It’s officially cold and flu season. Where I live, it’s also the start of allergy season. When you feel like crap, soothing food is desirable—enter chicken soup. If you are tired of the classic chicken noodle, give this variation a try. Instead of pasta, I used pearled barley, and in a nod to Italian Wedding Soup, I add baby spinach and freshly grated parmesan cheese. This healthy soup is a treat regardless of how you’re feeling.
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 cups water
5 chicken bouillon cubes
1 bay leaf
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup pearled barley
1 medium carrot, peeled into ribbons, then chopped into confetti
5 oz bag of baby spinach
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
1. Place chicken breasts, bouillon cubes, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper flakes in a soup pot. Top with the water. Over high heat, bring the combination to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
2. Remove the chicken and bay leaf from the pot, discarding the bay leaf. Using a spoon, skim off any “scum” on the surface of the broth and discard. Add the barley and carrot confetti to the liquid. Stir to distribute. Allow the mixture to simmer for 25 minutes, until the barley is cooked and beginning to puff. Meanwhile, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
3. Return the chicken to the pot. Add the spinach a handful at a time, stirring until wilted. Once all the spinach has been added, add the Parmesan cheese to the pot. Stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. I usually do not add any salt because the bouillon and Parmesan are enough for me, but you might prefer to do so (my mum always does).