My Mother was born in 1947 in, what was at that time, Yugoslavia (now Croatia). She shared a very modest little house with her parents and three sisters. They owned a plot of land, on which chickens and roosters roamed freely, the chickens ate grass, and what we would normally throw in the compost bin, so they were free-range and organic before free-range and organic was even a thing.
Photo: My Grandmother (holding me), my Aunty and my Grandfather
Before my Mother emigrated to Canada, she learned from her Mother how to make simple meals that would easily satisfy her future family….and one of those recipes was Chicken Soup.
Before I proceed any further, I’d just like to say this….please don’t come at me for eating meat. I used to be vegan, so when I DO consume meat now, I already feel very guilty about it. If I could make chicken soup without actual chicken meat and still have it be just as healthy, please believe me, I would. I know there are vegan versions of all sorts of meats, but that’s all man-made and there’s no long-term evidence of what it does to our bodies….good or bad. With that said, it’s been written about for hundreds and hundreds of years….chicken soup is good for our health.
If you’ve read my earlier post, “5 Easy Steps to the Best Homemade Pizza”, you’ll know that I don’t measure when I cook. How much of an ingredient I use is determined by several factors:
- how many people am I cooking for?
- how much of an ingredient do I have on hand?
- how much of a flavour do I want from a certain ingredient?
- am I making enough for one meal or do I want to have left-overs for a couple of days?
All right, let’s get to it….Five Ingredients to Delicious Chicken Soup (and how to make it):
You’ll need a large, solid, pot, with lid. Don’t use a light-weight pot because your food will stick to the bottom. You’re better off investing in one good pot rather than (literally) burning through several cheaper ones.
- I prefer to use olive oil for my soups, but you can use any oil you have on hand, as long as it’s mild-tasting and has a high smoke point.
2. Vegetables and herbs.
Spanish onion; roughly chopped. I prefer Spanish onions for their sweetness, but you can also use a regular white cooking onion too.
Carrots (roughly chopped). If you can get young carrots, then just give them a good scrub; don’t peel them as there are a lot of nutrients in the skin, and leave the green tips on. If you’re making this in the middle of winter when it’s impossible to get young carrots, then DO peel them and remove the limp green tips.
Celery (typically I use four stalks and leave the leaves on); roughly chopped.
Parsnip (peeled and roughly chopped).
3. Seasonings. Salt, pepper, and Vegeta. If you aren’t familiar with this product, it’s an all-purpose seasoning used often by European cooks (it’s produced in my Mom’s home-town of Koprivnica) and it’s made of herbs and spices, has no GMO, no artificial flavors, no preservatives, no animal Ingredients, is gluten-free, lactose-free and fat-free. You should be able to find it in your local grocery store, but if not, then in a European deli/market for sure.
If you’re on a very tight budget, your best value will be a whole chicken, but I like to use bone-in thighs with skin on.
Place the pot on medium high heat. Once you can feel the bottom of the pot is hot, add the oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot; the goal here is to have enough oil to brown the veg and meat in, not for it to be swimming in it).
Once the oil is hot (but not smoking) add the chopped onion and give it a good stir to get it all fully coated in the oil. I prefer to use a wooden spoon for stirring, as that’s what my Grandma used, but you can use whatever you like (you just don’t want to scratch the bottom of your pot).
It’s very important that you allow the onions to get golden, because if they aren’t golden, your soup will be very pale.
Once the onions have reached a rich golden color, add the chicken pieces, and let them get browned on one side before you turn each piece over. Again, always keep stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom. Each piece of chicken should be nicely browned on all sides.
The goal in this step isn’t to cook the chicken through….the goal is to get it golden brown on all sides because that’s what will give the soup (along with the browned onions) it’s rich golden colour and beautiful taste. The chicken meat will cook through once you let it simmer (see upcoming step).
Once the skin of the chicken has turned a lovely golden color, move the pot off the heat, and remove the chicken pieces onto a cutting board; remove and dispose of the skin.
Again, I feel VERY guilty for this part of the process, and I say a little prayer to the poor chickens who gave their lives.
Once you’ve removed the skin, put the pot back on the heat and add the meat back into the pot. Add the carrots, celery and parsnip, and give it all a good stir.
Add cold water to almost fill the pot (leave about an inch or two from the top so it doesn’t boil over and make a mess on your stove) and give it all a good stir.
Add some Vegeta. Vegeta can be too salty, so it’s better to err on the side of caution and just add a little bit.
This is a good time to add salt and pepper too….again, err on the side of caution when adding salt (you can always add more later)….I like mine with a lot of pepper but again, that’s to each individual’s taste.
Turn down to low-medium heat, cover with lid askew, and leave it to simmer. You want to simmer it until all the chicken pieces are cooked all the way through. I’ve made this soup for the past thirty years, so I can tell when it’s done, but to be safe, if it’s your first time, use a meat thermometer. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 74 degrees Celsius).
Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, wash the parsley thoroughly and add in a good handful (leaves and stems, it’s all good). Let the soup simmer for another 10 minutes or so.
5. Pasta or Dumplings. Now, there are a few things you can add to your soup to make it more hearty. I have three favorites. I love flour dumplings. I love cream of wheat dumplings. And I love freshly made noodles. For those recipes you’ll need to check out my future posts.
Photo: flour dumplings
Photo: cream of wheat dumplings
Photo: freshly made noodles (sometimes I prefer the flat noodles, sometimes I prefer the thin noodles)
For now, you can use store-bought egg noodles (but trust me, home made, fresh noodles are SUPER easy to make and once you DO make them, the store-bought version will not satisfy your taste buds).
If you’re feeding yourself, then remove one of the thighs from the stock pot and place it into your bowl. If you’re feeding more than one person, take out one thigh per person. Using a fork, pick the meat off the bones….trust me, if the meat is cooked enough, it’ll fall off the bone.
Cook up your noodles as you normally would; making sure they are not over cooked…they should be al dente.
From the large pot I like to strain out, into my bowl, just enough for one portion (if I’m making this just for myself), so that’s typically two to three ladles of the broth.
I personally don’t like the texture of cooked onion, parsnip and parsley, which is why I strain the broth into my bowl….and then I take some of the cooked carrots (which I do like the texture of) and add them to my bowl. At this point I like to add some spring peas (or sugar snap peas) but you don’t have to.
And that’s it! You’ve just made chicken soup! Honestly, the most time-intensive part is the prep.
Once the big pot of soup has cooled down, I put the lid back on it, and keep it covered in the fridge. Next day, I just scoop out into a smaller pot again how much I’m going to consume and warm it up.
You CAN freeze the soup too, but I’m not a big fan of that. Making it fresh takes no time, and it’ll make your home smell simply marvelous.
Thanks for giving me fiveish minutes of your time today!
I hope you found some value in this!
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Great job Elizabeth in writing your story and recipe for Good home made chicken soup.
Thank you very much Stefi, I couldn’t have done it without you 😉
You’re so cute!!! I love your chicken soup Recipe, and the family history story behind it. Thank you! My own mom’s family came from Russia and she was an excellent maker of soup. I love homemade soup but I also enjoy making it and reading recipes shared. I will use your method with the thighs next time, and the dumplings ! I usually make chicken stew and dumplings . Yes, chickens aren’t always raised well, but we say a prayer of thanksgiving for them feeding us. I enjoyed your newsletter! Phyllis
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Thank you so much, Phyllis, much appreciated. Yes, Chicken and Dumplings will be a recipe I’ll be sharing in a future post (my Grandmother was born in Hungary). As we say in Croatian, “Dobar tek”…or, “Prijatno” ☺