Mary Berry’s Malay Rice

I became a huge fan of Mary Berry when I was introduced to her on the Great British Baking show, when she and Paul Hollywood were judges. More recently, we enjoyed her shows available on those channels you buy by monthly subscription. In particular, Mary Berry Classics.

Most food shows I watch, I watch purely as entertainment. I might tsk at the overuse of a garlic press, or scoff at how TV producers define “easy” as something that requires a large shopping list, and two hours of food prep.

Mary Berry Classics had me scrambling for a piece of paper and pen to take notes and jot a few recipes down. More importantly, it got me motivated to try them!

The first recipe I tried, her take on a Spanish tortilla, was a huge success. I am not writing about it today because we ate the entire egg dish without a thought of taking a photo of it. No proof, so it didn’t happen.

The Malay Rice dish was an equal success. This time I remembered to take a photo, however, the picture shown is the left overs so doesn’t have the crowning jewel of a soft cooked fried egg sitting on top. You will just need to use your imagination for that.

Using Mary’s favourite catchphrases, this dish was a “bit of alright” and “tempting”. She uses this recipe to summon her husband in from whatever corner of the garden he might be in. I can see why. It is aromatic with the onion, garlic and Asian spices. Once I got this going on the stove top, Michael was sniffing around the kitchen pretty quick too.

Here’s what you need for this easy recipe:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips (I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs because that’s what I had in the freezer)

1 – 2 tsp honey

1 large onion, diced

1 red pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 6 because I can). Mary is a huge advocate for the garlic press. I get by by squishing the garlic with the flat side of my knife, sprinkling with a bit of salt, and keep working it until the desired crushed-ness. If I get fed up with squishing the garlic, I just chop it to smithereens. I’ll do anything to avoid having to wash a garlic press, even if it means I have to expend 10x more energy than I would if I relented and used a garlic press. It’s a thing.

200 grams mushrooms, sliced or chopped, white or brown

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp curry powder. Mary recommends mild, I used medium.

** I went a bit off-roading here, and also added a generous spoonful of coriander and tumeric to the spice blend.

250g long grain rice (I use jasmine scented), cooked and chilled

150g frozen peas

Eggs (1 per person)

4 tbsp soy sauce

Olive Oil for cooking the chicken and veg (about 1 – 2 tbsp)

Salt and pepper, to taste


Fry up the chicken in a bit of olive oil and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Mary taught me that by adding the honey, you can achieve a lovely golden browning, without needing to overcook the chicken. It worked like a miracle.

Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add a bit more olive oil, and fry up the onion. When it softens, add the chopped red pepper and garlic. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms reduce.

Season to taste.

Add in your spices, and allow to cook for another few minutes. Stir, don’t let it burn. My mix was quite dry, so I added a splash of water to lift the fond off the bottom of the pan.

Once your veggies look good, the air is aromatic with the scent of those lovely spices, and you’ve shooed your life partner out of the kitchen, add the cooked and cooled rice and frozen peas to the mix.

Mary teaches that it is important to make sure the rice is cold after cooking. If you add it while it’s warm, you’ll end up with mush. Add it cold, and it will crisp up nicely.

Mix in your cooked chicken, and add the soy sauce. Cook on high to allow the rice to crisp. Watch this carefully, and continue to stir. Don’t allow it to burn.

Just before you are ready to serve, fry up one egg per person. A soft runny yolk is visually appealing, but if you forgot to watch your eggs, or prefer to have a solid yolk, that will be fine too.

Plate up the rice, and rest the egg on top.

And there you have it, Mary Berry’s Malay Rice. It is super easy to make, and is flexible enough to use whatever chicken and spices you might have or prefer.

Dixie Lee Chicken

This post has two purposes. One, to introduce you a new fried chicken place. Two, to tell you what I did to do to make this blog post happen – from conception, to research, to testing, to sitting in front of the computer Googling “how much water will I need to drink to remove all the exceess salt in my body”. It all starts innocently enough.

I’m sitting at my desk at work, toiling away, ensuring I am giving tax payers value for their money. In walks a co-worker, opening the conversation with this:

“Hey Cath, can I talk to you? I have a non-work question”.

“Sure!” I say. I have sufficiently toiled, I can take a five-minute break.

“What’s that new chicken place called on Whyte?” is the gist of the question.

“What new chicken place”, asks I.

