September 22, 2015

Avgolemono Soup

“Egg-lemon” soup may not sound like an appetising soup based on its translation from the Greek “Avgolemono”. It is actually a humble chicken and rice soup, thickened with egg and flavoured with freshly squeezed lemon. It's comforting and satisfying without being too heavy.

My recipe was passed down from my mother and tweaked somewhat. It’s quite common for Greek families to start feeding their children this nutritious soup as soon as they can handle a few soft lumps. I am doing this now with my youngest son who is almost 8 months. I blend it a little with a hand held whisk, but don’t over blend it because tends to get too thick. He loves eating what we eat now and this meal is one of those easy foods the whole family can enjoy.

I make this soup all year round – when we are sick, when it’s hot, when it's cold (which is hardly ever in Dubai), when my eldest son is going through a picky eater phase, after Lent and fasting days or just because there's nothing more comforting than a bowl of soup.

Some notes on the recipe:
  • If you are making this for a family, including a baby, make a batch of soup without any salt and keep a little aside. The remaining soup can be seasoned afterwards for the rest of the family.
  •  Although the soup is freezer friendly, I have personally never frozen it because I make it so often.
  • I use risotto rice instead of long grain rice because I like the soft, creamy texture it gives the soup. If you use long grain rice, you will need to use 1 ½ - 2 cups of rice as the risotto rice thickens and expands a lot more.
  • Use any of your favourite aromatic vegetables and herbs in the stock for a more flavoursome soup. My mother never added vegetables to the stock but I love the flavour it gives the soup.
  •  Always use chicken on the bone, whether it’s pieces or whole chicken. It not only tastes better, but it’s more nutritious. Chicken pieces also cook quicker.
  • If you are pushed for time, use a good quality ready-made chicken stock, and omit the cooked chicken. My kids eat the soup without the chicken so sometimes I just use my homemade frozen chicken stock and dinner is ready in 30 minutes.
  • Left over chicken can be used for snacks, sandwiches or salads.

Serves about 4

4 - 6 pieces of free range chicken (I use chicken breasts and thighs, on the bone)
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 stick celery
2 shallots or 1 medium onion, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 thin slice of fresh ginger
6 cups water
1 cup risotto rice
2 organic eggs, at room temperature
Juice of one lemon, to taste
Salt to taste

  1. Add the chicken, carrot, celery, shallots, bay leaves and ginger to a large pot and bring to the boil. You can leave the vegetables whole as they will be discarded later. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer with the lid askew for about 1 hour until the chicken is well cooked. Skim off the scum on top using a spoon.
  2. Remove the chicken and vegetables from the pot. Discard the vegetables and bay leaves and keep the chicken aside for later. 
  3. Add the rice to the pot and cook for about 40 minutes until soft. I like my rice to be over cooked as it makes the soup creamier. If the liquid level drops, top up with more water. It should look like soup at the end of cooking time, not risotto! Remove the pot from the heat while you make the egg-lemon sauce. 
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until frothy. Pour in half the lemon juice and then temper the egg mixture with spoonful’s of either the soup, or warm water if you need to top up the water level in the soup. Pour the egg-lemon sauce into the pot, stirring continuously.  Check seasoning and add more lemon juice to taste. Serve with shredded chicken either mixed into the soup or on the side.
Note: This soup will thicken upon standing so be prepared to add extra water after cooking.