Sunday, October 21, 2012

Curried Chicken Soup (and Variations)

As my Facebook friends will tell you (since I've been whining about it ad nauseum), our family has had a cold for the past 2 weeks. We don't often get sick, but when we do, I'm not courageous. I also crave soup. Lots of soup, usually with chicken. My husband does *NOT* crave soup; in fact, it repels him. So usually my soups are simple blends of chicken broth, chicken breasts, potato, carrots, and onions. I eat it for a few days, I feel better, end of story.

This time, however, the cold wouldn't go away. Even I got tired of simple chicken soup. So I poked around in the kitchen. One of the problems with being sick for over a week is the meagerness that attacks your pantry. By the time our slight remaining staples were cross-referenced with my sickness-altered taste buds  there was not much available to make. Somewhere, in the phlegm-blocked, coughing-fit addled center of my brain, a lone creative cell sparked. And Curried Chicken Soup was born.

I don't know if it's good blogging technique to tell you up front all the things I'd do differently with this recipe. As I mentioned, this dish was made out of what was left in our cupboard. If I had the luxury of choosing ingredients based solely on how they would taste, I would add a handful of chopped cilantro, a handful of basil, and probably a tablespoon of chopped lemongrass. I would make some jasmine rice to serve it over, and perhaps use cashews instead of peanuts. I would also add a cup of coconut milk, or a dollop of Greek yogurt. It turned out lovely as it was, though, so here is the version in the picture, instead of the "perfect" version I imagine.

Curried Chicken Soup and Vegetables (Variations Above):
  • 1/2 lb boneless chicken breast tenderloins, chopped (if, like me, you start with frozen breast, you can cook it in the soup and chop it once it's cooked)
  • 2 T organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 2-in piece ginger, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or run through a garlic press
  • 1 small to medium zucchini, cubed
  • 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup baby carrots, or 3 regular carrots, chopped
  • 1/3 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup packaged or homemade chicken broth (if you use packaged taste it before salting the soup)
  • 1 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.5 T curry powder (I got a "mild" one from an Indian market, so it's probably more like medium)
  • 3 strands of saffron (I got a great deal on saffron years ago and still parse it out. If you don't have any, don't buy it just for this. Consider it optional)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t dried basil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup millet cooked millet, jasmine rice, or rice noodles (optional)
  • Peanuts for garnish (optional)
Heat the coconut oil and saute the ginger, onions, garlic, basil and curry powder for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add the chicken, saffron, and liquids, and remaining chopped vegetables. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken and vegetables are cooked through. Add sugar and sesame oil, and check broth for salt. Serve over cooked grain and garnish with peanuts.
Makes 4 servings

The great thing about this soup is how nicely it serves its purpose of treating a cold. The vegetables are mostly cooling, according to the dietary therapy principles of Chinese medicine. The carrots, which are slightly warming, and the millet, are nourishing to the digestive energy, which plays a part in regulating mucous production in the body. The spices are warming, which opens your pores (not the best choice if you have a high fever, but great if you are chilled), and are full of antioxidants. All the liquid is great for helping your body flush the mean little germies. And a warm soup like this just feel good inside when you're sick. Let me know how you like it!

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