“On Whyte, where the Cheese Factory is”, is the answer.

I had no idea, but being the helpful sort of person I am and because I have a network of Foodies on my Twitter feed, threw out the question to the Twitterverse. No one responded within .5 seconds, so we resumed our conversation.

We had a short chat about Korean fried chicken, fried chicken in general, and by this point, the craving for fried chicken was firmly planted. I know me. These cravings don’t go away until fed. I haven’t quite mastered the deep breathing, go for a walk, drink green tea and meditate to stop these cravings in their tracks. No, instead, I do research on all things fried chicken. I dreamt of fried chicken last night. But then, the night previous I had a dream that K.D. Lang stopped by to talk to me while at an open air concert and she told me that I am a lesbian….

….. anyway, my point is, just because I dream of fried chicken, doesn’t mean I need to eat fried chicken. I just finished watching Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food which was interesting, and left me with these simple words that will help eat healthy: “If it’s advertised on TV, don’t eat it”.

As it is, I have never seen an ad on TV for Dixie Lee Chicken. (I will always find a loophole).

This morning I received rescue from Sharon Yeo of Only Here for Food. She suggested the place we were looking for was Dixie Lee Chicken.

With my husband home sick with a  bug, after some basic nursing and cooing, I went into to work to complete a project. A project tax payers would be proud of. We’ll not mention the Facebook post while I was at the office, expressing my pleasure of being able to still stick the Bugles I found in our staff lunchroom on the ends of my fingers….


…. I decided I’d indulge in some fried chicken for lunch. Off to Dixie Lee I went.IMG_5122

Dixie Lee Chicken is located at 8943 82 Avenue Edmonton. It is in the same strip mall The Cheese Factory was, and continues, to be part of (although they are now just a retail shop).


Dixie Lee Chicken opened in Bonnie Doon one month and one week ago. There is plenty of angle parking in the front of the building and adjacent side street. The shop is clean, has a comfortable amount of open space, and plenty of seating.

I was greeted by a friendly person. I placed my order and was told to wait about five minutes. In those five minutes, I observed that the seating area was clean, and busy. There were a few tables still available had I decided to eat in. The Cheese Factory etched window is visible inside Dixie’s space.

I was delighted when a couple who arrived after me were speaking fluent French with the lady at the counter. I love Bonnie Doon for that reason. Although I don’t speak French, I love that our country is bilingual and love hearing it.

There was lots of interest in Dixie Lee. As I was waiting a number of people came in to check out the menu and the space.

I had ordered the five-piece fried chicken (no fries thanks), and a small coleslaw. Just as my order was due, a fellow came out from the back and asked if I would mind legs and wings – he’d give me more of those if I did. I happily accepted because those are my favourite pieces anyway, and left with a box of 8 juicy pieces, plus one plump breast.IMG_5120.jpg

After a meandering drive home, and a peek to check on Michael’s vitals, I sat myself down with my box of chicken and tub of coleslaw.

The chicken was still crispy and juicy. My only experience previous to this was Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chicken-on-the-Way in Calgary, and Mary Brown‘s. I match this closest to Mary Brown’s. But better. Mind you, when I had Mary Brown’s, I was also following the Jenny Craig diet, and had just spent $120 for Jenny Craig food for a week, and decided to buy Mary Brown’s chicken that same evening on my way home. That supper was laden with guilt and shame.

*melancholy sigh*

The coleslaw. Dixie Lee’s coleslaw is sweet, has a nice crunch, and tastes delicious. A bit more liquidy than I’m used to, but completely edible and enjoyable.

Dixie Lee will cure all your cravings for fat, salt, and sugar in one fell swoop. If you are going to blow your diet, do it right, and do it big. I recommend Dixie Lee’s in Bonnie Doon.



Mug Meals

Mug meals. Make your meal, in a mug. In the microwave. What could be easier?

I was approached by Robert Rose Inc. a publisher of cookbooks and given a choice selection of cookbooks to review. One of the choices, and I’ll admit the least appealing of my selections, was one titled, “250 Best Meals in a Mug“. My initial thoughts were negative because I felt an individual meal for one, in a mug, is not very helpful when there are two people living together in happy harmony. I also thought the meals would be unappetizing, made with processed pre-made foods, and not very pretty to look at.

However, in the spirit of my Twitter account tag line @walshcooks, “Everything. At least once”, I thought I better give it a try. So I did. Am I ever glad I did.

