Chicken soup for the soul: the recipe

Some self-proclaimed authorities will tell you all there is to know about chicken soup for the soul, but I would rather tell you how to make it. It’s a great dish, and this for several reasons: healthy, comforting, and ever so delicious. Although the recipe could not be more simple, its execution does require a modicum of that proverbial je-ne-sais-quoi that so many souls could be doing with a little bit more of. I can only hope that yours is not one of them. A soup should not be a bunch of ingredients floating around in a dilute liquid, but a subtle, balanced, and concentrated infusion of those ingredients. To get there, you need to simmer over a small heat and a long time. You are aiming for nothing less than the holy trinity of chicken soup: a bright golden colour, a marbled patina, and – last but not least – for the steaming flesh to fall off the bone and melt in the mouth. You can wash it down with a glass of meursault or any other quality chardonnay that has been suffused in buttery French oak. Go to The Oxford Wine Blog for a close to perfect match which, at £9.50 ($14.80) a bottle, represents excellent value for money. Ingredients for 2 people – The best chicken thighs and/or drumsticks that you can find: organic, free-range, corn fed. Four pieces. – Two or three leeks, finely sliced. – A little bit of celery and carrot, finely diced (optional). – A home-made bouquet garni consisting of a small handful of parsley, a few sprigs of thyme, and four or five bay leaves, all tied together in a bundle. – Chicken stock, not the cubes. 1.5 litres. – A knob of butter. – A few pinches of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Instructions – Melt the butter in the pan and brown the chicken until the skin is a rich golden colour. – Add the leek and any other vegetables. – Add the stock and top up with some water if need be. – Add the bouquet garni. – Add some salt and pepper. Don’t overdo it. – Simmer under a lid for about one hour. – Discard the bouquet garni. – Adjust the salt and pepper. – Decorate with some parsley – or not. – Serve with bread and wine. You can improve the soup by letting it sit overnight or by letting it simmer for longer, but, just as with ‘the good enough mother’, there is such a thing as ‘the good enough chicken soup’. For more on the good enough mother, see my good enough friend’s blog article, Learning to be good enough. Bon appétit!


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  1. Sigh! There is one thing that makes good Jewish Penicillin and that is double boiling. And I brown the chicken in olive oil. Then fill the pot to capacity and boil down to half then fill again and boil down to half. Works wonders with my family. And rather than add a bouquet garni I use half a bulb of garlic, ground cumin and a bunch of fresh coriander.