Almost vegan “chicken” soup

Oct.24.09 § Leave a comment

When I’m sick, I have to have soup. Preferably, it should be chicken soup. And if not, something extremely close to it. As a kid, my Grammy would always send over a Tupperware full of chicken soup when I was sick. She made it with pastina, not noodles. It was a simple recipe for peppery chicken soup— carrots, celery, onions, and of course, chicken. The broth was real and homemade, sucked from a whole bird that had steeped in a stock pot all day, and the meat was flaked off the bone into the soup. It was always the best chicken meat I’d ever tasted.

That sounds like a lot of work if you’re sick. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try since I started eating meat again, but haven’t gotten around to yet. This recipe came about when I was a vegetarian living with three other vegetarians. During my veggie years, I struggled to find a substitute for chicken soup. The problem, I think, really originates with store bought vegetable broth, most of which is disgusting. Really, it tastes like garbage. Foul, rotting garbage. I think this is because, so I’ve read, they don’t use the freshest food scraps. So it is, essentially, garbage. But this recipe has enough extra flavoring to cover up the odd undertones that can still be found in even the best of store bought broths, because by simmering sweet veggies in a pot full of broth, you’re actually making a quick broth of your own. The soup is almost vegan because I use Quorn chick’n tenders which are made with egg whites as a binder. I’m not willing to give those up, but you might be. And in that case, substitute chick peas or TVP and you’ll have a vegan soup. This tastes close enough to Grammy’s original that just the smell of it cooking on my stove makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

The inspiration for this recipe is my old roommate Claire who I first witnessed making this soup in the fall of 2008 when she was one of my roommates. I adapted it from her version and continued to make it over and over again because — I’m convinced — it not only cures your ailments, it wards off future sickness. And I do not like getting sick.
For broth options, I prefer Emeril’s store bought or, if you have the time to make your own, the Magic Mineral Broth recipe from Rebecca Katz. I firmly stand by that broth recipe and try to always keep some already made in my freezer. When I first made it, I thought it was so delicious I found myself drinking it by the mug for nights following its birth in my kitchen. It makes this and any soup even better.

Almost Grammy’s “chicken” soup

One tablespoon olive oil
One tablespoon dried tarragon leaves
One teaspoon dried thyme leaves
One half teaspoon dried marjoram
Salt and black pepper to taste
One large onion, diced
Five or six carrots, peeled and sliced
Four celery stalks, washed and sliced
Four cloves garlic, minced
One sweet potato, peeled and cubed
One leek, washed, green top discarded, sliced
One half bag (1 cup) frozen sweet peas
Two boxes store bought (or 2 quarts homemade) vegetable broth
One bag Quorn chik’n tenders
One tablespoon Earth Balance (optional, for a nice oily finish that resembles a fatty chicken soup)
One box Ancient Harvest Quinoa rotelle

Before you heat anything, prepare your vegetables. This involves a lot of slicin’ and dicin’. If you begin cooking before everything is ready to be thrown in, you (meaning clumsy me) might burn something.
Heat a large soup pot on medium. Add the oil to coat the bottom of the pot and toss in the onions. When the onions begin to become translucent add the carrots, celery, and leek. Continue cooking for another five to seven minutes, then add the garlic and herbs. Toss and continue cooking for 30 seconds to a minute, salt to bring the flavors together and then add the broth.
Add the sweet potato cubes and turn the heat up to bring the soup to a simmer until the potato is fully cooked, about 10 to 12 minutes. While waiting for the soup to reach a simmer, put a medium sauce pan filled with water on high heat to boil the noodles.
Once the potato cubes are tender, add the peas and chick’n tenders and return the pot to a simmer.
Drain the noodles and set aside. A note about noodles: I cook the noodles separately because they are made of quinoa and corn and release quite a bit of starch during cooking. I don’t want that starch in my soup. If I were using regular egg noodles, I would cook them in the soup, adding an extra two cups of water to avoid losing any broth to the noodles.

When the peas and chick’n are heated through, add the optional tablespoon of Earth Balance to the pot of soup for finishing. Serve the soup over the noodles, salt and pepper to taste.


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