There are two things in the world that’s worth falling sick for. This broth is one of them, the other being someone else making it, just for you. If however, you do not have persons whose benevolence you can take advantage of in such drastic situations (like your ma), then, like most women (your ma included), it is a case of self-medication. And an easy one at that. Simply chuck a bird and some aromatics into the pot, and let it do its work, while you curl up somewhere cosy and indulge in a little, private woe-is-me. Or is that just me?
Crush some garlic and ginger. Roughly chop an onion. Dig out some cardomom, cassia (or cinnamon) sticks, freshly crushed black peppercorns and cloves. Throw them into the water with a small chicken around the kilo-ish mark. Let it come to the boil, gently and leave the bird to get cooked and infused with the flavours. Once the bird is cooked, take it out, take the meat off the bones and return the bones to the now golden brown stock and let it continue to simmer until reduced down and tasting very chicken-y.
Now the part that really makes this sing, and gives it a deep savoury flavour is the tempering. A small, finely sliced onion is sauteed in ghee (yes, ghee) until golden, then a handful of pungent, nutty curry leaves are thrown in to splutter (oh the aroma!) and the whole is then poured into the strained broth. Leave it for 10 minutes to infuse before serving.
Memory is funny in the way it gets triggered. Although I love this soup, take deep comfort in its familiarity, I haven’t made it for the last seven years. You could argue that it’s a good sign of my general well-being but I can’t help but berate myself for the lapse. The sight of my children’s streaming noses somehow brought this broth out of the depths of my sleep deprived mind, and I set out to make it, immediately.
It may not be a pretty bowl of broth to look at, the tempering rendering it a muddy sort of colour, but, the earthy sweetness of cassia, the perfume of cardamon , the throat warming spiciness of the peppercorns and the savouriness of the curry leaves cannot but revive, soothe and heal. If you have a bit of stale, good, real bread knocking about to dunk into this delicious elixir, it would be the very thing.
Rice cooked in this stock takes on another level. I made a meal out of the stock, boiling rice and some carrots in it, warming the tender chicken and finishing off with fresh coriander and a touch of lemon juice. If you like to, a bit of ridiculously finely chopped red chilli, could be added at the end, and left for a few minutes to infuse. Dhal’s too, cooked in this stock, would taste amazing.
My kids gobbled this up, and it is so satisfying as a mother, to pass on the good things, that my own ma gave me. This is Feel Better Broth, in every sense.
To view and print recipe, click here.