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…isn’t that how Shakespeare phrased it?! Perhaps not, but I do often explain my passion for food as an outward expression of my love for family and friends.  I strongly believe that those who love to cook are more interested in the pleasure it gives others than to themselves.  I love chocolate, but wouldn’t dare have more than one of my own swiss chocolate truffles (recipes for another time): I live to see the expressions on the faces of those lucky chocoholics who consume them in front of me. 

Food as a Gift of Love


Cooks love to cook for others, but you don’t have to cook to show your love with the gift of food.  From the moment John Bates arrival at Downton, head house maid Anna Smith appears to have been smitten.  He gave no real indication of a return on her affections at first.  He had enough on his plate keeping Thomas and O’Brien at bay.  She tried to befriend and support him in his battles, but it wasn’t until Anna takes ill for the day in Episode 4, that surprises her with a tray from the kitchen.  The writers came up with a wonderful scene where they share a brief tender moment.

I am very blessed to have husband who makes these same type of sweet guestures all the time, and love to cook for each other.

We have no idea what Mr. Bates fixed on the tray, but if it were me and I had a cold, I would loved to have received the remedy which I often make for my husband and friends:  Chicken Noodle Soup. 
I love soup and will likely share a number of recipes that would have been mainstay in a country kitchen, such as Downton, like served downstairs to servants.  My own recipe evolved from the noodle soup my paternal grandmother made for us growing up.  We knew soup was coming when we saw the kitchen table covered in noodle dough. .  She didn’t speak much English and never taught me how to make her soup, so I had to start and adapt over the years, starting with a recipe I found years ago in Food & Wine.

All thrifty cooks like Mrs. Patmore keep vegetable trimmings (celery leaves, broccoli stems) around in order to make vegetable or chicken stock, so feel free to toss in what you have on hand, and use the recipe as a guideline.   he same goes for chicken. If you have a whole chicken, good for you.  I will buy bone in chicken breasts, remove the breasts for another dish and save the bones to add to the stock pot in addition to meatier pieces.  Make it your own.

Strapped for Time?   This recipe takes time and is a bit of a labour of love, but not complicated if you break it down. I often will start on one day and finish the next.  You see, the more love into it, the more you get out.  But if no one is looking or you are trying to take care of your own cold on your own, you can always skip the first two steps and go straight to chopping and browning vegetables, adding a good quality boxed chicken stock, some white wine and left over cooked chicken (or a rotisserie chicken) and use store bought egg noodles.

Root vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup

Step 1: Make Your Chicken Stock

You can make a basic version, but I like this version which brings some extra depth of flavour…I think it is the wine!

Ingredients

  • 3 pound chicken or a mix of bone in chicken breasts and thighs
  • 1 pound unpeeled onions, trimmed and cut into eighths
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and coarsely chopped
  • 4 broccoli stems
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • l’/2 quarts low sodium chicken broth (your own or “stock in a box”
  • 2 cups dry white wine (substitute with ginger ale, or use additional chcken stock)
  • Bouquet garni: 5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, 2 fresh thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf tied with kitchen string or enclosed in cheese cloth. Since you are straining this, feel free to just drop it all in.

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large stock pot.
  2. Add 4-6 cups of water to cover all the ingredients and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat, cover partially and skim occasionally until the chicken is cooked.  This will take an hour.
  4. Take the chicken out and when cooled, take the meat off the bones and cut or shred into pieces.
  5. Use a strainer to separate the liquids from solids.  I like to press down on the solids to let some of the flavour come through, but it will give you a slightly more cloudy stock.
  6. If you are going to use right away, use a fat separator if you have one to remove the fat, or you can blot the top of the surface with paper towels, add ice cubes or simply skim with a large flat spoon.
  7. At this point you are ready for the main event, refrigerate in a large juice pitcher you don’t often use, or you can freeze in small batches for future use.

 Step 2:  Make your Own Egg Noodles

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the beaten egg, milk, and butter. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let rest in a covered bowl for 10 minutes.
  2. On a floured surface, roll out to 1/8 or 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired lengths and shapes. My grandmother had a special roller almost like what you use for ravioli, and make large rectangular shapes.
  3. Allow to air dry before cooking. My grandmother would spread out the noodles on tea towels on the kitchen table.  We would love to sneak a few to taste and then would remember they really didn’t taste that great.
  4. I leave my noodles to dry and and store in an airtight container or freezer until I am ready to use.  To cook the noodles fresh, put them into a large pot of  boiling salted water cook for 3 minutes or until al dente.

Step 3: Make your Soup

Ingredients

  1. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 3 medium carrots, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  3. 3 medium parsnips, cut  to your preference:  I like 1-inch matchsticks
  4. 3 celery ribs, sliced crosswise 1 inch thick (you can also use broccoli stems which have more nutrition and still give a nice crunch)
  5. 2 medium leeks, white and tender green, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into 1 inch thick slices
  6. 1 small onion, finely chopped
  7. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  8. your chicken stock and cut up cooked chicken
  9. 2 cups medium egg noodles (4 ounces)
  10. 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  11. Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Melt the butter your stock pot.
  2. Add the carrots, parsnips, celery, leeks, onion and garlic, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to let the flavours out.
  3. Raise the heat to moderately high and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add your chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer gently, skimming, until all the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. I let the pot simmer on the stove for an hour if I have the time.  Sample and adjust seasonings or add additional chicken stock/water.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the egg noodles and cook, stirring, until just al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.
  6. Add the shredded chicken, egg noodles and serve.

It does take some work, but you make alot of soup to serve on your first day, and then freeze the rest in containers for the next onset of cold or just to surprise your loved one on these cold winter days.  I like this size of container which melts easily in my 2 quarter pots with a bit of added chicken stock.  Perfect for lunch.

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