Comfort Food for the Whole Family

I have always enjoyed making chicken soup.  I’m not sure if it’s the idea of a homemade cure-all, or that it was something from my childhood that always gave me a warm feeling.  To me, chicken soup represents taking time to make something unquestionably healthy and wholesome for the whole family.  And then came gluten free.

I struggled for many years to make the perfect soup that everyone would enjoy equally.  The problem in our family was noodles!  Everyone loved my chicken soup, but they wanted the egg noodles they had grown to love.  This just would not do.

First, I tried a method my Mother used with turkey soup.  After the Christmas bird had the breast meat removed, my Mother tossed everything that was left in a pot with onion, carrot and celery and let it boil for hours.  Once she prepared the broth and stripped the turkey meat, it was time to throw it back in the pot.  This is when she added rice.  Yes, it was always rice in our turkey soup after Christmas.  I realised many years later that it was so easy to add rice to the boiling pot of broth and 20 minutes later, the soup was done.  The alternative of boiling noodles, draining them and adding them back to the broth was not in my busy Mother’s timetable.  I loved her homemade Turkey and rice soup.

My family would have nothing of it, rice was not the answer for everyone.  It didn’t take me long to come up with another solution.  I made the soup, and as my Mother had done, in another pot, I boiled water for egg noodles (yes, wheat ones) and in a third pot I boiled water for rice.  Once everything was ready, I ladled out the soup and spooned in either egg noodles or white rice.  We had reached a compromise.  The soup would stay noodle/rice free and the noodles and rice would exist to be put in the soup on demand per bowl.  I made soup this way for years, it just became common practice.  My family loves chicken soup.

A few years ago my husband and I followed a friend’s suggestion to a local Vietnamese restaurant that apparently had some gluten free menu items.  I was thrilled to have gluten free spring rolls (yes, the fried ones) and sweet and sour chicken (yes, lightly battered and fried).  Then there was soup – or pho, as it was called on the menu.  It too was gluten free.  A chicken soup with generous slices of chicken, in an amazing broth with bean sprouts and spring onions and rice vermicelli.  I was hooked.  My love for chicken soup had reached another level.  My husband loved the soup too.  And now I have the ultimate solution for my homemade chicken soup dilemma – rice vermicelli (or angel hair noodles).  At the time, I thought my method was genius, but later realized that chefs and cooks had probably employed this method for centuries.

IMG_20170315_152245_712Here’s my recipe – it’s pretty basic, so if you’ve not made much soup, now if the time to start.

Chicken pieces preferably bone in – use any you want, my favourite are skinless chicken thighs (6-8)

Carrots – a couple, add whole (without the tops), no need to peel them

Celery – a couple of stocks, left in long pieces

Onion – I usually use one large white onion, peeled with the top and root removed, but left whole

Once the ingredients are in a large pot, pour in water to cover.  I often add some commercial gluten free chicken stock, if I have it left over in the fridge.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, put a lid on the pot, turn down the heat, and let simmer for a few hours, stirring every hour or so.  After a few hours, turn the stove off and remove the pot lid to allow the soup to cool.  Remove the chicken pieces to a large bowl.  Remove the vegetables to another bowl.  Next, strain the broth through a fine sieve – I have an 8 cup measuring cup I usually pour the both into.

Once the meat is cool enough, remove the meat from the bones and cut it into small pieces and set aside.  Slice both the carrots and onion and set aside.  That’s it, at this point I’m finished.  Soup is assembled as needed.

If I’m serving the soup just after it’s made, I return the broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  While the both is heating, I break a small handful (or large handful for my husband) of rice vermicelli into the soup bowl(s).  Then I pour on the very hot broth, spoon in chicken, and vegetables to suit.  The soup has to sit for about 5 mins to allow the noodles to soften up, but that’s it.  I store the components separately in the fridge, and when I need another bowl of soup, I put in the dried noodles, pour the broth over, add the chicken and vegetables and into the microwave it goes.  After a couple of minutes, I let the soup sit to soften the noodles.  I often serve this soup with Irish Soda Bread as pictured.

It’s certainly not rocket science, it’s just trying to solve a little problem in a simple way.  My family loved chicken soup before, and continues to love it.  It’s always been comfort food, now it is gluten free comfort food for everyone.

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