Aggressive. That’s what we’d call this all-of-a-sudden forcefully icy weather. How to combat it? Chicken soup. And this one has the double warming factor of being from Yiayia Next Door: Recipes from Yiayia’s kitchen, and the true story of one woman’s incredible act of kindness, a collection of traditional Greek recipes and also a tribute to the power of community.
The yiayia, or Greek grandma, we’re talking about is Nina who, when Melbourne brothers Daniel and Luke Mancuso lost their mother Teresa to domestic violence, started to help them by passing home-cooked meals over the fence. After a while the brothers began documenting these acts of culinary kindness via a dedicated Instagram account, @yiayianextdoor, which now has more than 86,000 followers. The account has blossomed into a social enterprise committed to inspiring compassion and encouraging others to “love thy neighbour” as an antidote to violence.
Along with the trio’s food memories and recipes, Yiayia Next Door includes stories by 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.
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“My yiayia, Eftichia, and thea (aunty) Angela would always have a pot bubbling away for me on their hotplates whenever I visited either of them. We spent every weekend at my yiayia’s house while my parents attended to their social commitments (usually with a Greek nightclub thrown in, which were great back in the day in Melbourne). I would try and set a record of how many bowls of avgolemono I could eat in a day, and my yiayia would send me home with a big Greek coffee jar full of soup so I could enjoy it throughout the 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 dad) was Demetrious Gogos, the founder of Melbourne’s Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos, and many stories were written in the paper about my yiayia’s life. She was very famous for her sweets.”
It’s not hard to make – you just need time to let it simmer and for the chicken to permeate the broth and get tender. It’s perfect for making on a weekend, and just like Wilson, you’ll have plenty of leftovers to eat during the week.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Salt and black pepper
1.3kg whole chicken
6 spring onions, 2 roughly chopped, 4 sliced
5 celery stalks, strings removed, 1 chopped into large chunks, 4 sliced
1⁄2 bunch of dill, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve (optional)
170 ml (2⁄3 cup) olive oil, preferably Greek
150 g (3⁄4 cup) medium-grain rice
80 ml (1⁄3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fill a large saucepan with 5.25 litres of water and season with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to the boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, smother the chicken with 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper and stuff the roughly chopped spring onion, celery chunks and half the dill inside the cavity. Gently lower the chicken into the boiling water and add the olive oil and remaining spring onion, celery and dill. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken for about 1 hour, until tender.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, then add the rice to the simmering water and cook for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
When cool enough to handle, gently remove the meat from the chicken carcass and shred into bite-sized pieces. You can either add the chicken to the soup at the end of cooking or serve it on the side. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with electric beaters, then gradually pour in the lemon juice, whisking as you go. Add six or seven ladles of the soup stock and continue to whisk until light and fluffy, then pour the lemon-egg mixture into the soup stock, stirring constantly for 1–2 minutes. Return the chicken to the soup, if you like, and gently heat through.
Divide the soup among bowls and serve scattered with extra dill (if desired) and some freshly ground black pepper.
This is an extract from Yiayia Next Door: Recipes from Yiayia’s kitchen, and the true story of one woman’s incredible act of kindness, published by Plum, available online for $36.99. Read more about Nina, Daniel and Luke Mancuso’s story here.
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