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Category: Soups

Chicken soup for the soul

For those who came to this blog, and found there is no update, I AM SORRY! After the Chinese New Year, work and school just start to pile. But I finally completed my course and got my certificate. Hooray! Hopefully this also means my schedule will be back to normal soon.

For the past three months, I barely cook. Even if I do, it is simple, fill-up-the-tummy kind of grub. I was craving for chicken soup for a very long time. My friend, C and B, insisted that homemade chicken soup is the best. Me, being a lazy bugger and a supporter of instant stock, just couldn’t get my act together. But miracles do happen. I went to the supermarket and bought a chicken.

There are many ways to prepare chicken stock. My method is a combination of eastern and western style. The big difference between homemade and instant is that the latter has a stronger, more intense flavour. The former is lighter and very drinkable. The portion I made is quite small, you can double the recipe and freeze any leftover.

Chicken stock

Makes 1.5 litres of stock

1)      1 whole (cleaned) chicken carcass* (I like to use Sakura chicken which is available via NTUC)
2)      1 piece of chicken breast (optional)
3)      1 small onion, thinly slice
4)      1 small carrot, ¼” thick dice (½ cup of diced carrots)
5)      1 small leek, ¼” thick slice (¼ cup of sliced leeks)
6)      200g enoki mushrooms, trim the ends off and separate (optional)
7)      2 litres of hot (filtered) water
8)      2 dried bay leaves
9)      1 sprig of thyme
10)   ½ lemon (optional)
11)   2 teaspoons vegetable oil
12)   Salt and black pepper

-        Place the chicken carcass and chicken breast (if using) in a large pot and cover it with cold water (you can use normal tap water for this stage). Place the pot over medium-high heat. Once the water starts to boil, and scum begins to form at the edge of the pot, remove the pot from heat.
-        Remove the chicken carcass and chicken breast (if using) and place it on a plate. Set aside. Drain the water from the pot.
-        Shred the chicken breast into small pieces and place it on a plate (where the chicken carcass is) and set aside.
-        Using the same pot, add in the vegetable oil and place it over low-medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add in the onion, bay leaves and thyme, and gently sweat the onion. Stir the pot occasionally. This is to gently soften the onion. If you notice that the onions are starting to brown, you can add in a few teaspoons of water to stop the browning.
-        Once the onion is soften, add in the carrots and leeks and continue to cook them for 5 minutes. At this stage, you can season the vegetables with a good sprinkle of salt.
-        As the vegetables start to soften, add in the chicken carcass and the hot water, and reduce the heat to low. Let the stock simmer for at least 30 minutes.
-        While the stock is simmering, remove any excess scum and oil with a ladle or a skimming spoon.
-        Taste the stock and add in salt and pepper.
-        At the last 15 minutes of cooking, add in the lemon if using.
-        Before turning the heat off, using a pair of tongs or chopsticks, squeeze the lemon. Remove the chicken carcass, bay leaves and thyme. Taste and season accordingly.
-        If you are using the stock for risotto or any dishes, there is no need to add in enoki mushroom and chicken breast. Pass the stock through a sieve to remove the vegetables and use the stock accordingly. Any leftover stock can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 month
-        To transform the stock to chicken soup, add in the enoki mushroom and shredded chicken breast at the last 15 minutes of cooking. To bulk up the chicken soup, you can add in cooked lentils or pasta.

*If you do not want to buy a whole chicken, you can keep the bones from leftover roast chicken. You can also buy chicken carcass from both wet market and supermarket.

Heidi Swanson’s a simple tomato soup

Since young, I never really like tomatoes. My first encounter with tomatoes was when I was about four or five year old. I saw my mother, Mdm Tan, munching on a tomato like what she will do to an apple. She was enjoying this juicy red fruit, and I was curious and wanted to take a bite. I took my first bite and immediately I spit out the tomato. It was disgusting. The slimy seedy pulp and the sourish sweet taste just turned me off.

Some of the ingredients

It was only when I went to Australia for school, I began to like tomatoes. Perhaps my taste bud had changes. Or the tomatoes in Australia were more delicious. Every two weeks, I would pick up a 1kg pack of tomatoes. I would use them in sandwiches, stir-fry and pasta. And I slowly learn to like tomato-based soup like minestrone and creamy tomato.

