There are many things that I treasure about my relationship with my boyfriend. High on that list, is that he will not touch any chicken that is served on the bone. Great. Cos that’s my favourite bit. If we had to fight over the grissly boney bits of the chicken, I doubt we’d even be together.
So while he favours the (blander, boring, flavourless) breast of the chicken, I will always Pocahontas dive straight into the thighs, the wings, the drumsticks and all the good things that hide underneath.
Having said that, the only thing a chicken breast is good for in my humble opinion, is braising it and Wolverin’ing the damn thing past the point of initial recognition.
Now I’ve expressed several times my disdain at anointing something as an ‘authentic’ cultural dish so please excuse my casual and wanton use of the term ‘Cuban’ in this recipe. I call it thus because I had a very similar soup served to me in an alley in the heart of Cuba alongside a lime stuffed beer and a cigar. I am not even kidding.
So after re-reading the menu and figuring out the elements of this delicious soup, I knew I was going to recreate it in some fashion in my own home on cigar-less lands. Yeah there is a big element here of ‘chucking everything in the pan’ which goes against my usual ‘roast a soup’ approach, but the work you do is fairly minimal. Just some stirring and blitzing.
And there are two steps to this soup: the making of the soup and the shredding of the chicken. The chicken is great but is by no means essential so if you want it simpler, quicker and vegan… by all means, omit the chicken.
For the chicken, get yourself a pot and pour in some flavourless oil.
Get the oil nice and hot before pressing in two chicken breasts with a big sexy sizzle. Leave it rest there for about 3 minutes before turning over to cook for a further 3 on the other side.
While it fries the other side, add some salt, pepper a shake of cumin and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Now pour in enough water to cover the breasts comfortably. Stir everything together and bring the water to a boil.
Once it’s come to a boil, turn the heat down and clamp on a lid. Leave the chicken simmering for about 40 minutes, in which time you could easily bring together the rest of the soup.
In another big pot, throw in some chopped onion, garlic, red chilli and red or orange peppers. Don’t be clinical about the chopping, it’s all getting blended anyway.
Peel a thumb sized piece of ginger, halve it and throw it in too along with some salt and pepper.
Stir everything together and cook until the onions and peppers begin to soften. Once everything has begun softening, shake in some cumin, paprika, garlic powder and some dried mixed herbs. I hate dried herbs but I do always have a jar of Herbs do Provence, so I went for that.
Stir everything together.
Drain a can of red kidney beans and take a small handful and put to one side. Pour the rest into the pan.
Cook the beans with the onions and stuff for another 5 or 10 minutes until the beans start softening. Now pour in some vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine) and bring it to a boil. Drop it to a simmer and allow to blip away gently for about 20 minutes.
Once the soup has simmer for 20 minutes, your braising time for the chicken will be up so you can turn off the heat and let it sit in the hot water while you blend your soup.
Carefully blend the beany oniony liquid using a hand processor or a blender until you get your desired creaminess. You can always add more stock if you like it thicker.
Get the soup back in the pan and put it on the hob and turn it on a gentle heat, adding in the handful of kidney beans you put to one side earlier. Now also throw in a handful or a small can of sweetcorn.
Grab your pot of chicken breasts and careful fork the chicken out into a bowl. Using two forks, shred the meat into juice flakes/shreds and add to the bean soup.
Allow the soup to bubble for like… 5 minutes just to heat up the beans/corn you’ve added and serve in big bowls with some fresh coriander.