To my mind, everything about chicken soup is magical: the sweet, brothy scent that wafts through the house as the ingredients’ aromas meld in my stock pot; its deeply comforting flavors as I slowly slurp it down; and the sustained sense of nourishment and belly-warmth I feel long after I have finished my meal. No wonder mothers throughout the ages have administered chicken soup to nourish their loved ones’ bodies and souls.
culinary culture has its chicken soup: in China it is perfumed with
ginger, scallions, black pepper, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil; in
France they add bay leaf, fresh thyme, garlic and dry white wine; the
Greeks flavor their famous avgolemono soup with lemon and
thicken it with egg; the colonial Brits added Indian spices and split
yellow peas to their traditional English chicken soup, thus creating Mulligatawny –
a very useful recipe for any anti-cancer repertory. And let’s not
forget that all-time classic, Jewish chicken soup with matzoh balls or
egg noodles, widely described as “Jewish penicillin”.
fact, chicken soup is such an integral part of healing traditions
across the world that two Israeli researchers wrote a somewhat
tongue-in-cheek article in the Journal of the Canadian Medical
Association declaring it an “essential drug” (1).
chicken soup is indeed a concentrated source of nutrients, which is
especially important for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or
radiation therapy in need of nutrient-rich but easy-to-digest food and
hydration. Vegetables, mushrooms and herbs provide a wide range of
vitamins and plant chemicals that can help our body get rid of toxins
and fight infections. The easily digested protein of chicken meat helps
prevent weight loss and supports immune strength. Indeed, chicken soup
has even been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, which may be
why it is often used to combat colds and flus (2).
The recipe that follows contains ingredients – onions, leeks, bok choi,
garlic, celery and green tea – whose chemical components are thought to
enhance the effectiveness of various cancer treatments by increasing
cancer cells’ sensitivity to radiation or chemotherapy, protecting the
healthy tissues from the effects of the treatment, as well as supporting
the liver in breaking down toxins.
recipe doesn’t involve much work; just some light vegetable scrubbing,
peeling, chopping and patience as the chicken, vegetables and herbs
yield their comforting aromas to the broth. You can make this as chunky
or liquid as you want: if you feel weak and digestively challenged, you
may prefer to sip just the broth. If you want something more sustaining,
add some finely shredded chicken meat, mushrooms and bok choy, or perhaps a little pre-cooked basmati rice to make the soup even more satisfying.
small word of warning: according to the Environmental Working Group,
celery is often tainted with pesticide residues – in fact, it ranks
second on the organization’s “Dirty Dozen” list (2); I recommend you buy
organic celery only.
same goes for the chicken you use to make this soup: treat yourself to
an organically reared one (ideally, a chicken that’s led an active
outdoor life and is a little older than average: the older, the
tastier!) Most supermarket chickens are reared at lightning speed in
confined spaces and fattened with corn and antibiotics. They may look
nice and plump under their shiny shrink wrap, but they have little
flavor and contain unhealthy fats since corn is rich in inflammatory
omega-6 fatty acids that make their way into the meat of the chicken.
Magical Chicken Soup (Serves 4-5)
1 small organic chicken (2-3lb/1-1½ kg), any giblets removed
leeks, darkest third cut off, rinsed under running water (peeling the
outer leaves apart) to re-move any grit; then coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 ribs organic celery (non-organic celery may contain pesticide residues), coarsely chopped
1 large chunk of fresh ginger root (1-1½ inch/3-4 cm), coarsely sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
10fl oz/1 ¼ cups/300ml strong green tea
3.5oz/⅔ cup/100g green peas (fresh or frozen)
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 head bok choi, green portions finely shredded
½ cup peas (fresh or frozen)
3-4 tbsp cooked rice (optional)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice,
a drizzle of Thai fish sauce (optional)
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) or parsley
salt & freshly ground black pepper
the chicken inside and out and place in a large cooking pot with a lid.
Sprinkle the chopped leeks, carrots, onion, celery and ginger around
the chicken along with bay leaf, thyme and a table-spoon of lemon juice.
Fill the pot with just enough cold water to barely cover the chicken.
Bring to the boil, skim off any foam that may rise to the surface, cover
and simmer on lowest setting for 1½ hours.
the chicken is cooked through, lift it out of the broth and set aside
to cool on a plate. Pour the broth through a fine-meshed strainer or
cheese cloth into another large pot and discard the vegetables. If you
want to drink just the broth, season it now with salt, pepper, fish
sauce (if desired), lemon juice and add a small sprinkling of chopped
cilantro or parsley. (You can shred the chicken meat and freeze it for
later use in a salad or soup.)
you want a more sustaining soup, bring the both back to a simmer and
add sliced shiitake mush-rooms; cook around 5 minutes until they begin
to soften. While the mushrooms are cooking, remove the chicken skin,
shred one or both chicken breasts (depending on how much meat you want)
and refrigerate or freeze the rest of the meat for another meal.
shredded meat, finely sliced bok choi, peas, cooked rice (if using) and
green tea to the broth and cook 1-2 minutes until the bok choi is soft
but still retains its bright green color.
to taste with pepper, salt, fish sauce (if desired) and lemon juice.
Sprinkle with cilantro (coriander) or parsley and serve immediately.
(1) Is Chicken Soup an Essential Drug? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1230870/pdf/cmaj_161_12_1532.pdf
Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup
inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro.
(3) EWG’s Dirty Dozen list http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/