How to 'Soupress' a Stonking Cold
How TO ‘SoupRESS’ A Stonking COLd
“Are you feeling under the weather, darling? I best make you some chicken soup!” is some of the heart-warming wisdom that I so fondly associate with my grandmother.
The view that chicken soup has curative and medicinal properties is almost something of folklore, entrenched into the mindsets of people by mere word of mouth. Certain studies, however, have gone some way in corroborating the view that chicken soup really does help with fighting off the common cold, as apparently it has anti-inflammatory benefits. Those more sceptical may put greater emphasis on nostalgia and the placebo effect. Perhaps, they might say, we just associate feeling unwell with being tucked up on the sofa enjoying delicious soup on tap. The truth is whatever the starting premise is, we reach the same conclusion. Irrespective of what the experts say, let’s face it – the fact remains that countless people have experienced chicken soup as comforting, revitalising and even therapeutic.
This has not gone unnoticed, and the message has spread like wild-fire. In a world full of disagreement, there appears to be universal consensus across many cultures that, for one reason or another, chicken soup is comforting. From fiery noodle broths in China, or the more refined and sophisticated consommé of French cuisine, to lesser known versions like Greek lemon- infused chicken soup and Columbian Ajiaco, variations of chicken soup exist in abundance all over the world.
These are all delicious in their own right. But I want to focus on the two versions of this dish closest to my heart: Jewish Penicillin and Tortellini in Brodo. While different in many respects - these timeless versions have in common an appreciation of heritage and have been passed down through numerous generations.
Without a doubt, no version of chicken soup quite attaches itself to its remedial qualities quite like Jewish Penicillin. The clue being in the name, I can offer personal testimony to the countless times this soup has served me in times of need. From the likes of philosopher, Maimonides, 800 odd years ago, to my own grandmother today, we swear by the claim that Jewish Penicillin is the best cure for a cold. The recipe for this dish is perennial and it has outlived numerous generations, arguably becoming the most popular staple in the Jewish culinary tradition.
It is fair to say that a bowl of Jewish Penicillin is a rather crowded state of affairs. From deliciously, fluffy matzah balls also known as knaidlach, to the slightly heavier and filled kreplach parcels, it’s already getting a bit close for comfort. But if this duo of dumplings was not enough, many versions of this dish makes things even cosier by adding lokshen – a type of flat egg noodle that I’d say closer resembles the silky texture of pasta. Swimming between all of this, we mustn’t forget the melted down carrots, onion and celery, all oozing with the flavour of chicken. Every mouthful is the greatest testimony to why slow-cooking and patience brings so much reward. While there is undoubtedly a lot going on here, each of these components bring different texture and depth, wonderfully absorbing the flavours of the mouth-watering broth hiding beneath.
Now every Jew in the world claims that their grandmother makes the best Jewish Penicillin, so it is no surprise that I, too, am certain that it is actually my grandmother that makes the best.
Tortellini in Brodo
Leaving the bravado of Jewish Penicillin behind us, tortellini in brodo offers a very different account on chicken soup. This classic dish originates from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, an area well-known and celebrated for exquisite Italian fare. It is hard to have bad food here, and it is almost guaranteed that tortellini in brodo will feature on menus in any Osteria or Trattoria in the region’s capital, Bologna.
But those lucky enough to experience this dish will not be faced with an array of dumplings, vegetables, and noodles. Quite the contrary, tortellini in brodo is a clear broth, with only one centrepiece – and trust me, only one is required. With time and patience, light and delicate tortellini are crafted, which are stuffed with mortadella, pancetta, porcini and a touch of nutmeg. For an extra whack of indulgence, perhaps add some freshly grated truffle in for good measure. As each tortellini bursts open, the incredible flavours of the Emilia Romagna region grace the taste buds.
To suggest that Italians take pride in pasta would be to state the obvious. But one Italian in particular felt the need to really drill this home. World-renowned chef, Massamo Bottura, observed and was somewhat frustrated by the tendency of people to wolf down tortellini in brodo with very little appreciation for the pasta. To emphasise this, Bottura created his famous dish, ‘Tortellini walking on broth’; an offering that provided diners with a measly six tortellini in single file, leading towards gelatinised chicken broth. This was much to the dismay of the traditionalists, I may add, who couldn’t for the life of them understand what Bottura had done to this beloved Italian recipe. While initially met with bemusement and outrage, a small taste was enough to alleviate concerns – and it became as crystal clear as traditional tortellini in brodo why his Modenese restaurant, Francescana, was well deserving of its three Michelin stars and claim to being the best restaurant in the world.
While tortellini in brodo has fewer connotations with fighting off colds than Jewish Penicillin, not many dishes in Italy are more comforting and warming on a chilly winter’s night. What these versions do have most in common is the love thrown into the recipes and the joy and comfort brought to those who try them.
When Nonna and Bubbe join forces in the kitchen, a trip to the pharmacy becomes unnecessary. But this feeling of comfort extends to all chicken soups irrespective of the culture that inspired them. It is therefore no surprise that this consensus across the planet has given chicken soup a reputation for fighting colds.
For a taste of Bologna’s best pasta, a visit to Sfoglia Rina is very much recommended!
For the best gastronomical shopping experience ever, visit Bologna’s Quadrilatero