The wet and wild weather here in Sydney has certainly served as a reminder that Winter is coming! (Or maybe it’s just the return of Game of Thrones to Monday nights?)
For many, this means the start of dreaded flu season and the threat of nasty coughs and colds.
Most people will have heard about the benefits of a big bowl of chicken soup on a cold and dreary night – and turns out there are a number of reasons it makes you feel so good.
Dietary protein is required to build white blood cells (your body’s bug-fighting warriors). When your vitality is low and you’re feeling flat, easily digestible protein is the key – like soft poached chicken (or a miso and tofu variation for vegetarians). Foods high in protein are often also a good source of zinc – an important mineral for optimal immune function.
Hot water, like broth, has a number of benefits for those of us taken down by a nasty cold. Steamy water:
• thins mucus so any congestion is easier to eliminate
• improves circulation which increases the flow of blood and nutrients around the body, improving your energy levels
• reduces headaches by allowing blood vessels to relax
• combats dehydration brought on by sweating and fever
Spices like chilli, ginger, garlic, turmeric, fenugreek, mustard and cinnamon help to warm you up from the inside, as well as being packed with anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the aches and pains of flu. Garlic is also antimicrobial, going to work to fight off the nasties to get you better faster – but it works best freshly crushed, so stir through just before serving.
Bone broths are high in glutamine, which strengthens the immune defences of our digestive system (through increasing synthesis of sIgA) – remember, our gut is a hugely important, and often overlooked, component of our immune system. Just think about how many bugs and pathogens we must ingest everyday!
Vitamin A and carotenoids found in colourful veggies (like carrots and sweet potatoes) help with antibody production, as do Asian mushrooms like shiitake.
A squeeze of lemon provides the classic vitamin C kick we all know is good to boost antibody and white blood cell production and activity. Vitamin C also doubles as an antioxidant to help clean up the mess after the body has won it’s battle against the virus or bacteria. Vitamin C does not survive heating though, so this is also something to add when serving.
This all sounds great, but when you’re feeling sick, shopping for ingredients and standing in the kitchen are usually the last things anyone wants to do.
The solution? Get a big pot of soup on the go now! Make a big batch and freeze in single serves so it’s right there whenever you need it.
Here’s a recipe to play around with – adjust volumes to taste and really make it your own.
Chicken Sickie Soup
This soup takes a while to cook (around 2 hours) – but the actual work involved is minimal so you can retreat to the couch with your tea and a blanket for the majority of the time. Perfect.
Ingredients (play with the amounts to suit your taste):
• 1 whole chicken, organic if possible
• Onions x 2-3
• 1-2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
• Bay leaves
• Shiitake mushrooms – fresh or rehydrated
• Lots of broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, or any veg you have – chopped
• Garlic (fresh) – as much as you can handle!
• Ginger (fresh)
• A few chillis
• Place whole chicken into a large soup pot and cover with around 2.5L of cold water. If you don’t have a pot big enough you can chop the chicken into quarters.
• While this comes to the boil chop the celery, carrots and onions into big chunks and add to the water along with the bay leaves and peppercorns.
• Cover, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for around 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. You want a steady simmer, slow cooking the chicken over a low temperature makes for the best flavor.
• Once this is done, lift out the chicken with tongs (carefully as it will be falling apart) and place in a big bowl. Strain the broth, keeping the liquid and discarding the old veg (be sure to get all the delicious bits of chicken).
• Return the broth to the stove and add the mushrooms and any other hard veggies (including more celery and carrots if you’d like). Leave out any green leafies such as spinach or bok choy for now as you are going to simmer this for another 10-15 minutes until the veggies are cooked and you don’t want soggy greens.
• While this is simmering, carefully (it’s hot!) shred the chicken, keeping all the meat and discarding the skin and bones.
• Return the chicken to the soup along with the greens. Grate a big knob of ginger, finely chop the chilis, and stir through. Let simmer for a few more minutes.
• We want the garlic to be super fresh, so crush a couple of cloves straight into each bowl and top up with the soup.
• Top with a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice and any herbs you like.
• Sit down, breathe in the steam, give thanks, and tuck in! YUM.
If freezing portions, stop before the last 4 steps – add the greens, ginger, chillis, garlic and lemon when you’re ready to eat your delicious bowl of kitchen medicine!