August 27, 2014

My chicken soup aka “Jewish Penicillin”

My earliest memories of having a bad cold or flu are of my Mother making a clear chicken broth for me in what seemed to be bottomless cups for ease of drinking when in bed.  The smell of this delicious soup bubbling away in the kitchen would travel right down to my bedroom and it was the only thing I would look forward to when sick.  With not much of an appetite and feeling poorly, this simple looking soup I remember would always soothe me and help send me off for a much needed sleep to fight it off.  Funnily enough, the last memory before recovering was drinking that soup.  My Granny passed it down to my Mother, and my Mother passed her version onto me. It was one of the first recipes I can remember watching her prepare and learning as a child.

I believe the origin of the soup was started by a 12th-century Jewish physician who included it as a medicine in his book ‘ On the Cause of Symptoms’ to neutralise body constitution. The traditional Jewish Penicillin as it tends to be referred to typically has some chewy egg noodles or matzah balls in it. As long as you have the fundamental basics of creating this soup; a quality ‘whole’ chicken or fowl of some sort (you want the bones as they are full of goodness), winter warming vegetables; you can substitute parsnips for potatoes etc, and you need the herbs, salt and water. Always try to think sustainably by minimizing food wastage and use up leftover vegetables in the fridge. For my leftover celery bunch, I will using it as sticks in dip tomorrow!

So as I ponder the thought of riding through the winter season escaping the dreaded lurgy, almost the entire household have come down with it in the lead up to spring! Times like this call for the soup, in fact any reason is good reason to enjoy this winter warmer. So here is my version for you to try, I can tell you honestly, it tastes ten times better than it looks in the picture!

Chicken soup aka Jewish penicillin


2kg free-range organic chicken

2 teaspoons pink himalayan salt

2 cups vegetable stock / water if you don’t have any

2 cubes of bouillon stock cubes (chicken style; I used Massel)

2 large brown onions peeled and chopped in half

1 leek thickly sliced

1-2 cups of thick sliced carrots

4-5 sticks of celery chopped into think slices

2 swede (or you could use 2 x parsnip) cut into large pieces

1-2 bunches of dill

1 bunch of parsley

Optional extras:

1-2 cups risoni pasta

Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Chicken soup aka Jewish Penicillin


1. Rinse chicken under cold water, pat dry and remove most of the fat over the breast, body and legs. Place in a deep wide soup pot and pour approximately a dozen or more cups of cold water over it till it’s almost covered. Top with another 2 cups of vegetable stock if you have it or more water till submerged. Add 2 teaspoons of salt.

2. Turn stove up to high to bring to the boil. Once water is boiling, turn down to a simmer and start collecting the foamy scum that floats to the top with a slotted spoon. Remove until you see it decreasing and then add your onions, celery, swede/parsnip, carrots, dill and parsley.

3. Take a 1/2 cup of water out of pot and dissolve the bouillon stock cubes in the water and add back in. Simmer for approximately 2 hours with lid off until you see the chicken falling away a bit from the bone. Let cool for an hour or so and place pot with lid on into the fridge. The following day remove the fat from the top and continue with steps 4, 5 & 6.

4. If you want to consume chicken soup immediately, follow steps 4, 5 & 6.  Gently remove the larger vegetable pieces and place aside in a bowl. Carefully lift chicken out and up allowing liquid to drain back into pot  and place directly onto a solid chopping board. Slice and pull apart pieces of chicken and discard the bones.

5. Drain soup through a fine sieve over another large saucepan catching all the herbs and finer vegetables in it and discard the bits. Bring the clear soup to the boil and add risoni pasta for 10 minutes or according to packet instructions. I add a dollop of olive oil to help prevent it sticking together too.

6. Serve some vegetables in the bottom of bowl and top with chicken pieces, clear broth, risoni and finish with some grated parmesan cheese garnishing with fresh parsley if desired.


Bowl of chicken soup




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