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Recipe of the week: Olia Hercules' chicken broth with bran kvas, noodles, mushrooms and lovage

02 July 2020

Taken from Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules

Serves 6

  • 3 small onions, peeled
  • 3 carrots, scrubbed
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • ¼ celeriac, peeled and chopped
  • 1 x 1.2kg organic or free-range chicken, jointed
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled or torn
  • 2tbs butter
  • 2tbs rapeseed or olive oil
  • 200g wild or chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 250ml wheat bran and polenta kvas (or gherkin or sauerkraut brine)
  • 25g lovage or celery leaves, chopped
  • Crème fraîche, to serve – optional

Noodles

  • 2 eggs
  • 200g plain or 00 flour

If you don't fancy making your own noodles for this, feel free to use good-quality Asian egg noodles. On the other hand, you could make an extra batch of noodles and dry them – they'll keep in an airtight container for a few weeks, ready for your next broth...

The flavour of proper zama (or zeama, as this soup is called closer to the Moldovan border) comes from bran kvas and lovage. If lovage is hard to find, use celery leaves instead – the flavour is close enough. Equally, while I recommend trying your hand at making bran kvas (it's not difficult!), if you don't have any, add a splash of any ferment brine that is easy to get – sauerkraut or gherkin works well – or even just a squeeze of lemon juice.

Roughly chop half the onions and half the carrots, then pop into a large stockpot. Add the celery, celeriac, chicken, bay leaf and two litres of cold water. Bring to the boil, skim off any froth from the surface, then simmer for about an hour, until the chicken is tender and the meat is falling off the bones.

Meanwhile, make the noodles. Put the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly. Gradually add the flour, mixing with a spoon at first, then bringing the dough together with your hands. Knead until you have a smooth, tight dough. Cover with a clean tea towel or cling film and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes, or up to an hour.

If the dough feels dry and leathery, do not dust your bench with flour, but if the dough feels tacky, give the bench a generous dusting. Cut the dough in half and roll out each half with a rolling pin into a 30cm square sheet about 2mm thick. Dust the sheets well with flour, then roll up into sausage shapes and thinly slice. Gently unravel the noodles and leave to dry on a clean tea towel.

Dice the rest of the onions and grate the remaining carrots. Heat half the butter and half the oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat. When it sizzles, add the onions and soften for a few minutes, then add the carrots and cook until starting to caramelise – this will add natural sweetness to the broth. Tip into the stockpot.

Heat the rest of the butter and oil in the same frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the mushrooms until golden, then add them to the stockpot as well. Finally, add the kvas or brine and the lovage or celery to the broth and simmer for two minutes.

Boil the noodles in a pan of salted boiling water for about a minute, until just cooked, then drain, keeping them moistened with a little of the broth. (You can cook the noodles directly in the broth, if you like, but it will make it thicker and cloudy.) Put some noodles and chicken into each soup bowl, then ladle over the broth and serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche, if you like.

Photography by Joe Woodhouse

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