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Chicken Soup for When You're Sick

At the first hint of a seasonal change, my immune system is prone to take a personal day and leave me vulnerable to whatever lurgies are beginning to emerge for their winter reign. When I am sick with any kind of flu or cold, I develop a bone-deep hankering for chicken soup.

It's stuffed full of the regular nourishing fare you find in a soup, but the special addition of crispy chicken skin and the rich broth brewed from cooking bone-in chicken thighs and breasts makes this one to write home about.

What you'll need from the shops to make chicken soup:

  • Chicken pieces with the bone in and the skin on — this is very important

  • Celery

  • Carrots

  • Onion

  • Herbs of choice; parsley works very well here

  • Garlic

  • Stock cube of your choice

  • Butter

  • Oil

  • Any spare seasonal veg (I put leeks in mine)

All you really need veg-wise are carrots, celery, and garlic to make a mire-poix. Everything else is gravy, though you would be wise to consider the flavours that your spare vegetables will impart to the soup.

How to make chicken soup from scratch

Step One: Prep your kak

As always, the first step to any chicken recipe is to salt your chicken. For extra-crispy skin, salt your chicken pieces with a healthy pinch of table salt and leave them uncovered in the fridge overnight or few a few hours.

Now is also the time to rinse and chop your vegetables. I find this a wonderfully meditative process, one where I imagine myself as a whimsically animated character in a Hayao Miyazaki film.

Remember to wash chopped leeks thoroughly to get rid of grit. Seeing as we're sick, I don't think the vegetables require much more than a rough slicing. No dicing here, folks. It's flu season.

While you're fiddling around with the greens, best make a bouquet garni as well. Simply tie your chosen herbs together into a cute little bundle and secure with butcher's twine. This makes it easy to fish the limp herbs out of the soup when the broth is done.

Step Two: Sear your chicken

I did not photograph this process because, in truth, I was very ill when I made this recipe and I forgot to sear my chicken at all. It's not critical, but it does create a wonderful broth and tender chicken.

So, place your seasoned chicken skin-side down on a hot soup pot that has been oiled. Cook on medium heat until the skin turns golden, then flip and brown the other side as well. You do not have to cook the chicken all the way through — it will still be boiled in the broth later.

Now, take the cooked chicken out of the soup pot and let it cool slightly. Then, carefully remove the skin with a pair of tongs and a sharp knife. It should separate from the meat quite easily. Put this skin on a roasting dish, drizzle with more oil, and bung that under the grill at 200 degrees Celcius until golden-brown and crispy (about five minutes).

Step Three: Make your chicken broth

Tip your chopped veggies into the same soup pot that has just cooked the chicken with a generous pinch of salt. Toss in a generous knob of butter and turn the heat down to low. Cook until the veggies are softer and smell fragrant and sweet.

Now, fill the pot with boiling water until you're satisfied with the liquid-solid ratio. Chuck in your seared, skinless chicken and your bouquet garni.

Bring the broth up to boil and cook for about fifteen minutes to ensure that the chicken is cooked through. Check by taking the largest piece out and cutting it open — if it's pink, it needs more time in the broth.

Taste your broth. It should be well-seasoned and savoury, but I like to add half a stock cube at this stage to amplify the existing flavours.

Step Four: Shred your chicken

Once cooked, remove the chicken from the broth and let it cool. When it's cool enough to handle, shred the meat from the bones and tip that back into the soup. Reheat the mixture and get ready to serve with a hunk of buttered bread!

Step Five: Serve and be nourished

Remember that crispy chicken skin? Hope you didn't forget about it. Butter a generous slice of hardy bread, like ciabatta or a baguette, and ladle your soup into a bowl. Garnish with herbs (I went with dill here) and crispy chicken skin, serve with bread, and feel yourself get better with every sip.

Happy soup season!


The L&S team


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