With cold and flu season just around the corner, fall is a great time to stock up on homemade soup - rich in vitamins and protein - to have on hand through the colder months.
This recipe was inspired by a stranger who engaged me in conversation as I was helping myself to a container of “Mom’s Chicken Soup” in Whole Foods. I had never seen her before in all the times I have been to that store.
She just stood there, with a warm and friendly smile, watching me ladle my soup, as she commented on how delicious it looked and how many ingredients it had.
Having had it many times, I told her it was definitely delicious and that it really does taste like my Mom’s.
Then she told me how she made it.
“I use the whole chicken. Some people like to use pieces, but I use the whole chicken – the whole thing. I just put it right in the pot with turnips, carrots, celery, and onion. Oh, and I use leeks, too. I let the chicken cook until it starts to break up. Then I add fresh dill at the very end, otherwise, it can get a bitter taste.”
“You know,” I said, “I wonder if that’s how my Mom made hers. I never asked her how she made her chicken soup.”
“Ask, ask,” she said.
“I wish I could, but my Mom passed away,” I told her.
“Well, then you can’t ask,” she replied.
“But I could be your mother, I’m the right age,” she said.
Holding back the tears, I said with a smile, “Yes, you could.”
“Do you leave the skin on?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “After it cools, you can skim off the fat.”
I thanked her and told her I would give it a try. We both carried on with our shopping.
Next thing I knew I was buying a whole organic chicken, a turnip (I didn’t even know what they looked like), some fennel (which I had mistaken for leeks), celery, carrots, garlic and Italian parsley. My blood was pumping with excitement about my new project and I was feeling as though I had never had this much fun food shopping. I felt empowered.
We crossed paths again and I told her that she had inspired me, showing her the beautiful bird in my cart.
She said, “Oh, I meant to tell you, add some parsnips – a root vegetable. They are delicious.”
I told her how much I love parsnips and thanked her for the idea.
As I left the store, I felt as though I had just had a spiritual experience in the supermarket. Who was this angel, enlightening me with her chicken soup know-how? I could only wonder.
That weekend I embarked on the following recipe, pulled together from a conversation with a stranger and little online research. I hope you have as much fun shopping, cooking and enjoying this nourishing meal as I have. May it always rejuvenate your body, clear your mind, and soothe your soul.
Homemade Chicken Soup: Comfort Food for Body, Mind and Soul
Total time including prepping and cooking: about 2 hours. If the 2-hour time scares you, cook the soup on a weekend when you can put on some tunes and relax into it. You’ll enjoy many quick meals later on as a result.
10-12 servings (freeze small portions in glass jars to have on hand for beating colds and doldrums all winter long)
One whole fresh chicken, organic if possible
Use any combination or all of the following vegetables and experiment with others you feel inspired to throw in. Being fearless in the kitchen makes for a great cook!
- 1 medium turnip
- 3 parsnips
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 1/4 cup fresh flat parsley, finely chopped
- 2 stalks fennel
- 1 cup fresh chopped dill, finely chopped
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Lots and lots of Vitamin L (Love)
Remember to use local or organic ingredients whenever possible.
- Remove inside parts of the chicken and set aside.
- Rinse chicken in a colander in your sink.
- Place chicken (including all the inside parts) in a very large pot (2-3 gallon size)
- Fill the pot with water until it is about 3/4 full. Add 1 tsp sea salt. Cover completely and bring to a boil.
- Once the water boils, cook chicken until it starts to break apart (about 60-75 minutes).
- Chop turnips, parsnips, onion, and garlic into 1/4” pieces and set aside.
- Chop carrots, celery, fennel into 1/4” pieces and set aside.
- When chicken is cooked, place large bowl next to the pot. Place a colander inside the bowl. Remove entire chicken from the broth, placing all pieces into the colander. Let cool 20-25 minutes.
- Add turnips, parsnips, onion and garlic to the broth and let cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- When chicken is cool, remove bones, innards, and skin and discard.
- Add carrots, celery, fennel and parsley to the broth. Cook for 10 minutes, allowing them to remain slightly crunchy.
- Cut or break chicken meat into small bite size pieces and place back in the broth.
- Add fresh dill, salt and pepper and stir. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Skim off any fat that accumulates on top of the pot.
- Place small servings in glass jars to freeze. (Never freeze liquids in plastic!)
- When ready, reheat soup and enjoy!