Slowly, I am learning to listen. Listening for hunger, by which I mean real hunger and not the kind born simply of boredom; for thirst, which can only truly be slaked by gulps of cool, clean water. If I don't exercise solidly three times a week, my thinking begins to s-l-o-w down and my mood darkens. Terribly. Given all of this, I'm surprisingly slow on the uptake when my body is yelling, and very loudly, for restoration.
Moving has been far more exhaustive than I was willing to initially admit.
How to say it? For two weeks straight I dreamed of a rich, golden broth, beaded with tiny, shiny globules (such a descriptive word) of delicious, health-giving fat shimmering across the surface of a deep, never-ending, fragrant bowl.
Chicken soup. Bloody hell.
I hold Kylie Kwong responsible. It was she who eventually forced my hand by way of making it sound so damnably delicious. So, while I will spare the vegetarians among you of the full, naked photographic horror of the beast itself, I will add this: it was an immensely satisfying afternoon of cooking. And yes. I would (and will) do it again.
Chicken stock, with a South East Asian bent makes about 3 litres
Take one very good chook, one that scritched and scratched about, stretched its wings from time to time and generally had a nice sort of life. Price will guide you in your search. If it costs a small fortune, you are on the right track. Besides, this is not an every day thing. Lord, no. You are attempting to make something that heals. Spend accordingly. Not taxing work by any means, but it does need to be treated with a certain amount of restraint and little more of respect.
One weighing somewhere between 1.5 and 1.7 kilos (that’s about 3 lb's or more for international guests) should set you right. Give it a quick wash and cut off any excessively fatty bits, bearing in mind that what makes chicken stock work in the first place is the presence of a least a little fat. Fat, in this case, shall be your friend.
Pop your chook in a large, deep pot, cover it with 4 litres (4 quarts…) of cold water – it must be cold – and add the following ingredients, trimmed and sliced where necessary:
1 leek, washed well
3 salad onions (the mild kind that are bunched together cheerfully)
1 good-sized carrot, peeled (this matters – carrot skins, even organic ones, are bitter)
2 stalks of celery
1 head of garlic, halved through its middle
8 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt
Then, because there were goodies left over from the previous evening’s delectable little spicy fishcakes, and with a few other meals on my mind, the following also found their way into the pot:
An elderly knob of ginger, sliced
The tough outer leaves of 2 ruthlessly stripped lemongrass stalks
The roots and stems of a large bunch of coriander
Bring slowly to the boil, lower your heat to the odd rising burble and simmer as such for 2 hours. Strain through a double layer of muslin, reserving the chicken flesh itself (a messy business, but worth your efforts) and either use within three days or freeze in carefully measured amounts for further goodness.
Nourishing. Restorative. Fixative.
Just what was needed.