I've not been feeling all that well lately. Thankfully I'm unemployed right now so I can just sit around my apartment blowing my nose and watching Simpson's DVD commentary. I've been taking the Quils, both day and ny, but I decided that the medicine I really needed was chicken soup. Now there seem to be dozens of chicken soup recipes but they all kind of seem to be the same - begin with the holy trinity of soup bases (onion, celery, and carrot), add stock, chicken, perhaps noodles, etc. Now don't get me wrong, I love a classic chicken noodle soup, but really, isn't it a bit boring?
Flipping though a fantastic cookbook I have called "Zest," I found this recipe. (The book is very similar to the beautiful Donna Hay books, the author is Australian, like Donna and it even utilizes the same food photographer she does. It's full of beautiful pictures. I'm such a sucker for cookbooks full of pictures.) When I turned the page and found myself looking at the photo of this soup I knew instantly that I had to make it. The broth was a golden buttery yellow and the soup was filled with unexpected ingredients like leeks, chickpeas and tiny threads of saffron. While making it, I made a few adjustments, but I think it only enhances the flavor.
2 tablespoons butter
a pinch of saffron (15 threads or so) My saffron was kind of old, and they say that spices lose their intensity as they age, so I used a pretty healthy pinch
3 leeks, thinly sliced and thorougly cleaned
Zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
4 to 6 cups good chicken stock (I used five cups and one cup of water)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large chicken breasts (do not cut up - you'll see why later)
1/4 cup couscous
Melt butter over medium heat. Add the saffron and stir. Once the butter begins to bubble, add the leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook the leeks until they've softened and become translucent. Add the lemon zest, parsley, and carrot. Cook for another minute or two. Next add the chicken stock, the chickpeas, the two whole chicken breasts and the couscous. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover the pot. Cook for maybe twelve to 15 minutes.
Once the chicken breasts have cooked, remove to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using two forks, shred the chicken. Cooking the whole breasts in the broth seems to result in very moist, tender chunks of chicken. Also I just like the way the chicken looks when it's shredded, rather than chopped - more rustic - but you could chop it if you prefer.
Return the chicken to the soup pot and heat for a minute or two. Check for seasoning. And you're done! Laddle yourself a bowl, garnish with a little more parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a grind or two of pepper and enjoy.
The lemon juice and zest and parsley add freshness while the saffron, in addition to the brilliant color, adds a sort of unexpected perfumy flavor. (It's really hard to describe the flavor of saffron). Why, I think I'm feeling better already.
On a side note, by adding the couscous when I did, it seems to break down quite a bit from being in the broth for so long. I, however, did not mind it as it sort of thickened the soup in a nice way. If you would prefer that the couscous maintain it's texture, I would either add it later, or not at all, in which case you could just boil up a small pot and add it separately to the soup when serving.