A pot of chicken soup is the ultimate gesture of love, or so says US chef Jenn Louis in her new compilation, The Chicken Soup Manifesto.
Her third book is a celebration of one of the most beloved dishes the world over. Inside its pages, the James Beard-nominee travels from continent to continent in search of wholesome and restorative chicken soup recipes from every corner of the world.
As Louis writes: "Think about it: chicken soup is a culinary connection shared around the world. We express our cultures, feed our nations and convey our most treasured flavours through this delicious and humble soup."
Alongside the recipes, the author also covers all the chicken essentials you need to know, from selecting and storing, to stock 101 and brining.
Having trouble finding ingredients? "Look them up. You can substitute ingredients like bacon for pancetta or prosciutto. Have fun cooking, don't sweat the small stuff: this is just chicken soup!"
At first bite of this wonderful soup, the flavours of gundi are reminiscent of falafel. All of the rich, warm spices we are familiar with, in a rustic and simple broth. Gundi is to Iranian Jews what the matzo ball is to Eastern European Jews. Sometimes made with chickpeas, this recipe uses chickpea flour. Some versions include small potatoes cut in half and poached in the broth. Although the recipe hails from Iran, most Persian Jews live in Israel now and Israel is where the soup lives on.
- 2 tbsp rendered chicken fat or vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, cut into 5mm cubes
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 450g ground (minced) chicken thighs
- 110g chickpea flour
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1½ tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2-3 tbsp cool water
- 2 tbsp rendered chicken fat or vegetable oil
- 2 yellow onions, cut into 1cm cubes
- 3 carrots, cut into 1cm cubes
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1.9 litres chicken stock
- 1 tbsp salt
- For the meatballs, melt the chicken fat in a large saute or frying pan over a high heat. Add the onions and gently cook for 3-6 minutes until tender and caramelised. Leave to cool completely.
- Combine the cumin, coriander and caraway in a small saute or frying pan and cook over a high heat for 2-4 minutes until the seeds become fragrant and just begin to pop. Remove from the heat immediately so that they do not burn. Leave to cool completely, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder or spice mill. Set aside.
- Mix the cooled onions, spices, chicken, chickpea flour, turmeric, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of cool water at a time, until the mixture comes together. Form the mixture into small balls, about 2.5cm, and place on a baking tray. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- For the soup, melt the chicken fat in a large pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, garlic and bay leaves, stir to combine and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables become slightly tender and the onions are translucent. Add the stock and salt and bring to a simmer. Gently add the meatballs, partially cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Make sure to simmer gently to keep the meatballs from breaking apart. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.
Terbiyeli pirincli tavuk corbasi (left) and sehriye corbasi are simple Turkish soups. Photo: Ed Anderson/Hardie Grant
Terbiyeli pirincli tavuk corbasi
Count on chickpeas for protein, chilli paste for warmth and long-grain rice for heft in this soup. I like using thighs in this recipe because they can cook longer and remain tender and flavourful. The chilli paste is the hallmark, even though some recipes omit it. (Chilli paste can vary in intensity, so it is best to use to taste.) This is one of the most filling, satisfying and complex dishes in the Turkish soup lexicon.
- 1.9 litres water or chicken stock
- 2 × whole chicken legs (approx. 670g), leg and thigh attached, skin on
- 1 yellow onion, cut into 2cm cubes
- 2 carrots, cut into large pieces
- 3 parsley sprigs
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp salt
- 100g white long-grain rice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 15g butter
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp chilli paste, such as harissa
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tsp dried mint
- 225g canned chickpeas, drained
- 1 lemon
- Place the water or stock, chicken, onion, carrots, parsley, bay leaves, black peppercorns and salt in a large pot over a medium-high heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the meat separates from the end of the leg bone. Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the broth, discarding the vegetables. Pour the broth back into the pot, add the rice and simmer gently for 5-7 minutes, or until the rice is almost tender.
- When the chicken is cool, using your hands, shred the meat into small pieces and discard the bones. Set the meat aside.
- While the rice is cooking, combine the oil, butter, tomato paste, chilli paste, flour and mint in a small pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until combined and slightly darker in colour. Scrape the mixture into the soup, then add the chicken and chickpeas. Return the soup to a gentle simmer and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the rice is tender. Season with lemon juice and salt and serve.
This is likely the most popular chicken soup in Turkey, probably because it is so easy and quick to make. It is a go-to recipe for chicken leftovers and a good, ready-made stock. This soup can be made with a half chicken; in this recipe, I use only the breasts, which cook faster than legs or thighs. The addition of lemon makes it refreshing, and vermicelli add some heartiness. The noodles will continue to absorb the broth if there are leftovers, so thin it out as needed. The tomatoes bring a touch of acidity and sweetness. Altogether, this soup ends up with a lot of body without being particularly heavy.
- 30g butter
- 360g fresh or canned diced tomatoes
- 950ml water or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 × skinless chicken breasts (approx. 280g), diced
- 85g dried vermicelli pasta, broken into quarter lengths
- 4 parsley sprigs, chopped
- 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
- Melt the butter in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the water or stock with the salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a gentle simmer over a low-medium heat. Add the chicken and vermicelli and cook for 3-4 minutes until the noodles are tender and the chicken is cooked through. Add the chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Serve with a lemon wedge and eat immediately.
An Italian spin on chicken soup. Photo: Ed Anderson/Hardie Grant
Stracciatella alla romana
Similar to Chinese egg drop soup, stracciatella alla romana consists of swirls of whisked egg suspended in a rich, flavourful broth. Stracciatella means long strands in Italian and it can be used to describe a string cheese, an ice-cream with strands of chocolate or, in this case, the strands of egg in a soup. Chicken meat can be added back to the soup, or left out, and often seasonal vegetables are added. The soup must be eaten fresh as the egg will lose its texture if frozen.
- 1 × 1.35kg chicken, quartered
- 2.4 litres water or chicken stock
- 2 tbsp salt
- 4 large eggs
- 25g dried breadcrumbs or semolina
- 30g grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 2 parsley sprigs (including stems), finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
- 150g arborio rice or pastina, such as acini de pepe or orzo
- Place the chicken and water or stock in a large pot with the salt. Weigh down the chicken under a few small plates to keep it submerged and simmer gently over a medium heat until the chicken pieces are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes for the breasts and 15-18 minutes for the legs and thighs. The meat should separate from the end of the leg bone when cooked, a thermometer will read 74C when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh or breast and the juices of the chicken will run clear.
- When the chicken is cooked, remove from the pot and leave until cool enough to handle, then remove the chicken skin and discard. Using your hands, shred all the meat and discard the bones. Set the meat aside. Strain the broth and reserve.
- Meanwhile, mix the eggs, breadcrumbs or semolina, cheese and parsley together in a bowl. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Rinse the pot and pour in the strained broth. Add the rice or pastina and cook for 7-10 minutes until tender. This will cloud the broth. If a clear broth is preferred, cook the rice or pasta in a separate pot, then add to the soup when cooked. When the rice or pasta is tender, add the reserved chicken to the soup and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Remove the pot from the heat and immediately and slowly pour the eggs into the soup. Make sure to pour around the pot, not in the same place. The residual heat will cook the eggs and the heat from the stove will create a very tender cooked egg.
- Gently ladle the soup into bowls without damaging the soft curds of cooked egg. Season with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.