Soup weather is really upon us here in SA as we prepare for the current cold snap! While always grateful to have a ready to heat and eat home made soup in my freezer, I also think about ways to make a different soup and in making this amazing, what I term, “fusion” soup, which is a blend of the East and West spice and herb ingredients, again my soup making has been elevated to a new level!
Saffron (those stringy red strands available from spice stores, generally imported from Spain or the Middle east so it’s considered among the most expensive spices in the world!) from the crocus plant, is a regular ingredient in Indian and international cuisine. I use it often to create a yellowy-golden hue to my foods and provide an amazing taste-aroma. The taste is difficult to describe, but without it, the flavour will definitely be missing! Saffron also has fabulous medicinal properties when used in many traditional medicines and is used as an antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant and digestive. Being centuries old, Saffron has it’s roots in Egypt since the days of Cleopatra – it is said she used to add it to her bath water! Saffron contains several plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties. Our home and those of many of our extended families, are never without saffron – we were raised with eating it in our meals. I’m very glad that I decided to use a pinch of saffron to this soup – which enhanced both the colour and flavour.
Typically, I used the braising method to further enhance the flavour of this soup. Ghee was my fat of choice, which contributed to the delicious taste. Home made chicken stock and home made fresh coconut milk made this soup a true labour of soup-making love! The amount of herbs and spices may be adjusted to suit individual taste but a tip, don’t compromise on the braising of the onions, garlic, leeks, chicken carrots in ghee or grass-fed butter, and, adding the saffron – both these make this soup a gastronomic taste delight!
[Makes 4 servings]
500g skin-less chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized portions
1 medium sized onion onion, sliced
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced (white fleshy portion only)
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and thickly shaved
2 tblsp ghee, grass-fed butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp crushed garlic or garlic paste
2 green chillies (optional)
¾ – 1 tblsp dried Italian herbs
1 tblsp dried or fresh thyme
½-1 tsp saffron strands
3 cups chicken stock (preservatives and sugar free) OR 3 cups of water
1 cup coconut milk
Himalayan or Sea Salt to taste
Optional: Curry leaves or a dried bay leaf
Fresh coriander leaves or flat leaf parsley for garnishing
- Melt the ghee in a medium-sized soup pot on medium-high stove top heat.
- Add in the cumin seeds and once they begin to sizzle and become aromatic, add in the curry leaves or bay leaf, onions and leeks (and green chillies if using).
- Saute until the onions and leaks are soft and translucent, then add in the fresh garlic. Mix until combined and add in the chicken. You may add in the saffron strands now or infuse in coconut milk – see 3 steps below)
- After 5 minutes, add in the carrot shavings and the Italian herbs and thyme. Stir well to combine.
- Now add in the chicken stock or water
- Heat the coconut milk, adding the saffron strands, OR lightly toast the saffron strands in a non-stick pan, when cooled, crush with the back of a spoon and add to cold coconut milk. Mix it well. You will notice that the milk takes on a golden yellow hue. Add this mixture to the cooking chicken.
- Allow to cook covered for about 15 minutes add salt, to taste and turn off the stove heat.
- Remove the bay leaf or curry leaves, ladle into soup bowls, garnish with fresh herbs of your choice and serve hot.
- This soup may be cooled, decanted into 250ml serving size containers and frozen, to be defrosted and heated as needed. It stores well for up to a month in the freezer.