One of the essentials of everyday cooking is tomato juice/puree. I am one of the people who never used fresh tomato juice because it tastes bland, too acidic & not sweet. I always used canned tomato juice! If you have ever cooked with canned tomato juice, you will know the huge difference I am talking about.
Canned tomato juice has a rich sweet flavorful tomato taste versus the fresh one. The only thing which made fresh tomato juice acceptable for me was adding a decent amount of tomato paste & unfortunately, the taste became too artificial for me.
Whether Ramadan comes in the winter or summer, soup is always the first dish we break our fast with. Serving a new soup everyday is not easy so let me help you this year with some new soup recipes using fresh seasonal veggies.
When I have guests over & they know I am making zucchini soup, I see an immediate frown on their face! Probably what comes to their mind is the diet version of boiled zucchini in tasteless water but when I serve my beautiful phosphoric green soup & they taste it, they don’t stop.
The soup season has begun! Unlike most people, I adore winter; I love the feeling of being cold & sipping on hot drinks & soups to keep me warm to the bone.
Last year, I shared the recipes for my all time favorite Lentil soup & spinach soup. This year, I am starting the soup season with the closest recipe to my heart; Tomato Cream Soup. One of the very first recipes I mastered & became a specialty that I have to bring to every family gathering.
Ramadan food preparation is one of the closest tasks to my heart! Although I am almost preparing food all your round but there is something so special about preparing food for Ramadan; it has a totally different feel!
The past few days I have been doing nothing but stuffing sambousak/katayef, cutting konafa, cooking tons of homemade stock, roasting nuts, making juices; basically having my fridge & freezer ready for this holy month!
I will be sharing with you as many recipes as possible, hopefully! I thought to start with my favorite recipe for homemade chicken stock because basically that’s the base for most of our food & it doesn’t make sense to be making stock daily in Ramadan!
I believe we all know how to make stock; it is basically boiling chicken with some spices in water until the chicken is cooked through, right? But lately, I have been reading a lot about making stock the professional way to have the maximum nutrients & flavor. I researched & tested so many times until I finally found the perfect recipe.
Below are some tips “that actually go against everything I knew about making stock” but they turned out to be the perfect base for a delicious recipe:
Sear the chicken in ghee/butter/oil before adding water to give the stock a richer taste; don’t worry about the fats, we will remove them at the end.
Start the stock with tap water & not hot water.
Use whole spices & not powdered spices.
Use vegetables & greens to flavor the stock; not only spices.
Stock has to be simmered uncovered on low heat. Simmer (don’t boil) because otherwise all the liquid will evaporate. A simmer is when you see a couple of small bubbles (in different spots) on the surface of the water every second or two.
Stock has to be cooked on low heat for a long period of time to extract all the nutrients & have a deliciously flavored liquid.
SALT OR NO SALT? There is a big argument about whether to add salt or not while making the stock but I went with the “NO SALT” opinion to reduce the sodium level. You will use stock in making other recipes so season the final recipe with salt & pepper & not the stock. If you decide to add salt to your stock, then add it at the end & not the beginning.
When you taste the stock, it has to taste clean, not bitter, not greasy & without any overpowering taste. Because the stock has no salt, it will be tasteless – DON’T WORRY – it is supposed to be like that! If you want to make a test, heat one cup of stock & season it with salt & pepper, you won’t believe the difference; it will be the normal stock taste you are used to.
To have a healthy nutritious stock without any fats, let the stock cool completely then remove the fat layer that will form on the surface.
Please stop using store bought stock cubes; they are just full of crap! Prepare a big batch of homemade stock & freeze in portions … it can stay in your freezer for up to 3 months!
Let’s get ready for Ramadan or actually for the whole year :)
3 French celery stalks with leaves كرفس (see notes for substitution)
1/4 bunch parsley بقدونس
1/2 garlic head, peeled whole cloves
5 cardamom whole حبهان
2 large mastic pieces or 4 small مستكا
3 bay leaves لورا
1 cinnamon stick عود قرفة (optional)
1 dried lemon لومى (optional)
1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorn فلفل حب
water at room temperature
Optional Step: Dry the chicken well with tissue paper. Heat a large pot on high heat, add the butter/oil/ghee, the mastic, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cardamon & black peppercorn then sear the chicken on all sides until it takes a light golden color. Add the rest of the ingredients & cover with water. All the ingredients should be covered with water.
In case you are going to skip the above step, put all the ingredients in a large pot & cover with water. All the ingredients should be covered with water.
Cook on high heat until the water boils. Reduce heat to low to maintain a simmer. A simmer is when you see a couple of small bubbles (in different spots) on the surface of the water every second or two (see above photo for reference).
Simmer UNCOVERED for about 3 hours; skimming off the foam & fats that floats to the top of the stock with a metal spoon. You can skim the foam & fat every 45 minutes. This isn’t necessary but it will make your stock clearer & cleaner.
After 3 hours, the stock should be reduced by about 1/3. Strain the stock through a sieve; disregard all the veggies & spices.
Let the stock cool completely then remove the fat layer (if there is any) that is formed on the surface.
Divide the stock into portions & freeze for up to 3 months.
Use the stock as a base in cooking sauces, soups & vegetables ..etc.
In case you can’t find french celery (the one with long stalks), substitute with 1/2 a bunch of local celery.
You can use the cooked chicken in salads, wraps & sandwiches.
You can use chicken wings & carcass instead of whole chicken.
You can find dried lemon (loumy) at any spice store.
Don’t add salt to the stock in order not to increase its sodium level. Stocks are used in preparing other recipes so season the final recipe with salt/pepper. In case you want to add salt while preparing the stock, add it at the end & not the beginning.
When you taste the stock, it has to taste clean, not bitter, not greasy & without any overpowering taste. Because the stock has no salt, it will be tasteless. – DON’T WORRY it is supposed to be like that. If you want to make a test, heat one cup of stock & season it with salt & pepper, you won’t believe the difference :)
A hot creamy bowl of lentil soup with crispy fried croutons is all what you need to keep you warm in this weather!
In the middle of all the Christmas posts that will be coming your way; I had to stop & share with you this recipe today!
I grew up in a house where soup was a staple on our lunch table whether it’s winter or summer! I can have soup on a crazy hot day or a cold freezing one; for us it’s just a dish served anytime of the year.