It’s that time of year. As winter draws to an end and spring threatens to break through, everyone seems to be suffering from a cough or a sniffle. I made it all winter without getting sick, and then BAM! It hit me like a freight train: a full blown head cold. Miserable. You know how it goes– the first day I felt a bit off, a bit tired, and just couldn’t seem to get warm. Day 2 began with a scratchy throat and ended with the chills. After a fitful sleep I awoke on day 3 unable to breathe, my head completely blocked up and my nose running like a faucet. It was over, I surrendered, waving a white tissue to let the enemy know I had no fight left in me. The husband kindly banished me to the couch and built a roaring fire in the hearth, declaring me officially out of commission until further notice.
Lucky for me I had a couple of new cookbooks to keep me company…
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
I’m a bit obsessed with healing foods at the moment, reading everything I can get my hands on. In January I even created a four week delicious detox program (Fresh Start) for food lovers looking to cook with more fresh fruit and veg here in Cavan, Ireland. I have no plans to give up dairy or wheat permanently, but it has been fun to explore new “virtuous” ingredients (as Susan Jane calls them).
When I lived in America I would have gone straight to the pharmacy (or chemist as they’re known here in Ireland) at the first sign of a cold. My goal was to suppress the symptoms with as much medicine as possible so I could get back to work and kindly share my germs with everyone around me. Here in Ireland I’ve discovered the “Health Food Shop.” A cornerstone of country towns, this is where you find herbal remedies, exotic foods, hippies and healing crystals. Instead of loading up on pharmaceuticals I went for the echinacea. I sought out oranges for vitamin C, garlic for powerful antiviral properties, and ginger to combat inflammation. According to Mayo Clinic, chicken soup is good cold medicine for two reasons: it acts as an anti-inflammatory and it gets all that phlegm moving out of the sinuses.
I suggest storing homemade chicken stock in the freezer, because you just never know when you’ll really need it (and boy will you be glad it’s there). I originally created this Chicken Soup Noodle recipe for the Fresh Start delicious detox, but later realized the ingredients make for a perfect cold remedy. In addition to the ginger and garlic mentioned above, the soup features spinach, an anti-inflammatory with loads of anti-oxidants. Reading Healing Foods, I learned that the nutrients in spinach are better absorbed by the body when the leafy green has been lightly cooked. If you can, use shiitake mushrooms for this soup. The Medicinal Chef writes that shiitake are unique to other fungi because they contain beta glucans, which are known to effect white blood cell production and boost the immune system. Thank you shiitakes!
It’s tough being home sick without anyone to nurse you back to health. Call me crazy, but I found it comforting to crawl off the couch midday and stand over a simmering pot of soup, stirring and breathing in the steam. If you’re lucky enough to have some chicken stock in the freezer, this soup takes only a few minutes to prepare. Then you can slink back off to bed and sleep off the sickness.
What foods do you find comforting or healing when you’re down with a cold? Please do share in the comments section…
Chicken Soup Noodle
I have fond memories of slurping a comforting bowl of Ma Ma Zoe’s Chicken Soup Noodle in a favourite Asian restaurant on cold, rainy days in America. It seems chicken noodle soup translates across many cultures. Homemade chicken stock enriched with dried porcini mushrooms is what gives this recipe its depth of flavor. If you’re battling a cold you may want to serve the soup with a bit of sriracha or hot chili sauce to really clear out your sinuses. This detoxifying soup is gluten-free, dairy-free, and elimination diet friendly. If you’re making ahead for a packed lunch, keep the noodles stored separately so they don’t break down to mush.
- 4 ounces/110g soba noodles (100% buckwheat or other gluten free noodle)
- 0.5 ounces/15g dried porcini mushrooms
- 16 ounces/480mL homemade chicken stock
- 0.7 ounces/20g ginger, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
- 1 leek
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 organic chicken breast
- 8 ounces/250g brown mushrooms (preferably shiitake), sliced
- 2 handfuls spinach (50g)
- 2 teaspoons tamari wheat-free soy sauce
- Coriander leaves, for garnish
- Sea salt
Place the dried porcini in a liquid measuring cup and pour over 480mL boiling water. Steep the mushrooms for 15 minutes, then drain. Discard the mushrooms and pour the broth into a medium sized pot, along with the chicken stock.
In a separate pot, cook the buckwheat noodles according to the package directions. Do not overcook the noodles or they will fall apart. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Wash the leek. Cut off the root end and the green top, leaving only the white and light green stalk. Cut the leek in half lengthways. Thinly slice into half moons. Place the leek slices in a colander and rinse to remove any sand and then toss in the pot with the broth. Add ginger and garlic and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breast. Simmer over low heat, covered with the lid, for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through.
Remove the chicken breast and set aside to cool. Strain the broth, discarding the leeks, garlic and ginger. Return the broth to the pot with ¼ teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer. Add the sliced mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the scallions and soy sauce and remove the pot from the heat. Season to taste with sea salt.
Divide the noodles between two bowls. Tear the chicken breast into pieces and divide it between the two bowls. Add a handful of spinach to each bowl. Ladle mushrooms and broth into the bowls and serve garnished with coriander leaves.