The first recipe I tried was poaching an egg. In a mug of water.  With a bit of vinegar. In the microwave. Because of special laws and regulations I cannot share the method with you because that would be WRONG in the eyes of the publisher and the author. But I can tell you this. It was as simple as putting a bit of water in a mug adding a drop of vinegar and adding a cracked egg. Then putting it in the microwave. The result of my first attempt was PERFECT, providing you like a hard egg yolk. My second attempt had a softer yolk, which is my preference. Poached eggs are vexing, and I’m more than happy to continue my quest for the perfect poached egg. Here’s a picture of my first poached egg attempt using the instructions in the “250 Best Meals in a Mug” cookbook:

P1020484P1020487P1020488The thing of it is though, even if you aren’t a fan of a hard-cooked egg, but ARE a fan of egg salad sandwiches and want to make an egg sandwich for your own lunch, you could purposely hard-cook your poached egg, and in more than minute and less than two minutes, you could have the perfect cooked egg for the sandwich, without the bother of listening to Julia Child by boiling up a bunch of eggs, take them off the heat, cover, and let them sit for 17 minutes, and then peel and peel and peel the eggs.  You couldn’t use this meal in a mug method for a church lunch of egg salad sandwiches. Nope. But for YOUR lunch, at work that day, you could.

And this is where I get really excited. The recipes in this cookbook are perfect for taking to lunch at work, especially when you have to worry only about your own lunch because you have an independent spouse who can forage the wilds for his own lunch. If he actually decides to eat lunch that is. My hubby is able to survive on a single banana and cups of tea until supper time. AND he remains civil, fun-loving and humourous. I’m grouchy five seconds after breakfast and counting the seconds to my morning snack. I digress.

The next recipe I tried from this cookbook was “Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint”. Here’s a professional photo:

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

And here is the official recipe, I got permission you see. So let me hand you off to the author, Camilla V. Saulsbury:

Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint, page 164, Meatless Mains

Zesty tomatoes and chiles, warm spices and earthy lentils are the stars of this lively vegetarian mug. A trio of toppings − yogurt, almonds and fresh mint − heightens the wow factor.

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 cup rinsed drained canned lentils 250 mL
1⁄2 can (10 oz/285 mL) diced 1⁄2 tomatoes with green chiles, with juice
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin 2 mL
1⁄4 tsp ground ginger 1 mL
1⁄8 tsp hot pepper sauce 0.5 mL
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt 15 mL
1 tbsp chopped roasted salted almonds 15 mL
2 tsp chopped fresh mint 10 mL

Suggested Accompaniment
Warm naan, pita or flour tortilla

In the mug, combine lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until hot. Top with yogurt and sprinkle with almonds and mint. Serve with a suggested accompaniment, if desired.

If available, you can use vacuum-packed lentils in place of canned ones. They are typically found in the produce section, near the tofu products.

Canned black beans or pinto beans can be used in place of the lentils.

An equal amount of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, or minced fresh chives, can be used in place of the mint.

Freeze the remaining tomatoes in a small sealable freezer bag for future use. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

Prep Ahead Option
Combine the lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce in the mug; cover and refrigerate. Measure the yogurt, almonds and mint into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back. I feel so… pure…. giving credit where credit is due. Now. The moment you all are waiting to see. How did MY version work out? Here’s the real life version pre-cooked:

P1020492 I need to explain that I don’t have a mug (16 oz) big enough to make these meals in. But I do have a 2 cup Pyrex that works beautifully. I also couldn’t find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I used one of the many abundant cans of plain diced tomatoes I have in our storage cupboard sort of in Mormon fashion, “just in case” of alien invasion, end of man-kind, Revelations sort of action. I mean, a girl has to be prepared, and nothing says prepared more than a storage cupboard full of canned diced tomatoes. Anyway… as I have many cans of diced tomatoes, I didn’t really try that hard to find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I picked up a small tin of jalapeno peppers in the Mexican section of the grocery store. I diced these up and added it to the diced toms. I mixed the stuff up, stuck it in the microwave and cooked it. Here’s the end result (without the yogurt… I’m on a dairy free kick right now):

P1020493And this is where I got really excited. I mean REALLY EXCITED. I’m always looking for satisfying healthy options to eat at lunch. I’m not a fan of left overs. But here, after trying this recipe, I had my lunch. As you can see in the picture above, I dumped the lentils into a Glad-ware container, and took it to work for my lunch that day. It was perfect! Not as pretty as the professional photo, but it was delicious, satisfying and super-easy to make.

