Monday, 31 January 2011

Joining the Blogosphere

Hello! After months of trying to make this blog become alive, the day has finally arrived. This is my first day of many - my aim is to share with you, on a weekly basis, some of my own experiences with the food I cook, eat, read about, research, sometimes indulge in, demystify, dislike etc. I will, as often as I can, include some recipes and their nutritional properties. I like real food, meals that are cooked in traditional ways , made from real organic ingredients and fresh produce that we can find in our local health food store, farmers market, supermarket or, even better, for some lucky ones, we can pick from our own vegetable patch. I like meals that are good for the body and the soul, because food has to be about pleasure as well as the nourishment. My kitchen is my medicine cabinet. 

Welcome to my blog! Hope you enjoy it!

All Hail Chicken Soup!!!

As we are in the middle of winter, a good portion of the population on this side of the world must have experienced some sort of housebound sickness such as colds or flu. I thought I was becoming immune to them, after so many people around me had fallen ill. But, I wasn’t! After 2 days running around like a headless chicken trying to organize my daughter’s birthday party, stepping out into the freezing cold and stepping into a heated environment, breaking into a sweat and going out again, a bit less protected (it’s the classic mistake when you get sooo hot, you think a bit of fresh air would be ok), I was basically asking for it! I finally got a cold! That’s why I am starting this blog publishing the recipe for a soup to help boost the immune system, made in a traditional Chinese way. The old and wholesome chicken soup!
In Brazil, our own version of this dish is called Canja. We add white rice to the broth, together with the chicken, vegetables and fresh herbs, and let it cook until it becomes thick. Very similar to the way of making the Asian dish Congee, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congee). Everytime I am feeling a bit rundown, have an upset stomach or in need of some comfort food, I will choose Canja. This always takes me back home.
About 2 years ago, my friend Adriana told me about this different version of canja she learnt to make, which had Goji berries and Echinacea in it. I had already used Echinacea tincture or tea for cold and flu prevention and as an immune system booster. Goji berries as a snack or in my smoothies, as they are a good source of antioxidants. The combination of the two in a soup sounded interesting! Days later I got an email from my Nutrition College group about this guy (James Wong) who launched a programme called “Grow Your Own Drugs”, and attached came the recipe that was published in The Sunday Times.

Since then, I have cooked this version many times and have changed it slightly. I eat mine with either rice noodles or add some cooked brown rice, fresh coriander and, when in season, Bok Choy or Pak Choy . It’s a one pot wonder of superfoods. I make the Canja version for my daughter who is only 7 years old and can’t handle the chilli, yet, but I now add Echinacea infusion and Goji berries. Brazil meets China!

I have now tried lots of the recipes from James Wong’s books.  So, he is not only a pretty face (yes, he is very cute indeed). If you would like to try the soup yourself (I highly recommend it, especially if you feel you might be getting a cold), check out the recipe below. Beware of the heat - it contains lots of chilli, garlic and ginger -, but your respiratory tract, if blocked or congested, will thank you for that! But you can always adjust the amount of heat according to your taste. 


The ingredients

Add Goji Berries, Garlic, Bok Choy and 
the Echinacea infusion 5 mins before serving


My Chicken Soup!

Goji Berry and Shiitake Soup to boost your immune system
“Grow Your Own Drugs” by James Wong (http://www.growyourowndrugs.com/)
serves 4

Ingredients

2 tbsp dried Echinacea root * 
200 ml water, freshly boiled
5 tbsp goji berries, fresh or dried
2 litres chicken stock (homemade or from stock cubes)
3 chicken thighs or drumsticks (preferably organic)
2 large onions, peeled, sliced or chopped 
12 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
10 cm root ginger, peeled and shredded
2 fresh medium-sliced chillies, finely sliced
8 garlic cloves, chopped
Extra sliced ginger and chillies, to serve


I add:
2 bunches of Baby Bok Choy or Pak Choy
Fresh Coriander Leaves
Noodles or cooked brown rice

Method

Combine the dried Echinacea root with the water in a bowl to make a simple infusion. In another bowl, pour just enough cold water over the goji berries to cover, and leave to rehydrate. Set the Echinacea and goji berries aside and leave to stand. 
Place the stock and chicken pieces in a large pan or slow cooker. Add the sliced onions, mushrooms, ginger and chillies and place around the chicken in the pan. On a very low heat, simmer gently for 1½ - 2 hours, or until the chicken is tender and falls apart. Take off the heat. 
Five minutes before serving, add the goji berries and chopped garlic and, if using, add the Bok Choy. Finally, strain the Echinacea infusion and add this to the soup, reheating if necessary. Serve with noodles by ladling into bowls and garnishing with fresh coriander. In James Wong's recipe he suggests garnishing with sliced ginger and chilli for extra kick. For me personally, it gets quite hot. 

* You can buy good quality Echinacea root from here: http://www.cotsherb.co.uk/ ; http://www.haelan-online.co.uk/ or http://www.revital.co.uk/

The ingredients and their functional properties

Chicken is a very good source of protein.

Chilli (Capsicum annum, C. frutescens ) helps improve your blood circulation and may induce perspiration in cases of fever.

Echinacea root (Echinacea angustifolia and E. purpurea) helps lessen the severity of colds and flu and helps to boost your immune system.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of nature’s first known medicines. It helps to prevent the common cold and lowers blood pressure. 

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces fever and eases asthma symptoms, also helps to lower blood pressure. Plus, it reduces cholesterol and aids circulation. It contains fiber, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and folic acid.

Goji Berry or Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum) is a superfood! Contains antioxidants and vitamin C. It boosts blood circulation, lowers elevated  blood sugar, increases HDL cholesterol levels (the good one) and reduces fatigue. 

Onion (Alium cepa) contains anti-inflammatory properties that provides relief for people with asthma, hay fever and allergies. It facilitates the elimination of excessive mucous from the body. It also helps to relieve croup and lung infections. It contains calcium, vitamin C and magnesium  

Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes) is a symbol of longevity in Asia. It fights flu and has anticancer properties.   

Bok Choy or Pak Choy (Brassica chinensis) is packed with minerals,  vitamin C and Folic Acid.  

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) has anti-inflammatory properties and it is often blended in herbal remedies to help fight cold and flu. It may also facilitate the digestion of carbohydrates, alleviate indigestion and colic, lower bad cholesterol and prevent halitosis.
                      Chicken Soup in different cultures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_soup

                      Till next week! 

                      If you'd like to learn how to make this soup and other unique, nutritional recipes, why don't you join me in Margot's Kitchen for an afternoon of cooking and fun?