Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spiced Lemon Cilantro Chicken Soup

Since it is springtime, I thought I would make this fresh, colorful soup to celebrate.  This soup has all sorts of flavors that are my favorites: acidity from lemon, bright tang from tomatoes, exotic warmth from spice and chicken... and of course, fresh cilantro.  Plus it used a bunch of ingredients I already had in my pantry, and as an extra boon it gave me an excuse to use adorable little israeli couscous.  Well, it wasn't really an excuse, as much as a decision.  When I first came across this recipe, it used orecchiette noodles instead; sorry little ear-shaped pasta, but I don't really like you.  (Although the translation is cute, isn't it?  Orecchiette in Italian literally means "little ear.")     

Anyway, more to the point, this soup was just the sort of warm, fresh meal I was craving.  Plus, I got to chop to my hearts content using my new cutting board!  (Isn't it pretty?)  

Having taken the time to make my own chicken stock before, I know that homemade broth has a full-bodied flavor that only comes from hours of simmering and reducing; there is really no comparison to canned broth.  Which is why I was particularly interested in trying out this recipe since it enhances store-bought broth by a quick simmer with loads of spices and fresh vegetables.

I admit that I was a little doubtful that this quick-fix would produce a flavorful broth.  However, after straining off the solids and tasting it, I was pleasantly surprised.  The broth was infused with loads of flavor, with an especially potent and interesting taste of cumin.  This method didn't necessarily yield a broth as good as homemade, but I think the time saved was a good tradeoff and turns this recipe into something that you can whip up quickly for a weeknight dinner.

As I mentioned before, I substituted israeli couscous in place of noodles for this soup.  In my opinion this was a great choice, although you can feel free to use whatever type of noodle you like.  My boyfriend said he would prefer a larger noodle, but I think this was perfect for this kind of soup.  Never used israeli  couscous before?  Well, it is not at all like traditional couscous, and more resembles something like orzo.  Once it is cooked it has a lovely tender texture and a pearl-like color.   

This soup can absolutely be made in under an hour (potentially only 30 minutes if you are Rachel Ray-fast), since you simmer the broth, cook the couscous, saute the chicken all at the same time.  Then all that is left is to cut the chicken, and assemble the soup!

You can add as much or as little of each component to your bowl as you like, so that is it is personalized just for you.  A little more chicken, a little less tomato and lemon - that is how my boyfriend likes it.  I am a bit of a lush, so I added loads of all the ingredients.  And of course, it goes without question that I doubled up on the amount of cilantro.  What else did you expect from The Cilantropist?  

Spiced Lemon-Cilantro Chicken Soup
Inspired by a recipe, but altered with The Cilantropist's touch

Chicken Broth: 
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
generous 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
4 1/2 cups canned chicken broth (about 3)

1 medium boneless chicken breast
olive oil

1 cup (dry) israeli couscous

2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Thin lemon slices for garnish

Basically I made this soup in three quick steps:

1. Make the broth.  In a large stockpot, add the onions and a splash of olive oil and cook until just moistened, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the next 5 ingredients, and saute for an additional minute, then add canned chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.  When finished cooking, strain soup to remove solids.  Just before serving, add lemon juice to broth.  

2. Cook the chicken.  While broth is simmering, add a splash of olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Season chicken breast lightly with salt and pepper, then cook in skillet for about 8 minutes, turning once during cooking.  Once chicken is cooked through, set it aside to rest.  After 5 minutes, cut chicken into small dice.    

3. Cook the couscous.  To prepare israeli couscous, add 1 cup water to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Add israeli couscous, reduce heat and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Couscous is ready when most of the water is absorbed and couscous is tender.

Assemble soup: ladle broth into individual bowls, then add diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, diced chicken, and several spoonfuls of the couscous.  Garnish with lemon slices if desired.           


  1. This looks yummy! I will have definitely have to try this during my time off!

  2. What a lovely soup, wonderful spring flavors and I just love the couscous pearls there!

  3. that soup sounds great. I love your new cutting board. Soooo pretty. :)

  4. This soup is beautiful! And what an awesome idea for quick broth! :)

  5. This looks outstanding- fresh and light. I am a cilantro lover and could not live without soup. The sour of lemon in a soup always hits the spot for me. I am definitely trying this!

  6. This is my first time visiting. I'm a cilantro junkie and I love your banner.

    Your chicken soup is wonderful and reminds me a little of Chicken Soto from Indonesia, except for the cous cous of course!

  7. Hey, that was really very helpful. Please share more such updates.

  8. Gracefully written information on this blog are going to support me for my coming assignments. Every point was very clear and taught me few new parameters. I would like to use this information in coming future.
    อาหาร สำหรับ เด็ก

  9. While broth is simmering, add a splash of olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. bridal bed sheet with price , vicky razai website Season chicken breast lightly with salt and pepper, then cook in skillet for about 8 minutes, turning once during cooking. Once chicken is cooked through, set it aside to rest. After 5 minutes, cut chicken into small dice.