This is going to be a long blog. I hope you stay with me. Because I am honestly super-excited about this whole prospect of meals in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and taking it to work for your lunch!!

The next recipe I tried, and was even MORE impressed with was…. Pesto Chicken Couscous… (and I now hand it over officially to the publisher/author):

PestoChickenCouscousMealsMug 2
Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Pesto Chicken Couscous, page 46, Fast & Easy 4-Ingredients or Less

Keep a jar of basil pesto in the refrigerator − it will guarantee a multitude of tasty meals in minutes, 24/7. Need proof? Try this delicious couscous and chicken mug.

16-oz (375 to 500 mL) mug
1⁄2 cup water 125 mL
1⁄2 cup couscous 125 mL
1⁄2 can (5 oz/142 g) or 45 mL water-packed 1⁄2 chunk chicken, drained and flaked
3 tbsp basil pesto
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 15 mL

In the mug, microwave water on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until water is boiling. Stir in couscous. Cover with a plate and let stand for 5 minutes.

Fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in chicken and pesto. Microwave on High for 1 to 11⁄2 minutes or until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Pesto Chickpea Couscous: Replace the chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) drained rinsed canned chickpeas.

Red Pepper and Pesto Chicken Couscous: Add 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) chopped drained roasted red bell peppers (from a jar) with the chicken.

Either regular or whole wheat couscous can be used.

Freeze the remaining chicken in a small sealable freezer bag. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

You can replace the canned chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) diced cooked or deli chicken or turkey.

Prep Ahead Option
Measure the couscous into a small airtight container; store at room temperature. Measure the chicken and pesto into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. canned chicken creates too much of a negative visceral reaction, so I opted instead to buy one of those pre-cooked chickens you see/smell at the entrance to Safeway. To you, mass cooked Safeway chickens might cause an unpleasant visceral reaction, so IF you have the time and money, cook up your own free-range, hormone free, angel kissed chicken, and use the left overs for this recipe.

I loved this recipe, and didn’t tire of it. I made if for three lunches in a row, and can’t wait to make this recipe again. Here’s how it looked in my reality:

The couscous

The chopped pre-roasted Safeway chicken

The best Pesto I could find in Safeway. Of course, the BEST pesto ever is the pesto you make yourself, or buy from Strathcona’s Farmers Market.

Quite pleased with my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. This is pre-warmed.

This is post-warmed, with fresh Parmesan cheese in the handy Glad-ware tub to take to work for lunch.

Now…. best for last. This probably isn’t the best idea to take to lunch at work, but say you are excited because you have a Sunday brunch planned with your spouse, friend, secret lover and suddenly it’s cancelled! SHOCK. And all morning you have been anticipating something rich and delicious which is typically brunch-ish. Well. Here’s what you do….. back to Camila:

FrenchToastMealsMug 2
Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

French Toast, page 85, Breakfast

I’m a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not just for the usual reasons, but also simply because the offerings − from bacon to cheesy eggs to cinnamon rolls − are so scrumptious. French toast proves my point. With the help of a mug and the microwave, it’s now an any-day option, even on the busiest mornings. Don’t forget the syrup!

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 tbsp granulated sugar 15 mL
1⁄8 tsp salt 0.5 mL
1⁄8 tsp ground cinnamon 0.5 mL
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup milk 125 mL
1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract (optional) 1 mL
11⁄4 cups bread cubes (preferably stale) or small plain croutons 300 mL

Suggested Accompaniments
Confectioners’ (icing) sugar; pure maple syrup; butter

In the mug, use a fork to whisk sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) until very well blended. Add bread cubes, stirring and pressing them down into the custard to absorb the liquid. Let stand for at least 15 minutes (so the bread absorbs the liquid). Press bread down with a fork to compact.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes (checking at 11⁄2) or until firm to the touch and liquid is absorbed. Serve with any of the suggested accompaniments, as desired.

Orange Marmalade French Toast: Replace the sugar with an equal amount of orange marmalade.

Buttermilk French Toast: Replace the milk with buttermilk, and replace the cinnamon with a pinch of ground nutmeg.

Banana French Toast: Reduce the milk to 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) and add 1⁄3 cup (75 mL) mashed very ripe banana. Replace the sugar with packed brown sugar.

