Nigel Slater's Heartwarming Soup

All the recipes on this page will be from Nigel Slater's books and web pages. Charlie Snashall lent me Toast to read (Nigel's autobiography) and warned me not to read it in public (because you do a lot of laughing out loud).

This recipe was lifted from an English web site iFood & Drink.

  • chicken stock
  • small hot red chillies — 2 or 3, depending on your heat threshold today
  • lemon grass — a couple of thick, young blades or several thinner supermarket stems
  • noodles — a small handful
  • greens — such as spinach, mustard greens or dark, tender cabbage

Using a soup bowl as a measure, pour as much chicken stock as you want to eat into a deep saucepan. I suggest you allow two deep bowlfuls per person.

Bring the stock to the boil, meanwhile slicing the chillies very finely and removing the seeds if you wish (they carry some heat). The amount you need will depend on how hot your chillies are. I reckon on two very small, very hot chillies per person.

Smash the lemon grass blades with the handle of a cook's knife so that they splinter but stay together, then add them to the stock with the chillies.

Turn the heat down so that the stock bubbles gently and leave it until the lemon grass has given up some of its flavour. Taste the stock regularly, but you can reckon on about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles for only a minute or two in boiling water. They need a bit of bite to them to be good. Drain them and drop them into cold water so they don't stick together.

Sort through the greens, throwing out anything that isn't perky, then tear them into pieces that won't fall off your spoon.

Fish the lemon grass from the stock and discard it, then add the greens to the bubbling stock. Taste it for salt, adding some if you think it needs it. Once the greens have softened to a velvety texture — about a minute in the case of spinach, a bit longer for cabbage and for mustard greens — divide the noodles between warm soup bowls and ladle over the hot stock, greens and chillies.

And more

  • The crux of it. The quality of the chicken stock is crucial here.
  • How to eat it at its best. The soup needs to be really hot to do the trick.
  • Adding a few scraps. You can add shredded chicken or cooked prawns if you want.
  • Adjusting the seasoning. Try chilli oil, lemon juice, nam pla (Thai fish sauce), fresh coriander leaves, Thai basil.
  • A very fragrant version. To the original recipe add a last minute seasoning of torn basil and mint leaves and lime juice.
  • A deeper spicing. Add star anise, sugar and nam pla to the broth.
  • A mushroom soup. Slice or quarter a few mushrooms per person, then fry them in a wok with a little garlic until nutty. Add them to the stock with the noodles.
  • Prawn noodle soup. What is it about prawns and noodles that seem so right in the mouth? Use them here, dropping a handful of peeled defrosted jobbies into the pan, or mixing them with the noodles. Either way, the less you cook them the better. Mint, lime and basil will work well in a seafood variation, as — strangely — will the chicken stock.


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