When the temperature drops, warm up with Avgolemono – a spicy Greek chicken soup

When the temperature drops, warm up with Avgolemono - a spicy Greek chicken soup

Aggressive. That’s what we would call this sudden, powerful icy weather. How to fight it? Chicken soup. And this one has double the warming factor of its from Yiayia Next Door: Recipes from Yiayia’s Kitchen and the True Story of a Woman’s Incredible Act of Kindnessa collection of traditional Greek recipes and also a tribute to the strength of the community.

The yiayia, or Greek grandmother, we’re talking about is Nina who, when Melbourne brothers Daniel and Luke Mancuso lost their mother Teresa to domestic violence, started helping them by feeding home-cooked meals over the fence. After a while, the brothers began to document these acts of culinary kindness through a special Instagram account, @yiayianextdoor, which now has more than 86,000 followers. The account has grown into a social enterprise dedicated to inspiring compassion and encouraging others to “love your neighbor” as an antidote to violence.

Along with the trio’s food memories and recipes, Yiayia next door contains stories from others who have joined the yiayia community. This recipe is from Tania Gogos Wilson, who lives in Victoria and was obsessed with avgolemono soup as a child.

“My yiayia, Eftichia and thea (aunt) Angela always had a pot that bubbled for me on their hot plates whenever I visited one of them. We spent every weekend at my yiayia’s house while my parents took care of their social obligations (usually including a Greek nightclub, which used to be great in Melbourne). I would try to log how many bowls of avgolemono I could eat in a day, and my yiayia would send me home with a big Greek coffee pot full of soup so I could enjoy it all week.

Avgolemono is deeply comforting and nourishing, and this recipe is Eftichia’s version. “My yiayia was an extraordinary woman who died at the age of 99. Her son (my father) was Demetrious Gogos, the founder of the Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos in Melbourne, and the paper featured many stories about my yiayia’s life. She was very famous for her sweets.”

It’s not difficult to make – you just need time to simmer and let the chicken soak in the stock and soften. It’s perfect for making on the weekend, and like Wilson, you’ll have plenty left over to eat during the week.

Eftichia’s avgolemono
Serves 6-8
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Salt and black pepper
1.3 kg whole chicken
6 spring onions, 2 coarsely chopped, 4 sliced
5 celery stalks, strings removed, 1 cut into large chunks, 4 sliced
1/2 bunch dill, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve (optional)
170 ml (2⁄3 cups) olive oil, preferably Greek
150g (3⁄4 cups) medium rice
2 eggs
80 ml (1⁄3 cups) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Fill a large saucepan with 5.25 liters of water and season with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, braise the chicken with 1 tablespoon of salt and pepper and stuff the coarsely chopped spring onion, celery and half of the dill into the abdomen. Carefully lower the chicken into the boiling water and add the olive oil and the remaining spring onion, celery and dill. Lower the heat and cook the chicken for about 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, then add the rice to the boiling water and cook for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

When cool enough to handle, carefully remove the meat from the chicken carcass and cut into bite-sized pieces. You can add the chicken to the soup at the end of cooking or serve it separately. Beat the eggs in a large bowl fitted with electric beaters and gradually add the lemon juice while whisking. Add six or seven ladles of stock and continue beating until light and fluffy, then pour lemon-egg mixture into stock, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes. Return the chicken to the soup and heat gently.

Divide the soup between bowls and serve sprinkled with extra dill (if desired) and some freshly ground black pepper.

This is an excerpt from Yiayia Next Door: Recipes from Yiayia’s Kitchen and the True Story of a Woman’s Incredible Act of Kindness, published by Plum, available online for $36.99. Read more about the story of Nina, Daniel and Luke Mancuso here.

Looking for more recipes? look at the pamphlet recipe hub here.