(So, the first part of this post may make you hungry, whereas the last part will probably make you gag, so I don't really have any recommendations on whether to read it before or after eating. The choice is yours.)******************************
When we were on holiday in Vancouver many years ago, my mother gave me this stoneware cooking pot as a gift.
I think it's so pretty - it was handmade in a pottery studio in B.C. by a couple of potters who will make you just about anything in any colour you desire. They run a great business and Mum has crossed their palms with silver many, many times.
The design is based on the steaming pots created in the Yunnan province in China and can apparently be used in a variety of ways. Once upon a time I even had a little photocopied recipe/instruction booklet that came with the pot, but don't ask me where that disappeared to.
The hollow funnel in the middle of the pot allows the steam to rise and cook food very gently without it being exposed to direct heat. I have to admit that the only thing I've used the pot for so far is cooking vegetables, but the other day I got the urge to try something new and turned to the internet for ideas. Much to my surprise, there weren't very many, but I did manage to come up with a recipe (OK, it was really a couple of recipes that I combined to suit my needs) that turned out very well - chicken soup Chinese style. And we're using the term 'Chinese' very loosely here because I have no idea how authentic this soup would be.
Chinese Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken, about 3 - 3 1/2 lbs, washed and cut in 8-10 pieces
8 Chinese or Japanese shiitake mushrooms, rinsed and soaked in 1 cup hot water for 20 -30 minutes, or until soft (reserve soaking liquid)
5 green onions cut into two inch lengths
5 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup chicken broth
1 T soy sauce (or to taste)
Squeeze soaked mushrooms dry and cut into quarters, discarding tough stems. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanche chicken pieces for one minute. Remove with slotted spoon and place in Yunnan cooker, sprinkling mushrooms, scallions and ginger over top of chicken. Combine strained mushroom soaking liquid, chicken broth, 1 cup water and soy sauce and poor over chicken. Cover pot tightly and place over a large saucepan of boiling water. Steam for about 2 hours at medium heat, replenishing water when necessary.
When chicken is tender, remove it from the pot and discard the skin along with ginger. At this point you can either return the chicken to the soup or serve it separately with a dipping sauce. Because the soup is steamed or 'double boiled', it's clearer and has a much fresher flavour than a soup that been cooked in pot directly on the stove.
This was really, really good. I didn't want to use a whole chicken, so I used some cut up legs and a couple of breasts. Next time I think I'm going to use bone-in thighs only, because they tasted the best and were the most tender. The chicken isn't very pretty to look at , but the flavour is wonderful, and the soup will make you sing. Sliced Chinese cabbage and a bit of rice wine can be added to the dish before cooking if desired. You can also do this by placing a regular pot on a rack in a larger pot of boiling water and cooking on top of the stove in the same way.
So, speaking of chicken, here's the disgusting part. Along with mad cow disease, swine fever and bird flu, Germany has recently had its share of other Fleischskandale - meat scandals that you might not have heard about because they try to keep a lid on these things.
Earlier this year it was discovered that a large, well-known supermarket had been repackaging meat, especially ground meat, which is so succeptable to spoilage, and selling it way past its use by date. Uck.
Then there was the thing a month or so ago where Fleischabfällen - literally 'garbage meat' as in "not fit for human consumption" was re-labeled and sold to various companies who unknowingly used as a filling for ravioli, tortellini and the like. Eeew.
And this week it's all about the chickens. Some crazy company has reportedly been repeatedly freezing and thawing close-to-rotten chicken parts and attempting to sell them as fresh meat with a huge health danger to the consumer. Tests showed that much of the poultry that was confiscated and tested was contaminated. Mmm...salmonella anyone? The factory doing this has now been shut down, but a lot of chicken had already gone into circulation, mostly in Berlin and Saxony, and was used for making liverwurst and Putendöner - a turkey/chicken sandwich commonly served at Turkish snack bars. Gahhh.
I saw a guy being interviewed on TV who said that hygeine standards and food inspection rules for meat processing plants haven't changed in Germany since the 50's and that this kind of thing is rampant. Living here really freaks me out sometimes. You just NEVER know what you're eating and no one seems to care as long as someone makes a buck. Horrifying if you ask me.