women

On Sunday nights, we have a bowl of soup for dinner.

It is not as abstemious as it sounds - for it is usually a filling soup and, depending on our appetites, would be eaten on its own, with rice or bread.


 

Besides, after the indulgences of the week, all we can manage on a Sunday night is a bowl of soup.

Actually, having a one-pot meal on Sundays makes good sense.

The fridge is usually bare except for some leftover greens. I may have meat left over from a previous meal and some odds and ends, all of which go into the pot, clearing the fridge in the process.

A minestrone of sorts is a convenient option, made with leftover vegetables and white beans; or a black bean soup with peppers and slices of chorizo sausage.

This week, I decided to make a chicken and Chinese ham soup as I had a roast chicken carcass, some Chinese greens and a bit of Chinese ham on hand.

Replacing a regular meal with a soup is also good if you are watching your calorie intake, which my husband and I always are, now that we are well into middle age.

Indeed, I am astonished at how little is needed to keep me going; just cutting down on serving sizes alone has allowed me to lose a lingering kilo over the past few months.

But soups have to be skimmed if you want them to be clear and as fat-free as possible.

For this, I use a skimmer and, if I have time, I leave the stock in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to allow the fat to solidify on top, which makes it easier to skim off.

While you can always rely on a good packaged stock, I make my own whenever I have bones on hand.

This time, I had a leftover roast chicken carcass, which I put into the pot together with some celery, carrot, onion and dried scallops for extra sweetness.

You could also buy chicken carcasses at supermarkets to do this. But I never throw anything away and will make stock whenever I have prawn shells, browned first in the wok for extra flavour; or the leftover carcass after I have grilled a fish, together with a ginger slice to cut down on the fishiness, for use later.

And I always have a store of small dried scallops and dried red dates, which are handy for sweetening stocks and gravies.

An hour or so of brewing over low heat is enough to obtain the sweetest stock, the base for my chicken soup.

All that remains is to poach some chicken thighs in the stock before adding the greens - I had baby bok choy and chye sim or flowering mustard greens - into the pot.

The Chinese ham is optional, but I added mine, cut into strips first, at the last minute before bringing the soup back to the boil again.

It was a comforting bowl of soup that we had that night - just the thing to end a busy week with

Recipe

Chinese chicken and ham soup (Serves four)

INGREDIENTS

4 or 5 chicken thighs

2 bunches of Chinese leafy greens, shredded

2 slices of Chinese ham or Western ham, cut into strips

STOCK

1 or 2 chicken carcasses

1 carrot, cut into short lengths

1 celery stick, cut into short lengths

1 onion, peeled and quartered

¼ cup dried scallops, rinsed

2 or 3 red dates, rinsed

Water to cover ingredients

METHOD

Place the chicken carcasses with the carrot, celery, onion, dried scallops and dates in a pot large enough to accommodate everything.

Cover the ingredients with water and bring to the boil. Then, turn down the flame to allow the mixture to simmer and continue to cook for about an hour.

Skim off the scum and fat as they form on top of the water.

Alternatively, allow the stock to cool and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, till the fats solidify and become easy to remove.

Skip the above steps if you are using packaged chicken stock.

Strain the stock and bring about five cups to the boil in another pot. When boiling, add the chicken thighs to the pot and bring the mixture back to the boil, before switching the heat off. Leave the pot covered for about half an hour.

When the soup has cooled, remove the thighs. Discard the skin and shred the meat. Keep the shredded meat aside.

Wash and drain the Chinese greens. Chop them finely.

Before serving, bring the soup to the boil, then add the ham strips, followed by the greens. Cook over low heat with the pot uncovered until the greens soften.

Return the shredded chicken to the pot and serve hot.

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