Some of you may have noticed that I was a bit quiet on the blog 2 weeks ago. I had a horrible cold that kept me out of the kitchen for almost all of the past 2 weeks. I was so congested and couldn’t taste much so it didn’t make sense to try to cook. Nevermind that I felt like crap warmed over. When my steady diet of ginger ale and sour creme & onion chips didn’t seem to be making me feel any better, I wanted only one thing- my mom’s chicken soup. Not being able to get to her and her healing soup, I ventured to make it myself. I know, I know, it’s so cliché. I don’t think anyone can deny that a hot bowl of chicken soup does seem to make one better, though. Whether that bowl of soup is just warming you up on a cold day or helping to wipe out a cold, it always does the trick.
I know you’re nodding your head in agreement right now, but perhaps you’re asking “What makes it West Indian soup?”. Well, for one thing, it’s filled to the brim with root vegetables that are common in Caribbean cooking. The seasonings used like turmeric, clove, allspice and thyme also give the soup its unique flavor. Many Caribbean cultures make a soup that is similar. Provisions or root veggies like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, yuca and carrots are used, but each island or group of people put their own spin on it. In general, they all seem to be “kitchen sink” soups. You know, everything and the kitchen sink have been thrown into the pot like the Latin American Sancocho. These soups (most are more like stews) are usually very rustic. They have some sort of meat, sometimes more than one type, tons of vegetables and whatever else one can find in the cupboard like peas or beans. This chicken and dumpling soup is in the same vein or ladle as the case may be.
I used most of the same veggies my mother usually uses, but this soup is also delicious with sweet (ripe) or green (unripe) plantain, green banana, cassava (a.k.a. yuca), cabbage, pretty much anything you like and feel like eating that day. I’ve included the usual suspects onions, potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin. Then for some of you, the not so usual, white and yellow yams, dasheen (a.k.a. eddo, taro), and christophine (a.k.a. chayote, chow-chow, cho-cho and a millions other names). I would love to go on and on about the origins, history, and descriptions of these vegetables but that would take too long. Basically these are root vegetables that are originally from Africa, India, and the Americas and are very common in Caribbean dishes. Most taste like potatoes with subtle flavor and texture differences, and all taste yummy in this soup. The end result is a soup that sticks to your ribs like nothing that comes out of a can.
Now, for the stars of the show, the chicken and dumplings. I chose to use chicken wings because while it would be easier to remove the skin and the bones from the legs, I like chicken wings. It’s that simple. I don’t mind bones, bones are good, bones contain marrow. Mmmm. You could even use chicken breast, but it won’t be as flavorful. Remember, I said this soup is rustic. It’s a soup of the people. The people don’t mind bones in their soup. Viva La Revolución! Just kidding; it’s not that serious. The dumplings, though, are serious. If you’re thinking of wonton wrapper things filled with meat and veggies, stop! These dumplings are a dough made simply from flour, salt and water. They are rolled into torpedo shaped yummy goodness then dropped into the boiling soup to absorb some more yummy goodness. For me this soup exists solely as a vehicle for the dumplings, seriously.
Okay, on to making this soup. Invite everyone over because this serves about 12, but it does freeze well if you’re a family of 2. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare and about 2 hours to cook. Because of the time it takes, this might be more of a weekend dish, but don’t hesitate to try making it; it will be worth it. Enjoy! Ingredients:
- 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch of green onions
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 2 large carrots
- 1 lb fresh pumpkin ( I used Calabasa)
- 1 small yellow yam
- 1 small white yam
- 1 small-medium dasheen
- 2 christophines
- 5 sprigs of Thyme
- 4 tablespoons ground black pepper, divided
- 2 1/2 tablespoons seasoning salt (like Lawry’s), divided
- 1 packet of spicy cock soup mix (like Grace’s)
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon cold butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3-4 tablespoons water
1. Peel and coarsely chop vegetables. Cut off white bulbs from green onions and throw out. Finely chop green onion and set aside.
2. Season chicken wings with 1 tablespoon black pepper and 1/2 tablespoon seasoning salt. In a 6 qt. stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes until softened. Add chicken wings and brown. Once chicken has browned, add in chopped vegetables except for the pumpkin (the pumpkin will cook quicker so goes in later unless like me you buy really hard , tough calabasa) and the green onion.
3. Add about 5 quarts of water or more if vegetables are not covered. Add green onions, thyme leaves, allspice, remaining salt, pepper and spicy soup mix. Stir to mix, then cover. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
4. Allow soup to boil for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove any fat that had risen to the top with a spoon. Add pumpkin.
5. In a bowl, mix flour and salt together. Cut butter into pieces and with a fork or dough cutter cut into the flour. The flour should become crumbly. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until dough just comes together. Lightly knead dough. Do not overwork dough, or the dumplings will be tough. Divide dough into quarter sized balls. Roll dough into rope like shapes (like when you were a kid playing with play-doh) and drop into boiling soup. Stir.
6. Cook for about 5 minutes. The vegetables should be starting to get fork tender now. Check that they are soft but not turning to mush. Lower heat and simmer until soup thickens up. Additional seasonings can be added to taste. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
Serve hot with crackers or a hearty slice of thick bread on the side.