The Perfect Chicken Soup Recipe from the Caribbean

Chicken Soup Recipe
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The perfect chicken soup recipe, Caribbean style. Chef Nigel Spence has the story.

A few days ago, I woke up feeling like crap. Now you have to understand, in the past, it was not an unusual thing for me to wake up feeling like crap but the source of my ailment on those occasions was always comfortably evident in the empty rum bottle on top the kitchen counter…ha!

This feeling was totally different.  I felt the cold (no pun intended) seeping into my bones even while the heater was on and my blankets were pulled up to my chin.  I felt weak and drowsy like I could sleep for a thousand years.  Yup, I figured somehow, some way a winter cold of some sort was trying to take hold but I planned to let go of it real fast.

With a million things to get done that day, I began racking my brain trying to remember my Mom’s sure-fire remedy that always had me feeling better in no time.  I had visions of white rum and Punch but my thoughts kept getting jumbled as I fell in and out of sleep.  I could not remember if she was explaining that the white rum would pack a punch or if she was making a rum punch or if my mind was just being biased and conjuring up preferred images that usually make me feel better in my head (lol).

Amidst the fog in my brain, slowly, things began sorting out themselves.  I remembered that she would first use the white rum to rub my head and neck  – “to break the fever” she said.  Next would come a blended concoction of eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and grated nutmeg she simply called “Punch”.  Never found out what that was for but I gladly drank it as it tasted sooooo good and best of all, the sticky froth would leave a cool, bubbly, moustache every time I took a sip.

I remember thinking that my Dad must have had fever on his insides – quite often – since the rum always found its way inside his “Punch” instead of on his head…hmm?

But the killer remedy that always sealed the deal and had me actually getting out of bed was a bowl of Mom’s steaming hot chicken soup served with a slice of hardough bread and butter.  Just the warmth and comfort from this special dish labored with love…and of course cooked with a few chicken bones was enough to get one feeling better.

So, dragging myself out of bed, I attempted to recreate Mom’s special broth as best I could. Of course, since I was both the patient and the cook, I could not get as elaborate with the preparation as Mom did, because I just wanted to have it done and get back to bed rest.

That’s when I decided to dust unbox the electric pressure cooker and take it for a long awaited test drive.

Fast forward fifteen minutes, a few chicken legs, veggies and yellow split peas and I was well on my way to feeling better after a few bowls of excellent chicken soup. It was that quick, satisfying and therapeutic.

It was not surprising to me, but still a bit puzzling why consumption of such a simple broth could make one feel like a new person – almost as if my earlier crappy feeling was just a figment of my imagination.

Naturally, my curiosity had the better of me and sent me in search of answers to which I received more than I had expected.

A study was conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who were also curious as to why chicken soup was so beneficial for colds and flu. They found that amino acids derived from the stock reduced inflammation in our respiratory system.  It also boosted the immune system so our body could better heal maladies such as asthma and allergies.  Other noted benefits of chicken broth – in particular bone broth – included joint protection, liver detoxification, cellulite reduction, maintenance of healthy skin, treatment of leaky gut syndrome, metabolism aiding and overall immune system building.

However, the researchers were also very clear in stating that “store-bought” stock would not reap the same benefits as it was not REAL and most times contained MSG  – considered a neurotoxin.

Well I did enough research to know how to put together a quick but effective easy-to-follow recipe for Chicken Soup. This is not intended to treat or cure anything except a hungry belly and maybe some homesickness (lol).  But based on the research above, you would definitely be doing your body some good by including this as part of your flu and cold symptom diet.

This recipe is so simple that even if you are feeling really sick you should be able to muster up just enough energy to prepare it. The pressure cooker is what really speeds it along and which West Indian kitchen does NOT have a pressure cooker?

15 MINUTE CHICKEN SOUP

4 Chicken legs

12oz West Indian pumpkin, peeled and cut in 4 pieces

1 large Carrot, peeled and cut in three pieces

2 stalks Scallion, cut in half

1/2 yellow Onion, sliced

1/4 cup yellow Split peas, dry

4 Allspice berries, whole (pimento)

4 Irish potatoes, peeled and left whole

2 Thyme sprigs, whole

1 knob Ginger, thumb size

1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper (optional)

1/2 tablespoon Salt

1 sprig Cilantro for garnish

Put all ingredients EXCEPT pepper in pressure cooker with 8-10 cups of hot water (check your specific cooker for limits on how much water you can use). Set timer for 9 minutes. Release the pressure rapidly when done, remove lid, add the scotch bonnet pepper and cook for an additional 6 minutes to thicken while using a whisk to break up the cooked pumpkin for additional color and flavor. Remove the scotch bonnet pepper when your desired heat level is attained, and adjust the salt, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Alternately, you may follow the same procedure in a stove top stock pot, except you will simmer the broth for approximately 1 hour, instead of 9 minutes.

Make no bones about it – this is simple soup is not simple tasting!