Grandma's chicken soup, clear and gorgeous broth with the most intense flavour - thank's to a secret ingredient - and egg noodles.
The mythical cold-fighting miracle, chicken soup is the heights of comfort food. But it is also an everyman of the soup world: Everysoup, so to speak.
Various versions of chicken soup
It is Jewish, and Chinese, Japanese and Polish.
It is broth, it is consommé; it is ramen and it is Bovril (I know: beef, but keep reading). And it is also rosól, the Polish version of chicken soup I was brought up on.
Sometimes the soup has the chicken meat in it, carefully stripped off the choicest cut of the bird, having been delicately poached in the broth. And sometimes, like in my case below, it’s nearly free food: chicken carcass bummed off the butcher plus egg noodles as a filler.
Polish chicken soup
The Polish version, the one that throws me back to the depth of 1970s, is the clear, no floating chicken meat variant. Bizarrely, the Polish chicken soup is often made with beef. What the what? Indeed.
But that weird fact aside (simply, Polish ‘rosól’ means ‘meat broth’ and it can be made either with poultry or beef, under the same moniker. Yeah, THAT’S weird), my Grandma made the best one ever. A mythical, epic, staggering dish consisting of crystal-clear chicken broth and homemade noodles.
Grandma’s chicken soup
My Grandma’s chicken soup was of the chickenless variety (meat was stripped off the cooked bird and magicked into a main course of wonderful sorts), with homemade noodles compensating for any complaints in that resort.
I am NOT going to attempt the noodles: my pasta-making efforts have showed me humility enough. But I can try to reproduce her soup, whose secret was amazingly simple. Aside from good quality chicken and plenty of vegetables, she’d flavour it with burnt onion. Literally burnt. Smouldering and black.
How I make my Grandma’s chicken soup
I can and I can’t reproduce it; Grandma had an old-fashioned Aga stove and I have induction. But the onion can be scorched in a dry frying pan, cast iron for preference and otherwise one you won’t miss much if it’s slightly ruined.
Apart from that, my recipe is simple and frugal. You can get chicken carcasses free from the butcher’s; supermarket shoppers might use a whole load of chicken wings instead, but it will be fatty. Not that there’s an awful lot of wrong with it, it’s just a small caveat.
Either way, cooking the chicken soup is a doddle: chicken, cold water, vegetables, seasoning, MY GRANDMA’S ONION and cooking slow and low for as long as you can, within reason.
The veg I usually use are plenty of carrots, half as many parsnips, a piece of celeriac, a trimmed leek, a little cabbage if I can find some and a few dried wild mushrooms that give the soup nice, dark, earthy flavour. And the ONION, obviously.
Once it’s simmered for a bit or more, or once you’re hungry enough to call it done, it is done.
Noodles for the chicken soup
Trust me – medium egg noodles for stir fries are the closest approximation of my Grandma’s noodles and they are the best.
I prepare them when my soup looks almost ready to jump into a bowl. A nest of soaked and drained noodles at the bottom of the bowl, a few slices of the carrot fished out of the soup and chopped, a sprinkle of fresh parsley – and it all gets gorgeously flooded by hot but not boiling, strained clear through a regular sieve, beautiful* chicken soup.
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup.
*apparently, ‘beautiful soup’ is some sort of coding or web scraping tool, whatever it means. Curiouser and curiouser!