Last month, I saw Heidi Swanson’s recipe for a simple tomato soup (which was an interpretation of Melissa Clark’s curried coconut soup) and was immediately drawn to its simplicity and flavour profile. Perhaps I don’t make enough soup, I would not put curry powder in my soup.

When I was making this soup, surprisingly I doubled the amount of curry powder – I found the “curry flavour” was not pronounced. Like Heidi, the soup actually tasted really good on its own without the coconut milk. However it is on an acidic side (and could be because of the canned tomatoes I used). I added just a touch of coconut milk to balance the flavour, and the soup was lighter and more drinkable.

A simple tomato soup

What surprised me the most was the suggestions on how to serve the soup. Heidi recommended serving the soup with brown rice, toasted almond slices, poached eggs and so on. It never occurred to me to put rice and ang moh (Western) soup together. And it worked! I had the soup with brown and wild rice, and toasted almond slices with herbs. This breaks the mundane of always having bread with soup. The wild rice and almond slices provided the crunch and the brown rice gave it substance.

For anyone who don’t like tomatoes like the five year old me, give this soup a try. It might make you fall in love with tomatoes.

Carrot and pumpkin soup

Recently I uncovered this video Chow.com did with Nach Waxman, owner of Kitchen Arts and Letters. During the interview, Waxman talked about one of his fears that was cooking would be lost due to people heavy reliance on cookbook. He exclaimed that “cookbooks don’t have to do anything, you have to do it”. I agreed with him.

Though I am the proud owner of many cookbooks, I cannot remember a time where I strictly follow a recipe. Even for baking where precision is key, I would always make adjustment here and there. To me, the purpose of cookbooks is to discover and understand flavour combination and to inspire my next meal or dessert.

This carrot and pumpkin soup evolved from what was in my refrigerator. These days, I tend to cook what I can find – it is almost like the mystery box challenge in Masterchef and Chopped.

The truth is with a bit of creativity, logic (a lost art form) and motivation, it is possible to make a decent, if not, a delicious dish from what’s in your fridge (unless your fridge is stock full of jars of condiment and no produce).

I created this soup without the use of measuring cup or scale. It was just based on my understanding of flavour, watching enough cooking show and most importantly taste.

The end product was a rich, delicious, winey soup.

Carrot and Pumpkin Soup
While I cannot give you the precise measurements, I can however list down the ingredients I used. If you are missing any ingredients, be brave, switch things around and go with the flow.

This serves roughly two people. Or one very very hungry person.

1)      (1 stalk of) celery, diced
2)      (1 medium) onion, diced
3)      (1 medium) carrots, diced
4)      (Slightly more than a quarter of a medium) pumpkin, diced
5)      Vegetable stock
6)      Cooking sake
7)      Mirin
8)      (Lea and Perrins) Worcestershire sauce
9)      Olive oil

-        Start off with a mirepoix – onion, celery and carrots – sautéed with a bit of olive oil in a big pot (the pot must be able to hold at least 1.5 litres of liquid). Stir the mirepoix occasionally.
-        Once the onion turned transparent (not brown) and the rest of the vegetables has somewhat softened, throw in the diced pumpkin (I used Japanese pumpkin, you can go ahead and use butternut squash and so on). Cook for another 5 minutes.
-        Add in any leftover vegetable stock (I used instant stock; you can use chicken stock, or even water). Simmered for about half an hour (or till all the vegetables have turned really soft (You should be able to pierce through either the carrot or pumpkin with a knife).
-        Pureed the soup via the immersion blender or the blender machine.
-        Once the soup is pureed, taste and flavour the soup accordingly. In my case, I put in a splash of mirin (for sweetness) and Worcestershire sauce (for saltiness), and a very generous glug of cooking sake.
-        If you do not like or don’t have mirin or sake, you can also add in salt and black pepper (and white wine). Always start with small quantity, taste and then add more.
-        To finish, a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs and Korean chilli powder (Gochutgaru) for some heat.

