Chicken Soup with "Ditalini" Pasta
It was long overdue, but I finally dragged myself to the doctor's today as the tummy-bug or whatever it is that has been bothering me for a while now just isn't going to go away until it has made me a lot more miserable first- or so it seems to think! So it came as no surprise that my doctor said I should make sure to get plenty of fluids and eat a little milder for the next few days. Sigh. That doesn't make me happy- but it also doesn't pose a problem- not really ;-)
So, feeling a little miserable this evening and determined to do as I was told (at least for the first day ;-) ), I decided to make that most comforting of all comfort foods when you are feeling under the weather- a chicken soup. Nothing exciting there, but plenty of good and soothing flavors to just make things seem a little bit better. Or a lot, depending on how good it turns out!
Ok- no big surprises in store, but here is the method I used to make myself 2 bowls of this delicious Winter soup. I started off with the chicken, which was 1 whole leg in this case and which would be my recommendation and first choice every time if you are not preparing more and using the whole bird. You want to have good meat on the bone for a good broth- using breast meat just won't do it.
Into a saucepan it went, with enough cold water to cover it and a good pinch of salt. I turned on the heat and brought it up to the boil and then reduced the heat to a simmer whilst I prepared the vegetables. Letting the chicken boil for a few minutes on it's own is also a good idea, because it gives you a chance to remove any impurities that rise to the surface, much easier than when you have lots of bits and pieces floating around.
So as the broth bubbled, I sliced up 1 medium-sized carrot and a half of a stick of celery. These went into the cleaned-up broth and I turned up the heat accordingly, to keep the broth gently simmering. I also added about 1" of finely sliced ginger, 1 star anise, 2 sage leaves, 2 bay leaves and 2-3 sprigs of thyme. I didn't overdo it, but of course a little pepper needed to go in there- and I really had to hold myself back but I DIDN'T add either cayenne or some of that yummy, smoked paprika powder... mmm! Although I might well recommend that you do it if you so feel inclined!
I regulated the heat so that it was just gently simmering and let it do just that for an hour or so until the meat was really tender and falling straight off the bone. At that point, I carefully lifted it out and set it onto a dish where I could remove the skin and carefully remove the meat from the bone. At this point I also removed the stems of the thyme, the bay and sage leaves and the star anise- leaving me with a nice broth and lovely tender vegetables.
I then added 2 handfuls of ditalini pasta- but you can use any other you may prefer, or even rice. I stirred this in and then added the chicken pieces- which I had plucked into small pieces. I adjusted the seasoning, as of course the added pasta would require a little more salt, brought the broth up to the boil, then reduced it back to a simmer and let it boil away for 10 minutes.
And that was it. I turned off the heat and let it sit for maybe 5 minutes more, just to let it rest a bit, let the starch in the pasta slightly thicken the broth and also- to give me time to quickly set the table- haha! But on a serious note, the pasta does need to be a little softer in a soup dish than in a sauce dish- you don't want it to be "al-dente" here, it should be soft and silky and comforting... just a few minutes difference- not overcooked. Which only leaves dishing it up and thoroughly enjoying to this experience! You can't substitute this kind of flavor with anything out of a can... so get busy and make some and get ready to feel the comfort!