|Chicken Soup with Braaied Mielies|
This soup recipe is inspired by a quintessential South African dish: fresh ears of sweetcorn (what we call 'mielies') cooked to a nutty goldenness over blazing coals. Sweet, slightly charred mielie kernels chewed straight from the cob. Sprinkled with salt. Eaten in a woodsmoky beam of sunshine. With melted butter trickling down your chin.
Forgive me for coming over all rhapsodic, but I can't help it. I hope you get the picture.
In this recipe, I've combined a thick, creamy homestyle chicken soup with freshly braaied sweetcorn. If you don't have hot coals to hand, you can cook the sweetcorn under a very hot grill (see recipe, below).
This is a long recipe because it requires a good home-made chicken stock. You can cheat by using a stock cube, but I hope you don't. There really isn't any substitute for proper chicken stock.
Braaied-Mielie and Chicken Soup
For the chicken stock:
a large free-range chicken, trimmed of excess fat
2½ litres water
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) sea salt
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
a very thin slice of lemon, peel on
2 bay leaves
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
a large stalk of celery
8 stalks fresh parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
For the soup:
3 tablespoons (45 ml) softened butter
8 large ears of fresh sweetcorn, husks and silk removed
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 tsp (5 ml) dried chilli flakes
2 tsp (10 ml) good dried oregano
a quarter of a whole nutmeg, finely grated
a pinch (1 ml) of ground cloves
the juice of a small lemon
6 Tbsp (90 ml) cream
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh parsley
salt and milled black pepper, to taste
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra chopped fresh parsley, or snipped chives
First make the stock. Place the chicken, water, wine and salt in a large pot. The chicken should be just submerged in liquid; if it is not, use a smaller pot. Bring gently to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Skim off any foam as it rises.
Add the onions, carrots, lemon slice, bay leaves, pepper and cloves. Using kitchen string, tie the celery stalks, parsley stalks and thyme sprigs into a bundle and add to the pot. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Take the whole chicken out of the stock and cut off the breasts and legs. Cover these with clingfilm and set aside. Return the chicken carcass to the stock and simmer very gently for another hour.
While the chicken is simmering, rub the softened butter over the mielies and sprinkle with a little salt. Braai over medium-hot coals until the mielies are brown and toasted, and just cooked through. (But don't overcook: the kernels should retain a good crunch). If you don't have a braai, cook the mielies under a blazing oven grill, turning frequently, until golden and toasty, and charred in little flecks. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, remove all the kernels, cutting close to the cob. Set the kernels aside.
Take the chicken carcass out of the pot and set aside on a plate to cool. Fish the bay leaves, lemon slice and the bundle of celery, parsley and thyme out of the stock and discard. Leave the cooked onions and carrot in the stock. Add the cubed potatoes, milk and half the braaied mielie kernels. Turn up the heat and cook at a lively simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potato cubes are tender and cooked right through.
In the meantime, pull the cooked chicken away from the carcass and from the set-aside breasts and legs, discarding any skin or fat. Tear the chicken into little shreds and flakes, and set to one side.
Liquidise the soup, in batches, until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pot. Add the remaining braaied mielie kernels, along with the reserved chicken pieces, chilli flakes, oregano, nutmeg, ground cloves and lemon juice. Stir well. Turn on the heat and simmer gently for another ten minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the cream and parsley, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add a spritz of lemon juice - just enough to 'lift' the flavour.
Serve piping hot, with a shower of finely snipped chives and crusty bread rolls.