Chicken & Lemon Rice Soup Avgolemeno
This is our Greek version of Jewish penicillin…chicken soup! Mum would always make it for us if we were not feeling well. Even better, upon returning back to Cyprus after a long flight or tedious journey, one of my Aunts would step in, leaving a vast stainless steel bowlful in the fridge ready to heat up and devour if only to give us energy to haul the suitcases in!
Aside from our own family traditions Avgolemeno soup is eaten at the end of the Easter forty day fast …late at night straight after church. Thankfully gentle on the stomach!
- 1 oven-ready chicken (referred to as a hen in Cyprus)
- scrubbed carrots, celery sticks, onion, peppercorns, bay leaf to flavour the stock
- 1 glass (200g) of pudding rice 2 eggs
- 3 lemons
- salt and ground white pepper
Place the hen in a large saucepan with the vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaf then pour on enough cold water to cover. Steadily bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for around 11⁄4 hours or until cooked, tender and just starting to come away from the bone.
Carefully drain and lift out the hen, wrap in foil to keep warm. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out and discard the vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaf, then skim away any residue from the surface. Tip in the pudding rice, bring the stock back to a gentle simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Turn down the heat. Now beat two eggs in a large bowl until frothy then add the juice of 1-2 lemons. Whisk two or three ladles of hot soup onto the egg mixture. Take care and keep whisking else the egg may curdle. Whisk the egg mixture back into the hot soup and heat through gently. Do not boil. Stir frequently until all thickened but not scrambled! Adjust the seasoning.
Ladle the soup into large bowls together with generous shredded pieces of the hot hen. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and extra lemon wedges for squeezing.
Photo: Vanessa Courtier