I don’t know about you guys, but every time that I come down with a cold, I’m simply astonished by the sheer volume of phlegm that the human body is capable of creating. I mean, my god, WHERE is it all coming from, and HOW?! Thanks to my high school biology classes, I know that it serves some purpose in clearing the little microscopic germies from my body, but it seems as though my body is putting me through this chaos just to spite me for not being more careful in avoiding becoming sick.
I mean, even the word “phlegm” is utterly revolting to say. So when I start coughing up chunks of the stuff so solid that it almost feels as though I’m actually bringing up pieces of my lungs, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for myself.
So cue having to take time off work as I lie in bed, coughing and sneezing, with a pile of germ-encrusted tissues beside me getting bigger and bigger till it threatens to overwhelm and spill out of the bin. Cue many a miserable trip to the doctor for medical certificates, followed with trips to the pharmacist and pleading for some superdrug which will magically return me to the land of feeling human again.
Unfortunately there’s no magical balm to be had, so I consume cold and flu tablets with the reverence of communion wafers, drink cough syrup like wine and cling to my nasal spray with an iron grip.
In circumstances like these, the closest thing to a magic potion is a bowl of restorative chicken soup. When you’re feeling not quite human and more like a miserable, germ-ridden lump, a bowl of chicken soup can bring a little life back to your physical self and soothe the frayed nerves like an edible hug.
While the broth for Western chicken soups tend to be quite simple, a few years ago I decided to try one that used the flavours from many a basic Korean broth to create a soup which would be full of flavour and goodness with increased restorative powers.
I like to think of this as a “supercharged” chicken and vegetable soup, though admittedly the extra work involved in making it tends to be a little difficult when you’re sick and down in the dumps. However, the good news is that you can create the broth beforehand and freeze it, and just reheat it in a pot with some vegetables and shredded chicken when you’re ill for a nice, easy and tasty meal which is quite good for you
Chicken & Vegetable Wonton Soup
Ingredients for the SOUP (serves 4-6, depending on whether it’s served with wontons – & how hungry your guests are!)
2 large brown onions
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
6-8 cloves garlic (or more, if you’re a fiend like I am!)
2 large carrots
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 large pieces of dried kombu (Japanese kelp – very large and leathery once cooked, nothing like wakame)
1 small-medium chicken
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bird’s eye/Thai chillis
3 bunches on bokchoi
1/4 Chinese/Napa cabbage
1.5L salt-reduced chicken stock
1/2 cup dark Japanese or Korean soy sauce
4 tbsp white or cider vinegar
1. Peel the onion and chop into quarters, peel and slice the garlic and ginger, then wash the carrot and cut into 5cm long pieces.
2. Skin and clean your chicken, removing as much fat as possible, then place into a large pot. Place the onion, garlic, ginger, carrot, kombu (soup seaweed), peppercorns and shiitake mushrooms on top. Cover completely with chicken stock, then place the lid on the pot and simmer on a very low heat for 30-40minutes. The slow simmer is required to cook the chicken without causing the white meat to become tough.
3. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken and shiitake mushrooms and set them aside. Strain the rest of the stock ingredients out, clean the pot and pour the strained stock back in.
At this point, you can pour the stock into ziplock bags or plastic containers and freeze for future use. Otherwise, continue to the next step
4. Slice your chilli into thin pieces, then slice up the carrot into thin pieces (you don’t have to do it the way I’ve done below, but I think it looks nice this way). Also cut up the Chinese/Napa cabbage and separate the stems of the bok choi from the leaves.
5. Place the chilli, carrot, bok choi stems and Chinese/Napa cabbage into the stock and bring to a simmer again.
6. During this second simmer, shred the meat from the chicken and set aside. Remove the tough stems from the shiitake mushrooms and slice up the remaining mushroom flesh.
7. Once the carrot is cooked in the broth, add the shredded chicken meat, mushroom and bok choi leaves. Add the soy sauce and vinegar, then serve as is, or with the wontons below
500g chicken mince
3 spring onions
1 1/2 – 2 cups roughly chopped Chines/Wombok cabbage
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp potato starch
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 pk wonton wrappers/skins
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1. Slice the spring onion and cabbage to a fine dice, then add to a large bowl along with the chicken mince, rice wine vinegar, mirin, potato starch and salt and pepper and mix altogether till well combined.
2. Once the mixture is combined, take a wonton wrapper and place it on a flat surface. Dip your finger in the egg white (or you can use a small pastry brush if you wish), then run it around the edge of the wrapper. Place a heaped teaspoon of filling to the middle, then fold your wonton up while trying to expel as much air as possible from the inside.
You can simply fold the wrapper over in half, but if you want to get a little fancy you can use the photos below to make a more intricately folded wonton.
Basically, all you need to do is fold the wrapper in half to a rectangle shape, then pinch the ends together. Then bring those two corners together to the middle and pinch the edges together till you have a pyramid-shaped wonton.
3. Once the wontons are folded, you can steam them or fry them now or place them on a lined plate or tray and freeze them. Once they’re frozen solid on the lined plate, store them in a plastic bag in the freezer and steam or boil them whenever you require!
One of the great things about this recipe is that it can be prepared when you’re well, then stored in the freezer for when you’re ill, or simply in need of an easy meal.
If you’re going to freeze the stock, do so before adding the second lot of vegetables in but make sure that you take the shredded chicken and sliced mushroom and add it to the containers of stock to be frozen so you can reheat everything in one hit later down the track.
As for the wontons, they can be cooked in the soup broth itself, or separately and served on the side. If you prefer, they’re also fantastic if served on their own as an entree, with a simple dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, a little ginger and chilli.
On a final note, there are two giveaways running at the moment which will be wrapping up very soon so I hope you’ve got your entry in!
First up I have a free 1 year subscription to a new foodie magazine which I have a column in, called The Gourmet Kitchen. This draw is open till midnight on Thursday 30th June so you’ve got a few days to get your comment in to enter!
Second up is the draw to win your very own sexy red Le Chasseur French oven, which closes on Wednesday 6th July, so don’t be late making sure that you’re in the running to win!