Add up to 2 tbsp (30 mL) raisins or chopped dried fruit, or 1 tbsp (15 mL) miniature semisweet chocolate chips with the bread.

Prep Ahead Option
Whisk the sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) in the mug, then add the bread cubes; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. O.M.G. this works so well. Now…. my pictures just don’t do it justice at all, but O.M.G….. PMSing? Craving richness? Sweetness? Butteryness? I can’t tell you how perfect this is, how easy it is to make, and how yummy and satisfying it tastes. Here’s my pictures:

Pre-cooked mush

Post-cooked mush on presentation plate.

Split for sharing, buttered and maple-syruped to sooth the most ornery of dispositions.

I tried something new by following the recipes in “250 Best Meals in a Mug”, and am deeply satisfied and thrilled to have learned how to make instant meals (for one). I hope you will give these recipes a try as well.

Chicken Soup

Although Michael denies that he’s getting sick (probably worried I’d blog about him and his “man cold”… and he would be correct), he has not been his normal self these last few days.

Naturally, my husband’s health and comfort is top of my mind, and the faster he becomes healthy again, the sooner I get my sous chef back in the groove. So I made soup. Chicken soup.

This soup tastes delicious, and is easy to make.  There is no fuss in finding a farm with chickens running around, capturing a chicken, letting the chicken go because you had a moment where you thought you’d become vegetarian, then you smell bacon cooking somewhere and you give up the vegetarian idea, catch another chicken, kill the chicken, pluck the feathers,  roast the chicken, feed the family chicken with potatoes and fresh vegetables for supper, pick the meat off the carcass, make stock, and THEN make soup.

I promise you, this will be the BEST chicken soup you ever make (DISCLAIMER: providing your taste buds are exactly like my taste buds).

To Cure a Man Cold

You will need:

2 chicken breasts, raw or cooked (method written below is based on raw chicken)
1 onion, chopped to smithereens (small dice)
2 ribs of celery, also chopped to smithereens (small dice)
4 peeled carrots, and sliced thinly
1-900 mL Tetra-type box of chicken broth
1-900 mL Tetra-type box of vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups egg noodles
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Olive or canola oil
Teensie bit of butter (1 to 2 tsp)

In a large pot, put in about 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook the chicken until done. Take out chicken, place on a plate and set aside. In pan drippings, add your chopped onion, celery and sliced carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, or as long as it takes to check Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, play a few hands of Scrabble and chop up your chicken into soup-friendly pieces. Remember to stir the veg.

When vegetables are tender, add your chopped chicken, basil, oregano, thyme, teensie bit of butter, salt and pepper. Give it a stir. Add your two boxes of broth and noodles. Stir. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for at least 20 minutes. Serve.



Turkey Soup

Thanksgiving was but just a week ago, and already I’m craving the soul soothing flavours of a full Thanksgiving dinner. Mom sent us home with little care packets, but those were “gobbled up” (get it, gobbled? as in gobble gobble? *sigh* I know, that’s pretty bad) by Monday last week.

I get the treasure of Thanksgiving dinner… the turkey bones. I get them for several reasons: a) I’m the only one that will fuss with them, and b) I get a primitive thrill listening to the cracking of the bones when I try to fit the carcass into the shape of a Zip-Lock bag to take home with me.

Let’s digress…

This weekend has been a weekend of soothing my soul. Sometimes my soul gets a bit persnickety and then it kicks me in the shins and says, “Hey Walsh, take care of me”. So I did.

Yesterday I drove out to Seba Beach and enjoyed the autumnal colours along the highway, had a nice visit at our family cemetery for a blessing with a Catholic priest who seemed to be delighted to be in a graveyard so close to Halloween (I thought this was cool). I was impressed I didn’t burst into a cloud of steam worthy of a coal driven locomotive when the holy water was splashed all over my person.  Met with family for coffee, sandwiches and carrot cake at “the cabin” afterwards, and am always so happy that it takes about 10 minutes to leave for all the hugs, well wishes and promises to see each other very soon.

Had a terrific drive home with the sun just sinking with five perfect photo opportunities, but by the time I safely pulled over to the side of the highway, found the camera, and got it going, a stupid cloud would destroy the shot.

