About eight years ago, Oxford Brookes university enlisted our friend Allegra McEvedy (see her Treacle Tart recipe here) to upgrade their student catering. This was one of the delicious dishes she put on the menu – lucky students! It’s a great use for chicken stock if you fancy something other than the usual soup or risotto. The recipe below is reproduced from an article published in the Times in April 2015. To feed more people, just up the quantities of the ‘substantial’ ingredients (chicken, eggs, noodles). If you’re feeding vegetarians, use vegetable stock and firm tofu instead of chicken; replace the fish sauce with a bit more salt.
Ingredients for the broth
2 red chillies, roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
Half a thumb ginger, trimmed, scrubbed and roughly chopped
Handful of coriander stalks (save the leaves for the end)
2 tbsp groundnut or veg oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp brown sugar (and a touch more to taste)
2 tsp fish sauce
1 litre chicken stock
1 tin coconut milk
Juice of a lime or two
Salt to taste, if necessary
Chicken — couple of breasts, sliced, or 4 drumsticks, whole
2 heads bok choy / pak choi, halved through the root
Half a butternut squash, diced and roasted
100g flat rice noodles, rehydrated
2 eggs, hard boiled
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips
Handful of mint, chopped
Couple of red chillies, seeds in and thinly sliced
1 Make the broth: in a food processor blitz up the chillies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and coriander. If it’s not coming together to make a smoothish paste then dribble in just enough of the chicken stock so that it spins freely. Heat the oil in a wide pan and fry the paste for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Add the turmeric, stir well to coat, then add the tamarind paste, brown sugar and fish sauce.
2 Once all the ingredients are combined, pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk, and let it all bubble and reduce down to a soupy, silky consistency (about a litre). Season with lime juice, a touch more sugar if necessary and salt to taste. This broth can all be prepared well ahead of time. When you’re ready to eat, lower the raw chicken into the broth and poach until just cooked.
3 Prepare your warmed bowls: a handful of noodles and half a bok choy in the bottom of each one, then when the chicken is cooked use a slotted spoon to share that between the bowls too, along with the strips of pepper.
4 Have a last taste of the broth — it may want lime juice now to keep it lively — then ladle it into the bowls. Finish each one with some roasted butternut squash, quarters of hard-boiled egg, wedges of lime and the chopped mint mixed with the chopped coriander leaves. Serve with extra sliced chillies on the side for those who like more heat.