Published Aug 10, 2003

Struck down by the cold that’s going around, I desperately needed something to make me feel better. I had a sore throat, a stuffed nose, a fever and general lassitude. No-good stuff!

Now, most people just load themselves up with antihistamines and ibuprofen. I’m against that, for two reasons:

  1. It’s just not good to load yourself with all sorts of things that just relieve symptoms, rather than curing the underlying sickness
  2. I’m allergic to many of the ingredients in most cold and sinus formulations, especially the sweeteners

So, I needed to go for a more holistic approach. There are all sorts of herbal preparations for various sicknesses, but I’m not sure I trust them. The side effects of too many herbs are not known, and there are very few standards to ensure the safety and purity of homeopathic remedies.

A better approach, it seemed to me, was good old-fashioned chicken soup. Occasionally called “Jewish Mother’s Penicillin,” chicken soup — and other foods — are proven (mild) curatives, and good simply in themselves as comforting nutrition, even if they don’t actively fix what ails ya.

I love to make chicken soup, so this was a fun-sounding challenge. I dragged myself to the store and bought a whole chicken, some carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and limes.

The first step was to roast the chicken. Lay it on three big carrots and three big spears of celery with a quartered onion around it, plus a head of garlic stuffed inside. Roast at 400° until juices run clear. Skin the chicken — easy, because the skin’s crispy and most of the subcutaneous fat is gone. Remove meat from the body, thighs and legs.

Place bones and whole wings in pot with roasted vegetables, bay leaves, parsley, cilantro, juice of six limes and the fruit from two of those limes, peppercorns, crushed red pepper flakes and crushed dried oregano. Simmer for about four hours. Usually, actually, six hours is better, but I was impatient. You should skim constantly while simmering, but I was tired out from all the shopping and had laid down to take a nap, so no skimming.

After the broth is made and strong, strain a few times through reasonably fine mesh. Throw out all of the bones, etc., left over; even the vegetables are mushy and have leached much of their flavor into the broth.

Return the broth to the pot and add dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid, chopped carrots and some of the chicken you just roasted, all chopped up. Return to a simmer for about 20 minutes, to get flavor into everything. Then add already-cooked rice (don’t add raw rice, it’ll soak up all of your broth).

Throw in a sachet of green tea, just for good measure. Let simmer and brew for about 10 minutes, then remove the tea bag. You’re done!

This makes a great soup — yummy and incredibly healthy-tasting. The flavor is a bit odd but not un-pleasing at all; with a bit of fresh lime squeezed in before serving, it has a great, fresh flavor.

A bowl of soup Mmm! Tasty.

But look closer:
You can't see through the broth to the bottom of the bowl What could be down there? Could be scary for guests who don’t know you well, eh? Usually, I produce a clearer broth, and that’s a desirable outcome. Skim skim skim and your soup will be clear too.

Oh, and I should warn that, by using a roasted chicken, you’ll get a dark broth like this. If you’d like a lighter broth, you can just boil the raw bones, but the flavor will be different — less rich, less smoky and, in my opinion, not as satisfying

A fine broth. After just three treatments with it, I’ve regained my strength. Truly a broth of vigor!