‘Tis the season… for seasonal illness! If you or a loved one has succumbed to the plague or something resembling it, do give this (slightly updated) version of the ultimate comfort food a try. I’ve included directions to make it on the stove or in an instant pot, if you have one. (Thanks mom and dad for the instant pot!)
Hearty Chicken Soup with Vegetables
1 organic chicken, 3-5 pounds
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks organic celery, chopped
2-3 organic carrots, chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
9 cups filtered water
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt or Real Salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 strip kombu seaweed (about 3 square inches – see note below if you don’t know what kombu is)
1 juniper berry (optional)
1 zucchini, chopped
juice from 1 lemon
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh basil
- INSTANT POT: If using an instant pot, put the chicken, onion, celery, carrots, leek, mushrooms, water, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, kombu, and juniper berry in the pot. Set to your machine’s “Soup” setting and press “Start.” My machine takes about 15 minutes to get ready to cook and on this setting it pressure cooks for 25 minutes. When it beeps to indicate it’s finished cooking, quick release the lid using your machine’s instructions, and continue with step 3 below.
- STOVE-TOP: If making on your stove-top, put the chicken, onion, celery, carrots, leek, mushrooms, water, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, kombu, and juniper berry in a large stock pot and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for one and a half hours, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Next, remove the chicken from the soup and place on a cutting board to cool. Add the zucchini, lemon juice, parsley, and basil to the soup. If using the instant pot, just close the lid. If you’re using the stove-top, keep the soup on the lowest simmer setting.
- Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and reserve these for making bone broth. (See Cook’s Note below regarding broth.) Cut up the chicken into ½ inch pieces and put it back into the soup. If you can, fish out the bay leaf, seaweed, and juniper berry and discard or compost them. These ingredients are for flavoring but aren’t meant to be eaten with the soup.
- Season the soup with celery salt to taste, and enjoy!
Leftovers: This makes a rather large batch of soup, so if you’re only cooking for one or two people, let the soup cool and partition into containers to freeze for a future rainy (or snowy) day. The soup will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Only reheat the portion of soup you intend to eat, because multiple reheating will diminish the nutrient content of the soup.
Green Ginger Thai Variation: After removing the chicken from the soup to cool, add the zucchini, 1 can full-fat coconut milk, 1 teaspoon green ginger paste, replace the lemon juice with lime, and replace the fresh parsley and basil with fresh cilantro.
Cook’s Note on Kombu: Kombu is a type of seaweed. If you’re wondering why you would want to put seaweed in your soup, you’re not alone – but the answer is this: it’s because it has vital minerals and trace micronutrients to keep you healthy. See this article on specific health benefits of kombu. It doesn’t change the taste of things it’s cooked with, and it seems to aid the digestibility of a lot of foods like legumes, so I always throw some in when I’m cooking beans. You can find kombu dried and in bags in the Asian section of nicer grocery or health stores or on Amazon or Thrive.
Cook’s Note on Broth: I keep a container in my freezer for broth-making. Whenever I peel an onion for a recipe, I reserve the skins and trimmings and tuck them in a resealable bag. Chicken bones, skin, and giblets go in the bag, as do vegetable scraps like onion peelings, parsley stems, celery trimmings, mushroom trimmings, etc. I’ll be posting on how to make a healing bone broth soon.
Cook’s Note on Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms are great for boosting immunity. Though a lot of people throw away the stems because the texture is harder than the caps, the stems are good, too! They just need a little more preparation. To use them, cut the stems off the caps, and trim any woody pieces off the end of the stem. Then shred the stems sort of like you would chicken meat. (Oddly enough, when they’re shredded, they kind of look and taste like chicken.) Here you can see the shredded stems along with the caps of the mushrooms.