your soup with a cocktail of vivid green leaves and herbs just before serving.
Blend a cupful each of baby spinach and parsley with a handful of basil, a tablespoon of chives or dill, sea salt and black pepper and a glug of olive oil, and swirl through the soup for instant freshness.
4. Add rice
Somehow rice becomes part of the texture and body of a good soup instead of just an add-in, taking on the chicken and vegetal flavours through absorption.
Rinse 1 cup of rice and cook in the broth until soft (about 15 minutes for white rice, 40 minutes for nutty brown rice). It's especially nice with spinach, peas and the light tang of lemon zest.
5. Curry it
So you have a nice chicken and pumpkin or lentil soup but it ain't got that zing? Fry up some onions, add your favourite curry spices – and an extra teaspoon of turmeric for a wonderfully healthy glow – then swirl it through the soup and watch it come alive.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, coriander and toasty naan or roti.
6. De-soup your soup
Use the broth as a sauce, rather than a soup. So you might have chicken and cous cous on the plate, and add a ladleful of chicken broth spiked with preserved lemon and coriander leaves to serve, with a spoonful of harissa on the side.
Same goes for laksa (pictured) – just add a ladleful of the spicy coconut and chicken broth over chicken, noodles, prawns, tofu; don't drown it.
7. Add dumplings
Mmm, chicken soup with wonton dumplings. Or ravioli. Or tortellini. Enough said.
Italian classic: tortellini in brodo. Photo: iStock