We Jews think we have the monopoly on chicken soup - that warming and reviving broth which is reputed to have medicinal properties. But other cultures do chicken soup too - some of them surprisingly similar to our own.
I am a great fan of the far eastern take on chicken noodle soup which can be found in varying forms in China, Vietnam and Thailand. The great thing about the soup at this time of year, when everybody is trying to lose a few extra pounds after the seasonal binge, is that it is comforting but also healthy and naturally low in calories.
My own version of this classic is an adaptation of Vietnamese pho ga. It is simple to make and perfect either for a midweek supper or even as a dinner party starter. I particularly like the way that this type of soup is served in Vietnam, with a bunch of herbs as a garnish, and lime and hot chillis added to taste.
● 6 chicken thighs (with skin and bone left on)
● Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
● 3 cloves garlic, peeled
● 1 piece lemon grass
● 1 cinammon stick
● 1 piece star anise
● Chicken stock cube
● Two tablespoons soy sauce
● 300g rice noodles
● 1 lime
● Handful of chopped herbs, ideally mint, coriander and Thai basil
● 1 chopped and deseeded green chilli (optional)
● 2 spring onions, chopped
● Beansprouts to garnish
● Place chicken pieces, ginger, garlic and lemongrass in a large saucepan and fill to three-quarter level with cold water.
● Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and remove any scum from the surface with a spoon.
● Add the cinammon, star anise, chicken stock cube and soy sauce and simmer the broth for 45 minutes to an hour.
● Remove from heat. Take the chicken pieces out and reserve. Discard the ginger, garlic, lemon grass and spices.
● When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and cut meat from the bone and divide it between four bowls.
● Bring the broth back to the boil and add the rice noodles, cooking them according to the packet instructions.
● When the noodles are cooked, add the soup with noodles to the bowls and garnish with the herbs.
● Serve with a sprinkling of spring onion, beansprouts plus lime juice and chilli to taste.