Chicken Soup Avgolemono

Egg-and-lemon-thickened chicken soup is the iconic, typically Greek variation on a much-loved, comforting, winter soup.

It is the traditional one-pot Christmas dish on Rhodes and other Dodecanese islands. Christmas in the Greek islands is not the big feast celebrated in the United States or northern Europe: Easter and the Virgin Mary’s Assumption (August 15) are the important island festivals.

 

The addition of ginger and a piece of lemon peel is my twist on the basic recipe I got from my mother. I think their flavor and aroma deepens the broth’s taste. I prefer making the soup lighter, with vermicelli instead of rice, or even plain — just the broth and pieces of chicken. In that case you may want to add one more egg if you want to make it thicker, creamier.

Sometimes instead of chicken meat,  meatballs such as the Scallion Meatballs,  are cooked in a chicken or meat avgolemono  soup.  

 

 

Until the late 1960s, chicken was considered a great delicacy on the islands. It was the most expensive of all meats and, except for important feasts, it was usually reserved for children and the sick as the lighter of all meats.  The free-range chickens or capons of Greece need a long time to cook, and even then, their flesh can sometimes be tough and stringy. But they make the most delicious soup or youvetsi.

Instead of chicken you can make the soup with de-fatted broth from beef bones or make an exquisite fish soup (psarosoupa) boiling down fish heads, bones, and small fish. I try to always have various homemade stocks in my freezer so that I can make not just soups, but flavor risotto and all kinds of sauces.  

 

 

 Makes 6 to 8 servings as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main course 

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Red Lentil Soup with Grains and Spicy Aromatic Oil

Variations on this heartwarming, vegan soup are infinite. The creamy red lentils regain their attractive color, which is lost when they are boiled alone, when they are cooked with carrots, tomato paste and plenty of Maraş pepper.

My recipe is inspired by the soups of Gaziantep, which often combine bulgur and/or chickpeas with the lentils.

 

Photo by PENNY DE LOS SANTOS  from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.     

 

The pulses in Turkey are usually cooked with lamb or beef bones to add body, and the soup is finished with aromatic-infused butter, though olive oil is an excellent alternative.

Vegetarians can make the soup more substantial by adding diced feta, as Costas and I do, or complement with grilled halloumi cheese.

 

 

Serves 6 to 8  (more…)

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Grain Risotto with Kale or Cabbage

I love to make risotto with our Mediterranean wheat berries (farro) or with pearl barley. I use the grains on their own or complemented with some rice; in these combinations I prefer to add the long, basmati rice instead of Arborio or medium gran rice.

The cooking is a variation of my usual risotto with leafy greens, but on this occasion I prefer to cook the grains with a more substantial green, like kale or cabbage. 

A few years back we managed to grow some Russian, as well as Tuscan Kale in the garden; but unfortunately we have not been able to grow these wonderful greens again, so I use cabbage for my hearty grain risotto.

See also Kapuska: Cabbage with Ground Meat and Cabbage.

 

 

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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Chickpeas with Orange, Lemon and Squash

There are countless variations of slow-cooked chickpeas all over the Mediterranean. Most are vegetarian, like this one, inspired by a dish Stelios Tylirakis prepares in his wood-fired oven at Dounias tavern, high in the mountains above Chania, Crete.

In Crete chickpeas are commonly flavored with bitter (Seville) orange, while in most other islands lemon is used. I think orange peel is a wonderful substitute for the bitter orange, along with some lemon juice. This simple chickpea dish, like the one without squash, should be made with the best quality, preferably organic dried chickpeas, not the canned ones. Their flavor is so much more interesting. 

I add mustard, something I learned from my mother who claimed that it made all pulses more digestible. I’m not sure it does, but it certainly deepens the flavor of the beans and chickpeas.

 

I start describing the long, old fashioned oven-cooked method, and then I add my way of making the dish fast, with pre-cooked, frozen chickpeas without losing its original flavor and texture –by the way I, as most Greeks, like the chickpeas meltingly tender, somewhat mushy, not chewy.

 

I developed this recipe for EATING WELL magazine; part of a piece about the healthy Cooking of Crete (March 2020).

 

 

Serves 6-8 (more…)

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Bulgur Pilaf with Eggplants, Peppers, and Tomatoes (Hondros me Melitzanes)

This pilaf is often made not with plain bulgur (hondros in Crete) but with xynohondros, the traditional tangy ‘pasta’ of Crete, which is prepared early in the summer by simmering cracked wheat in goat’s milk that has been left to sour for 3-4 days. Tablespoons of the porridge-like mixture are spread on cloths and left in the sun, turned over a few times, until bone-dry. Usually the pieces are crumbled before drying completely, to facilitate the cooking. Kept in cloth bags xynohondros is used all year round for pilafs, soups, and added to stews with vegetables, meat or poultry.

To imitate the xynohondros flavor I suggest you serve the pilaf with dollops of yogurt and/or crumbled feta.

 

I developed this recipe for EATING WELL magazine; 

part of a piece about the healthy Cooking of Crete (March 2020).

 

 

Makes 4 servings   (more…)

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