Every culture has one recipe that is woven into the very fabric of its civilization and avgolemono is a dish that has been served at the kitchen table of every Greek and Cypriot ever born! This warming soul food chicken soup is laced with fresh lemon juice and egg which creates a creamy yet sharp flavour that is utterly unique. Legend says it can heal everything from a broken heart to a broken leg – I’ve tried it for the first ailment but opted for more modern medical practices for the second...
Put the chicken in a stockpot or large saucepan that is a snug fit but with some space. Add sufficient water (or stock if using) to cover the chicken by about 5 cm/2 inches and set over a medium heat. Add the bay leaves, parsley sprigs and celery stick, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a very gentle simmer for about 11/2 hours. After that time, turn off the heat, remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside on a carving plate or board and cover. Pass the stock through a sieve set over a large bowl and discard the bay leaves, parsley and celery.
Return the strained stock to the pan and set over a medium heat. Add the rice and cook for about 15–20 minutes, or until the rice is just tender, then turn off the heat. Shred a quarter of the cooked chicken and add this to the pot along with 125 ml of cold water and the diced halloumi. (Save the remaining chicken to enjoy as leftovers.)
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the lemon juice, then push a ladle into the soup avoiding any rice, chicken or halloumi
and, very slowly, pour the ladleful of soup into the beaten eggs, continuously whisking with a balloon whisk as you do, add 2 ladlefuls in total. The aim is to temper the egg mixture to bring the temperature up without cooking it. If you pour the liquid in too quickly, you’ll cook the eggs and it will curdle. Once the eggs are tempered slowly pour the mixture back into the stockpot, stirring as you do. Taste the soup, add more lemon juice and a little salt to taste.
If the soup needs warming, put it back over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring continuously, but don’t let it simmer or it will curdle. Once warmed through, ladle the soup into bowls, ensuring everyone gets chicken, rice and halloumi, then top each one up with more soup. Finish each bowl with a few grinds of black pepper, a pinch of salt,
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of lemon zest.
This recipe is extracted from Rustica by Theo Michaels, published by Ryland Peters & Small (£16.99) Photography by Mowie Kay © Ryland Peters & Small.
Love Mediterranean food? Visit our Greek recipes or Mediterranean recipes sections, or try some of Theo Michaels' other recipes, including meat-free moussaka and flourless orange and almond cake. We also have a wide variety of soup recipes for delicious light lunches.