Soul food

As the winter wraps itself around us, this month, Naomi Murray from Botanica Health reveals the healing wonders of a good old bowl of homemade chicken soup and how it can satisfy not just your appetite but your soul too…


Moving into the season of chills and fevers, few remedies stand as revered and cherished as the humble bowl of chicken soup, often affectionately referred to as Jewish Penicillin.

This age-old recipe has transcended cultural boundaries, finding its place as a universal remedy for colds and flu. Beyond its delicious flavour and heartwarming appeal, chicken soup has earned its reputation for being a healing elixir with a myriad of health benefits.

It has a long-held tradition as a ‘cure’ for winter ills and while this may seem like an old wives tale, there is some science behind this.

A study in 2000 found that consuming chicken soup could help reduce upper respiratory inflammation in turn helping you recover from a cold or flu. One of the lead researchers, Stephen Rennard, M.D., FCCP, said the outcomes of the study demonstrate that chicken soup inhibits neutrophil migration to standard stimuli.

As far back as the 12th Century the Egyptian Jewish physician and philosopher, Moshe ben Maimonides, recommended chicken soup for respiratory tract symptoms. But I also think there is more to the healing benefits of chicken soup. When you feel cared for there is biological proof that the kindness you feel improves immunity. There is no doubt it has a positive impact on the person giving it out too. Studies show that you reap benefits from being kind. And so the benefits of chicken soup are two-fold: the kind act of the cook and the goodness of the broth. A beautiful combination.


The Broth Benefits

The ideal chicken soup will be made by first boiling up the chicken bones to make the most of this nutritional flu-busting food.

Bone broth is packed with nutrients to improve overall health, with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and collagen.

When making bone broth (see below), the slow cooking process draws out collagen, marrow and other healing properties from the bones, which include proline, glutamine and glycine, the building blocks of protein, which reduce inflammation, assist metabolism and heal the gut. These amino acids have a very broad range of cell-protective actions.


‘A hug in a bowl’ – Chicken soup for the soul recipe

For the broth use leftover chicken bones from a Sunday roast or two chicken carcasses (if I have time I roast the carcasses for half an hour first for added flavour) and two tablespoons of cider vinegar – but remember that adding cider vinegar to the water breaks down the collagen and draws minerals out of the bones.

To make the stock place the chicken bones into a stock pot, just cover with water (about two litres) and add the cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, place the lid on and turn down to a rolling simmer for about 3 hours until the stock has reduced to about a third. You may want to top up a little. Keep your eye on it. When it has reduced down you can strain out the liquid.

When the stock is ready you can now consume as it is, refrigerate or freeze when cool or make a soup.


Ingredients for the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 small turnip cut into tiny squares
  • Two handfuls of frozen peas
  • Large handful of basmati rice
  • Any leftover chicken from a roast


How to make the soup:

  • In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the olive oil.
  • Add the leeks with the herbs and cook gently for 15 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.
  • Then add the carrots and turnip and gently cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the stock and simmer for half an hour, or until the turnip is cooked.
  • Then add the rice and cook for a further 10 minutes before finally adding the peas and any leftover chicken, cooking for another 5 minutes.
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste.


Naomi Murray

Co-founder of Botanica Health

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