If you think of soup as just a warm-up to the main event, think again. A warm, hearty soup doesn't need to be full of cream or starchy vegetables. Many Asian soups are rich and filling and contain neither. It all starts with good stock, which couldn't be easier to make. This is one of my favourite soups. It's simple to make and the Chinese cabbage gives it a lovely depth. Make a double batch and keep the leftovers for breakfast, lunch or another dinner.
2 chicken carcasses
1 tsp vegetable oil
600g pork belly, skin removed and cut into 3cm cubes
½ tsp salt
½ Chinese cabbage, cut into 5cm lengths
1 tbsp soy sauce (check gluten-free if required)
2 tbsp mirin
4 thick spring onions, cut on a diagonal into 5cm lengths
3 pak choy, quartered lengthways
150g enoki mushrooms, trimmed
¼ tsp white pepper
1. Stock: Place the chicken carcasses into a large saucepan and cover with about three litres of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that forms at the surface. Simmer, covered, over very low heat (it should be barely simmering) for about four hours. Drain and reserve the stock.
2. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil and fry the pork belly until lightly browned. Season with salt and stir in the Chinese cabbage. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the reserved stock, soy sauce and mirin and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, add the spring onions and simmer for a further 20 minutes until the pork and Chinese cabbage are tender.
4. Add the pak choy and enoki mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes until they are tender.
5. Check the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary, and stir through the white pepper.
Making stock can take time, but if you want to speed up the process, use a pressure cooker. They can shave hours off the cooking time.
My go-to stock is just chicken bones and water – that's it. The stock is the foundation on which the rest of the soup is built. Just add a few carefully selected ingredients and a nutritious dinner is ready in no time. Slow-cooking the bones for your stock releases natural gelatin, which gives the soup a luxurious mouth-feel without the need for lots of fat or starch. You could also use pork bones or fish bones or a combination of any of them. Just cook them low and slow so that the stock doesn't become cloudy.