Slow soup and quick bread

Nothing speaks comfort than a bowl of hot soup and freshly baked bread (and butter). Even though here in Singapore, it is warm all year round, there are days where the rain comes and giving us that bit of “winter feel”.

I have been a fan of Smitten Kitchen for quite a while. I love how Deb just rustled up and made everything she created so effortless and gorgeous, and in between she was more than happy to share some of her missteps.

Carrot Soup

The thing I love about Deb’s carrot soup was it has a bit of Asian twist to it – miso and sesame oil were used – and guess who just bought some tip top 3-years fermentated miso (from Isetan)? Though it took about an hour for the soup to be done, the finished product was just incredible. The soup was rich and savoury, and what’s amazing was that there was no cream added. As the miso I bought was really salty, I cut down the portion. In addition, I also poured in more vegetable broth as I found the soup to be too thick and almost like puree (aka baby food). Still I have to say, the drizzle of sesame seed oil was a surprise factor – and the soup needed that.

Soda bread dough

When you have soup, you got to have bread. When I ain’t going to wait 3 hours for my bread to proof and bake. So I opted for an easier way – soda bread. Soda bread is a quick bread that made use of a rising agent (baking powder or baking soda) and buttermilk to help give the bread the rise. And the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ version is fast and any 4 year-old can make it. All you need is four ingredients – spelt flour, sea salt, baking powder and buttermilk.

Finished product

Must have butter

Spelt is a type of whole wheat flour that is highly nutritious and very suitable for soda bread as the gluten in spelt breaks down fairly easily. However spelt has very little fibre. So to boost the fibre level, I substituted half the portion of spelt flour with whole wheat flour.

The soda bread was every bit delicious and quick – it took me less than 20 minutes to get the bread roll done. Once they were out from the oven, rest for 1-2 minutes, break bread and spread some butter, they were good to roll with the soup. Happy camper!

Soda Bread
(Adapted from the Fabulous Baker Brothers)

1)      150g whole wheat flour
2)      150g spelt flour (The original recipe calls for 300g spelt flour – if you only want to buy one type flour, just stick with spelt)
3)    5g sea salt (I used Morton’s kosher salt instead)
4)      10g baking powder
5)      230ml homemade buttermilk (store bought buttermilk is fine – however when I was kneading the dough, I realised I needed more buttermilk – so do standby extra)

-        Preheat the oven to 230oC.
-        Blend all dry ingredients
-        Add buttermilk and using a metal spoon, mix all the ingredients together for about 2 minutes – do not over mix or over knead the dough – this is one bread dough that required very little work. During mixing, check and make sure there are no dry bits at the bottom (I added the buttermilk bit by bit to ensure I do not end up with a super wet dough).
-        The moment all the ingredients have mixed together and you have a sticky dough, flour your work surface (I used my wooden chopping board) and tip the dough onto it by using your scraper.
-        Cup the dough between your floury hand, shape it into a round place directly onto the baking stone (I don’t have a baking stone, so I placed my baking tray in the oven to get it warm up).
-        Using your scraper, cut a cross deeply into the dough and bake for 15-20 minutes until your soda bread has a golden crust and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
-        You can also use the same recipe to make dinner rolls. Weight the finished dough (it should be around 320g), divide them equally into 8 rolls, shaped to a round and cut a cross on each roll. Place them on a baking tray with space in between, and baked for 8-10  minutes.

Bowl of deliciousness

at the beginning of the year, i was rather upset with myself. why did it take me so long to uncover the deliciousness of lentils, quinoa, millet and forbidden rice? i do not know about the rest of you – my god, they are the yummiest grains/ rice around! i can eat them forever. and the best bit? they are easy to prepare and super good for your body too.

bowl of deliciousness

for the past weeks, i have been eating this wonderful soupy bowl of lentil, brown and wild rice. they are so comforting especially during the rainy days.

once again, its a one pot wonder dish. use your favorite lentils (i used bob’s red mill vege soup mix), add in vegetable broth and/ or water and viola. for added deliciousness (aka sweetness and flavor), i throw in some sausages and cabbage. to finish the dish, i dumped tons of coriander and spring onion. only because its sitting in my fridge, i also added a bit of lemon for that tangy taste.


now i cannot wait to have this bowl of deliciousness again!

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