- Food & Drink
The infection finally settled in my chest on the same day the fog covered London. I’d been sick for a week by then. Dripping nose, wheezing cough, a throat like hot gravel. A typical cold, in other words. But something had prompted the virus to make a leap for greatness. So it crept into my lungs and began breeding.
Outside everything was milky and thick. Inside – inside me – it was much the same. I took air in shallow little sips, my ribcage rattling like bad plumbing. My cough, which had previously been a puttering hack, grew magnificent. It roared and growled and sliced through the night, marking every quarter hour with a battery of barks.
I divided the day up into doses of paracetamol and spoonfuls of cough syrup. Every hour began with a cup of hot lemon juice and honey. I thought about chicken soup. About how it would make me better. Medicine is often a matter of faith, and I began to believe in chicken soup.
I spoke to Jordi, who makes great chicken soup. She sent over a list of ingredients and told me to make sure it cooked slowly. I simmered the first batch over an afternoon. It steadily filled the flat with the rich smell of fat, muscle and vegetables. I strained it and thought it needed dumplings. I needed dumplings.
As I rubbed the butter into flour I thought how much it was like making pastry. As I rolled the dough into balls, I thought how much it felt like pastry. I added the dumplings to the soup. Within a few minutes they’d melted. Because, in my fever, I had made pastry. I’d jerked through the motions of making something I knew well and now the soup was a beige paste that simmered sluggishly in the pan. I ate it anyway because what else could I do?
The next day, feeling a little more capable, I bought the ingredients again and made more soup. I cooked it so gently the surface of the stock barely moved as the hands of the clock ticked round. I cooled it overnight, skimmed off the fat and added little wads of flour that bobbed around in the pan, just like dumplings should. I ate a bowlful and napped afterwards, breathing so quietly you’d hardly know I was there.
Chicken Soup & Dumplings
For the broth:
1 stick of celery
900g chicken wings
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 chicken stock cube (Jordi’s secret ingredient for good soup)
For the soup:
1 stick of celery
A few dill fronds
For the dumplings:
250g self-raising flour
75g cold butter
Make the broth: halve the onions and peel them. Trim and roughly chop the celery. Trim, peel and roughly chop the parsnips and carrots.
Chuck them all in a large pan. Add the chicken wings, bay leaves and peppercorns. Crumble in the stock cube. Pour in 3 ltrs cold water. Cover and bring just to a simmer, then turn the heat right down and gently simmer for 5 hours. Don’t boil it, as that will make the broth cloudy.
Lift the chicken and veg out with a slotted spoon. Ladle the stock into a sieve set over a large bowl to catch any last bits of flesh, peppercorn or veg. Let the broth cool overnight (or carry straight on with the next step if you don’t want to wait).
Prepare the veg for the soup: trim, peel and very finely dice the carrot, parsnip and celery.
Make the dumplings: sift the flour into a bowl. Chop in the cold butter. Season with salt and pepper. Rub the butter in with your fingertips to make breadcrumbs, then use a little cold water to bring it together to make a soft dough. Shape into 8 dumplings.
Skim any solid fat off the top of the soup. Warm the broth up so it’s just simmering. Add in the dumplings. Put the lid back on and simmer for 20 minutes, then add in the prepared veg (you’ll need to gently push them down under the dumplings). Simmer for another 10 minutes to just cook the veg and finish cooking the dumplings. Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Add in a few fronds of dill and serve.
If you’d rather have matzah balls in your soup, this is Jordi’s recipe.