The other week I had a slight health scare. Y’see, the medication I’m on has the potential to shut down your immune system (scary stuff, I know) so if you start feeling unwell or have a raging sore throat, you’re advised to go and see your doctor immediately or you could be dead within a week. After a wonderful weekend in Brighton celebrating a birthday, I woke up with a horribly sore throat and a slight fever. As I’m sure you can imagine, I panicked.
Waiting to see whether or not you need to go to hospital urgently is not the best way to start a Monday. I was supposed to be working in the city right at that moment and instead I was at home, waiting for the email. It finally came, “go to the hospital” and I was off, fighting through the mid-morning crowds at Waterloo. The first nurse couldn’t find a vein. “Do you have problems giving blood?” He asked, my answer a curt shake of the head and a tense, “no. Not ever.” The second nurse had a quick look at me and plunged the needle into my right arm, drawing blood immediately. They sent me home where I waited for the results whilst trying to work. A few hours later they came back: I wasn’t dying.
Those few hours when I had no idea what was going on were terrifying. It turned out to just be a coincidental cold/flu but the not knowing… Really more than anything it highlighted for me how much more careful I have to be now; how even the smallest thing like a sore throat, something I would’ve shrugged off with Lemsip before, could be potentially dangerous. It’s a weird feeling – I sometimes think that I should be kept in a plastic bubble to protect me from the outside world – but I guess all I can do is continue on and do the best I can.
Knowing it was a cold made things much easier. I downed Lemsip like there was no tomorrow, I kept paracetamol on hand in my bag (as I still had to go back to work the next day) and when that didn’t kick it entirely, I decided that the best thing to do would be to make some good old fashioned chicken noodle soup.
Why exactly does chicken soup make you feel better when you’re ill? It’s just a bowl of soup!…or is it? The chicken stock I’d made this time used the 40 garlic clove roasted chicken carcass I’d made earlier in the week (recipe to come soon) and so was full of wonderful garlicky antioxidants and amino acids (which helps break down mucus and clear congestion). In the soup itself were plenty of carrots which are chock-full of vitamin A and C, a handful of peas for colour, vitamins C and E as well as iron and zinc (which promotes faster healing and reduces the illness time), a handful of conchigliette (tiny shell-shaped pasta) which provide carbohydrates and energy, and leftover shredded roast chicken meat providing protein (vital in helping fight off viruses).
On top of all of the healthy ingredients you can put into soup, the heat from the liquid acts almost like a steamer, helping to clear nasal passages. So really it’s not just a bowl of soup, it’s a golden bowl of super health.
By the time I made this soup my entire household had also fallen ill, so I cooked off the carrots in the stock, then transferred it to a smaller pot and made a small portion for my lunch, then increased the amounts for dinner to help everybody else get fighting fit. Remember, if you’re making this for others when unwell, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly, wipe down all of the prep surfaces with antibacterial wipes and try not to cough/sneeze on the food. If you have to take a break to blow your nose or cough, make sure you wash your hands every time – keep your station clean and stop germs from spreading.
If you are planning on making this ahead of time and then reheating, do not cook the pasta ahead of time as it’ll continue cooking in the broth, soaking up all the liquid and ending up congealed, soggy and flaccid. Instead, reserve the uncooked pasta, reserved cooked chicken and (frozen) peas until you’re ready to serve, then heat up the broth (and carrots) to boiling point, add the pasta, reduce the heat and cook until al dente (it’ll cook a little more when you take it off the heat). Then stir through the frozen peas until defrosted and bright green, add the chicken, allow to heat through thoroughly and serve. I like to use tiny pasta shapes but feel free to use whatever you like. You can also substitute the peas for sweetcorn, as I did for dinner that evening.
Third recipe for homemade stock: done, delicious and bringing you back to full health. Enjoy.
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
1L homemade stock (see my slow-cooker chicken stock recipe)
500 ml water
3-4 carrots, chopped into large chunks
150 g conchigliette (or small pasta of your choice)
Large handful of frozen peas (or sweetcorn)
Leftover roast chicken, or 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1. In a large pot, combine the stock and water and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. You’re adding the water because the stock can sometimes be a little too intense or strongly flavoured, and since you’re not using it as a base for something else, you may want to dilute it a little.
2. Add the carrots and cook until tender (around 10 mins).
3. Add the conchigliette, stir to combine and cook until just al dente (around 6-7 mins).
4. Add the frozen vegetables and stir through, cooking until defrosted and bright green. Finally add the cooked chicken and stir through to heat thoroughly. Season to taste.
5. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve with crusty buttery bread (if desired). Feel the health benefits surging through your body and get ready to take on the world again.
One more recipe to go in this stock series! Until then friends, peace and love.