Hot Food for Cold Days
It's weird how clearly you remember the most seemingly mundane things: I remember that on my very first day at primary school, I had Chicken Macaroni Soup for lunch in the school canteen. I had incredibly bland tastes for food as a child. My absolute favourite food was plain steamed white rice with a little bit of soy sauce. My parents love to bring up our trip to Hong Kong when I was 5 years old, and there was all sorts of delicious dim sum in front of us, and I just kept asking for bowl after bowl of plain rice. I also used to have a weird compulsion that made me throw out all my food if different types of food touched each other on my plate.
Anyway, it's been snowing like crazy here in Edinburgh. Having lived pretty much on the equator my whole life, I can honestly say this is the most snow I've ever been in. So unlike people who are getting annoyed at slipping on icy pavements, I am in complete wonder. However, all this cold weather dictates a necessity for warming food. I thought a recreation of sorts of my first meal at school would be appropriate. This version replaces shredded chicken with chicken meatballs.
Chicken Meatball Macaroni Soup
Pasta shapes (any kind will do)
Chinese celery cabbage - this is called 'Chinese leaf' in British supermarkets
4 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in freshly-boiled water for 20 minutes
250g minced chicken, or 2 chicken thigh fillets
2 shallots, finely chopped - or chopped spring onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons Shao Xing wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2-3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
Sugar, Salt, white pepper
If you can't find minced chicken, just throw 2 chicken thigh fillets into a food processor and blitz until it has the consistency of mince. Then add the chopped shallots and ginger, and pulse until incorporated. Transfer the chicken to a bowl, add half the grated ginger, the cornflour, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, half of the soy sauce and season with a pinch of sugar, salt and white pepper. Mix well.
Wet your hands slightly, then start rolling the chicken mixture into small balls, around the size of a ping pong ball. Place on a plate and cover with cling film, then chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Slice the Chinese celery cabbage into wide chunks. I haven't indicated a quantity because you can use as much as you want to eat. I think there were around 6 big leaves of it in mine.
Heat the stock in a pan with the shiitake mushrooms, add the rest of the grated ginger and season with the rest of the soy sauce and a pinch of salt if you like, making sure to taste it. Add the chicken meatballs to the simmering stock. In the meantime, start cooking your pasta.
When your pasta is nearly done, add the sliced Chinese celery cabbage to the simmering soup. Let it cook for around 3-4 minutes. Split the drained pasta between two bowls, and ladle the soup and trimmings over it.