And apparently the freezing fog carries a nasty lurgy too - at least, that's my explanation for why everyone in my family is ill right now. Including my mum, who doesn't get ill very often. When she does, it's battle stations for the rest of us, as she tends to get *very* ill, bless her, and is not the best of patients.
So when everyone is ill, and fractious and grumpy with it, and the weather is depressing and awful, what do you do? If you're me, you make chicken noodle soup, and this makes everyone feel a little bit better for a little while. So here's my simple recipe for a foolproof Get Better Soon dish.
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 large leek, finely sliced
- 1/2 a butternut squash, diced
- 6 chestnut mushrooms or two large portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 1 pint of chicken stock (preferably a jelly stock)
- 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped rosemary
- 150gms of cooked chicken
- 200gms of fresh egg noodles
After you've peeled and chopped all the vegetables and the rosemary, pop them in a large pan over a medium high-heat and add a dash of vegetable or sunflower oil (not olive, as the flavour is too strong) and a knob of butter. Gently fry everything together until the butternut squash starts to break down and the carrots are tender. Don't let the leak brown - if you see it starting to get crispy, take things off the heat and add a spoonful or two of water before putting the pan back on at a lower heat. This stage will probably take about ten minutes.
After the vegetables are cooked, add the stock and turn the heat up a little bit until the pan hits a rolling boil. Leave it for another ten minutes or so. Then add the chicken and the noodles and gently stir everything around for another two to four minutes, occasionally checking the noodles to see how soft they are. Personally I like my noodles quite solid, but my mum (the person I usually make this for) likes them very soft, so bear your intended sick person in mind.
When the noodles are the right consistency and the chicken is hot all the way through, serve this in a bowl with a spoon and a fork (for twizzling the noodles) and lots of fresh, buttered bread. It's guaranteed to make an invalid feel better!
This recipe is for four servings, which is the easiest and most economical way to make it. If you don't have four people to feed you can eat it again for lunch the next day, or pop it into a tupperware container and freeze it to be reheated later. Leftovers will normally need about a cupful of hot water added to them before being reheated, as the noodles tend to suck up the liquid if they're left to sit for any length of time, and water + gentle heat gets them to release that liquid so that you have a soup again, rather than just noodles.
When I make this dish for myself, I do a spicy Oriental version because I find that heat clears my sinuses out. If you like hot food, you can make the spicy version of this by taking the rosemary out of the recipe and adding a few extras:
- 1 teaspoon of dried red chillies
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic or half a teaspoon of garlic paste
- 1 heaped tablespoon of smooth peanut butter
- A good glug of balsamic vinegar
- 5 or 6 baby corn, diced
- A handful of beansprouts
You cook the dried chillies and garlic with the other vegetables and add the balsamic and the peanut butter when they're cooked, allowing them to emulsify before putting the stock in. Add the beansprouts into the soup at the same time you add the noodles and the chicken.
Studies have actually shown that chicken soup (especially with lots of vegetables) really will make a sick person feel better and help them to recover more quickly. So if you're in a house of sickness at the moment, give it a try! Just be prepared to be asked for it again and again in the future!