Social Distancing Cooking Adventures: Chicken, Lentil & Corn Soup

So I guess this is a cooking blog now?

Anyway, with much of the English-speaking finally coming its senses and started limiting mass gatherings to their daily lives for the next few weeks, one to be expected consequence was the extra pandemic of panic buying.

As the acute people observer as I am, I’ve been thinking about how I could write about my experiences during this whole ordeal, in considering that my experiences probably wouldn’t reflect many of my readers: I live in an outer-skirts, middle of nowhere Sydney suburb with a population of less than 4000, which means I have ample opportunity to visit the almost always deserted park reserve behind our house when my family members are driving me crazy inside (also the family German Shepherd needs the space to do his business).

Which brings to why I am posting a relatively mundane recipe on a blog that usually covers cinema, music and art criticism: It is an open secret in my family that if we were to stock up for whatever reason (i.e. because everyone else is going crazy and buying up all the toilet paper), we should always go for bags of rice and lentils (or dried soup mix if you want some variety), rather than potato chips, soft drinks and frozen pizza. Rice and lentils are a killer combination, since they pretty much cover your carbs and protein needs without the extra fat. Add a bit of seasoning and garnish from your herbs and veg stash (plus some meats like chicken, bacon or luncheon meat, depending on how much you love yourself) and cook in a rice cooker and you can keep yourself well-fed for weeks, if not months. And for (really) cheap.

The recipe is the result of this writer haphazardly raiding the pantry and fridge one afternoon, wanting to whip up something different to taste after spending a week eating the same thing while being stuck at home. Pretty much taking a staple western kitchen classic and adding a bit of East Asian spice to it towards the end.

Ingredients

(I am not a recipe developer, and am Chinese-Australian, so I won’t be listing strict amounts, as that’s not how my kitchen works: everything is approximate and to your taste. No one knows what you like more than you.)

Serves 4

Tools

  • Slow cooker (a regular pot works too. Slow cooker takes longer, but gives the flavors more time to infuse and soak in)
  • Wok or pan
  • Usual cutting utensils
  • (If pedantic) Measuring cups and spoons

Soup Base

  • 1 cup dried green lentils (or your regular market-bought soup mix)
  • Water (varying amounts – you won’t be needing more than 1 liter)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Chicken salt
  • Half a cup of salt-reduced chicken stock
  • Garlic salt
  • Mixed herbs (store-bought are usually a combination of thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano)

Garnishes & Substance

  • Olive oil (generous swig/around 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 regular-sized onions (tennis-ball sized)
  • Minced garlic and ginger
  • 1 stick of carrot
  • 2 tomatoes (or match with equal amount of canned tomato)
  • 1 cup of corn
  • 2 palm-sized slices of bacon
  • ~250g of chicken breast
  • Spring onion
  • Sesame oil (optional)
  • Coriander (optional)

Steps

1. Cover dried green lentils with enough cold water to cover. Let soak for 30 mins-1 hour.

2. Drain water, add lentils to slow cooker, cover with water (put a finger in the water, and it reaches the first joint when the finger tip touches the lentils beneath). Set to high & cook covered for 30 mins. If using regular pot, do the same, and cook for 20 mins on low heat/until just starting to boil.

3. In the meantime: dice your onions, tomatoes and carrots, set aside

4. Slice bacon into slivers; chicken breast into bite-sized cubes, set aside

5. Heat pan and olive oil, stir fry onions, minced pinky-sized piece of ginger and 3 clovers of garlic on medium heat with a small pinch of salt and pepper until slightly browning

6. Add bacon and chicken, stir fry for another 1 min

7. Turn heat to high. Add carrots, tomatoes and corn, stir fry for another 1 min after adding another small pinch of salt and pepper, a generous pinch of garlic salt (about half a tablespoon), plus the optional sesame oil to taste.

8. Transfer to slow cooker/pot

9. Add a generous pinch of chicken salt, mixed herbs and the half a cup of salt-reduced chicken stock

10. Add enough boiling water to cover the contents

11. On slow cooker: cook on high for another hour, then turn heat to low & cook covered for another 2 hours. With pot: Cook on medium to boil, then turn the heat back to low and cook covered for another hour.

12. Serve with finely chopped spring onion and coriander as garnish. Adding a side of rice or toasted bread works wonders

Tip: if you want to add even more heartiness to this recipe: oven-bake some cubed potatoes (with skin) and use as topping or side

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