Today, while my hubby was watching a PVR’d and very, very, very bloody rugby match between New Zealand and Australia for the World Cup semi finals, I made a break for it, and headed to the river valley. I did a spin (spin makes it sound energetic. I am using a  cane and stop frequently to turn over leaves when something catches my eye. Today I found a blue unicorn. Seriously. No drugs.) around Queen Elizabeth Park and then settled myself on a park bench that is just high enough to do the physiotherapy I’ve been instructed to do to make my knee work again. While I do this, I am on the phone, and because there’s some people out there who aren’t aware that when a person is on a park bench talking to themselves, laughing and shouting and flinging their hands around wildly, that they may actually be talking to someone on a phone and not themselves. It can be quite funny, especially when these people look at me sideways and with a look of worry. I give them a big smile  and wave like I’ve never waved before. I wish I could drool on demand. (You can see why my soul needs some soothing).

And while I was sitting on my park bench doing my physiotherapy, sipping a perfect mug of coffee made for me by my hubby, and getting pelted by leaves falling from the trees, decided today Is the Day of Soup.

Making soup is so pathetically easy you can just see the people at Campbell’s laughing their heads off as they count their millions as we consumers buy their tinned soup. I love their soup, don’t get me wrong. But there is nothing like homemade, and it is so easy I’m surprised every household doesn’t have a huge pot on the big burner simmering away all day, all week long.

Do you buy those pre-cooked chickens at Safeway? You know the ones. Near the deli counter. In that plastic container with cardboard handle? Usually in the neighbourhood of $8.99 – for a whole, cooked chicken? It’s cheaper, and more convenient than buying a raw chicken and going through the whole process of roasting. I don’t know how they manage it, but they do. And darn it, it’s great chicken.

Anyway, if you don’t have turkey bones, you can do it with your post-Safeway roast chicken carcass. Eat some of the meat for your supper. Save a bit for a chicken sandwich next day, then the rest of it, bones and all, chuck it in a pot and boil the bejezzus out of it.  Add carrots, onion, celery if you like.

When your house/apartment/condo/trailer/Winnebego/hut smells like grandma’s, or mom’s, or dad’s, or when you start to get the warm fuzzies and feel the love-o-meter reach level 11, pull the carcass out of the broth.

Now, if you are impatient and want to carry on with dinner, you need to skim off the fat. I find this challenging, but it can be done. Skim it off with a spoon and plop it in something you can throw out with the garbage lest that kid from the City of Edmonton TV ad doesn’t come chasing after you, with her bewildered father in tow, for chucking fat down the drain.

If you have time, my favourite thing to do is set the entire pot out on the patio overnight (or, if you are blessed with a a walk-in fridge, you can put it in the fridge). Of course, the patio technique only works during this time of year, or through winter, when it gets chilly outside. The fat will rise nicely to the top and congeal into a nice slab you can easily remove the next day. Make sure your pot lid seals tightly because the last thing you need is to wake up in the morning with the lid removed and a bunch of squirrels, pigeons and magpies hanging around on your patio with distended bellies singing old Irish songs.

Okay, now we have the broth, the fat is removed. And we have bones. If you had meaty bones, now is the time to pick off the meat (it is here I send a heartfelt apology to my vegetarian friends, I realize this sounds so primitive), chop it up and add it back to the broth. This is also a good time to pay homage to the vegetarians and chop up a bunch of carrots, celery, onion and add it to the broth too.

It is at this point you do what you want to make the soup you want. Somedays I will add potato, others a pasta. Maybe rice. Whatever. No matter what you do, unless you suddenly decide to add a full box of Sifto Salt, whatever you do will turn out just fine.

Today, however, I added potatoes and a can of tomatoes. I whirred it up with a whirring thing so it is more smooth than chunky. Then I added the turkey meat.

The spice/herb thing is up to you too. Because I added tomatoes today, I added oregano, basil, garlic, rosemary, thyme and a weeeee bit of fennel. Just a bit. Every time I add fennel I can hear Valerie, of A Canadian Foodie, telling me that her hubby doesn’t like fennel. I know someone who doesn’t like onion. It takes all sorts to make this world turn spin.

At this point, you have a pot of soup. Mission accomplished.

I’m sure there is some young keen University student out there looking for their PhD dissertation topic. If that’s you, you could easily study and write how homemade soup gives everyone, even the devil, the warm fuzzies and a love and kindness for man-kind. Add homemade biscuits and we move to the realm of rapture. We’ll leave rapture for another day.