SISTER MARTHA’S CHICKEN SOUP

While in Tanzania, I visited last years winner of Oxfam’s Female Food Heroes competition: an Africa-wide search to celebrate female farmers and food producers who were making a difference to their lives and communities. (I’ll write more about Sister Martha separately).

While we were at her house, I are very little, having spent the night before being horrendously ill. She shook her head at the state of me, and spooned out a small bowl of clear broth, and two chicken legs, and handed it to me. “Soupo,” she said.

“Soupo” turned out to be exactly what I needed, full- flavoured and slightly salty with meltingly-soft chicken falling from the bones. I devoured it, and seconds, and asked her what was in it. Sister Martha laughed. “Kuku.” “What else?” “No. Just Kuku.”

Just chicken, slowly stewed in its own juices – I jotted down a reminder to myself to make some when I got home. And tonight, still very unwell and with the typical empty fridge of the returned traveller, I dug out a packet of chicken from the freezer, defrosted it, and made myself “just Kuku.”

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Ingredients: Serves two.

4 pieces of chicken on the bone
300ml water
A pinch of salt

Place the chicken in a saucepan or frying pan on a medium heat. Sprinkle with a little salt and cook for 5 minutes on each side to seal.

Pour over the water and turn up the heat to bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes, then transfer the chicken and liquid to the slow cooker on a high heat, and cover. If you don’t have a slow cooker, simply turn the heat down to low and cover the pan, but be aware that it has a long cooking time.

Simmer gently for 3 hours, or longer , until the broth is golden and the chicken very tender.

For a clearer broth, strain the liquid before serving and add the chicken back into the bowls.

Serve on its own, or with bread, or with a shake of lemon and black pepper.

You can adapt this soup to taste; I recommend frying two sliced garlic cloves and a finely chopped onion with the chicken in the first stage for a heady, sweet soup with extra antioxidants – maybe garnish with a little coriander or parsley if you have any to hand. Use it as a simple, foolproof base and adapt it to suit your tastes.

On a night like tonight, “just Kuku” is exactly what I need.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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29 Comments »

  1. I recently left my chicken carcass in the slow cooker for 48 hours instead of the usual 12 because I was too lazy to do anything with it (I know how bad that sounds) and it produced the most amazing, rich tasting broth/stock I’ve ever made. It took all my willpower not to just drink it up right then and there. I can imagine your “just kuku” tastes much the same and the goodness you get from it is hard to beat 🙂

    • Just goes to show you that you never need buy a chicken stock cube ever again (besides the fact that they are full of salt and other stuff that you don’t want and don’t need.

      • Well, I sort of do, as I’m not going to spend £6 on a chicken for the equivalent of 6p in stock cubes! I make stock when I have a chicken, but when I don’t, I use stock cubes. They’re not as salty and chemically as they used to be…

    • Within reason the longer the better. The flavour just deepens and it doesn’t sound bad at all – after all, in the ‘olden days’ stock pots were on the range simmering for a very long time.
      J x

  2. Kia ora from New Zealand – I just made this divine soupo, essence of chicken, resist the temptation/urge to add in anything else.

  3. Hope you feel better. Chicken soup like this with onion salt pepper and parsley is good when feeling ill my mother used to make it and I do too if unwell. Just add vermicelli , cooked separately then added if you get appetite back, much better than any medicine.

  4. Agree with Lauren – my chef fiancé always makes me chicken broth with vermicelli in when I’m ill. He adds a dribble of chilli oil to the bowl. Cures EVERYTHING x

  5. I’ve had some horrible bugs from traveling to wonderful, remote places and twice been very very ill. Wish I had known of Soupo!

    i too have used ginger tea to encourage a poorly digestive system and it does help. I put 2 slices of lemon and roughly grated ginger in clean tea pot. Pour on just boiled hot water. Leave to seep for several minutes. Strain into mug and sip whilst watching favourite old film.

  6. Get well soon. Food poisoning is best tackled by not feeding it, I find. Just drink water, squash or juice, as much as possible. Dry toast when you are feeling a bit better.

  7. This reminds me of a dish called “pishpash” which my grandmother and mother always made/make when anyone is unwell. Rice, chicken, potatoes, cooked in the pressure cooker with light stock and I think milk. Very simple, but so tasty and nourishing. I must make it and blog it soon!
    I hope you are feeling better soon, Jack!

  8. My Hungarian grandmother makes a delicious chicken soup, using all chicken wings (which in Australia cost about $5/kg for free range). She chops them into three parts, covers them with water, cooks for about 30 minutes, then adds a chopped onion, carrot and celery (which have been sweated in a separate frypan first). Delicious and economical. You can also add other vegies such as zucchini, potato, capsicum, beans if you have them.

  9. only true childhood memory of food is ‘old hen pie’ cooked slowly topped with dumplings which soaked up jiuces

  10. Made this, and its divine! Though I used more water so there was more soup, 300ml didn’t seem like much, and I put some dried tyme in too, HEAVEN!

  11. If you serve the chicken with some finely chopped up spring onions and ginger that’s had some hot oil chucked over it and then add some soy sauce, this is in fact a very traditional Cantonese dish. Serve with some rice and it’s food from the Gods!

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