Chicken stews and soups are traditional remedies for illnesses that naturally stimulate the immune system. The combination of stock from slow-cooked, marrow-rich bones; the antiseptic, immune-supporting properties in the fresh thyme and garlic; the beta-carotene from carrots; and the antioxidants from the mushrooms and onions in this comforting stew will all boost you up in preparation for winter.
It is vital that my clients don’t get ill whilst trying to conceive, especially as having a temperature can really damage sperm, so here is my delicious and immunity-boosting recipe – passed down by my grandmother through three generations – to help ward off those winter ailments.
Tip 1: For all ingredients, use organic where possible.
Tip 2: Don’t use alcohol-free or poor quality cooking wine – if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t put it in your stew! I like the small glass bottles of organic wine you often find in supermarkets, but any good-quality red wine will do. Of course, wine is not obligatory, but it does improve the flavour, and the boiling removes the alcohol content so you don’t have to worry about that.
Tip 3: Use a slow cooker. I have one and it’s one of my best kitchen equipment buys ever! You can bung all the ingredients in, turn it on, go to work and when you open your front door at the end of the day you will be met with the gorgeous aroma of your home-cooked chicken stew!
Tip 4: All stews benefit from being cooked the previous night and left for a day before reheating and serving – it hugely improves their flavour.
Tip 5: If you make double the amount of stew you can freeze some so you have a portion ready to go on those dark, cold days when your body needs a little pick-me-up.
A mix of free-range, skinless, bone-in chicken legs and thighs: trim off excess fat and allow one of each portion per person, and then a couple of extras to spare
18 small shallots, peeled and left whole
2 medium/large organic carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled then crushed or chopped
Chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered, allow about 4 per person
175ml of red wine
1-2 chicken stock cubes or pots, begin with one and taste at the end to decide if you need another
About 200ml boiling water for the stock, it’s best not to overdo it at first, you can always add more later
A good sprinkle of fresh thyme
1 heaped tsp of redcurrant jelly (or more to personal taste)
1 heaped tsp of Dijon mustard (or more to personal taste)
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a good-sized knob of butter
If you don’t have a slow cooker, preheat your oven to around 155°C fan/175°C/gas 3/4.
Whilst the oven is warming, put the onions, mushrooms, garlic, carrots and chicken pieces in a big frying pan on a medium heat with the butter and olive oil and fry until everything starts to turn golden.
Remove pan from the heat and transfer all the ingredients into a casserole dish or slow cooker then add the remaining ingredients. Cook in the oven for around 2-3 hours, stirring every hour. The exact temperature and timing will depend on your oven, you want it to gently simmer, not boil.
If you are using a slow cooker, start it on high until it starts to bubble, then switch it to low and cook for about 7 hours.
When it’s properly cooked the chicken will be falling off the bones, you can either remove these or leave them in.
It’s now that you adjust your flavour to taste: add more stock if it’s too dry, or if it’s too liquidy pour some of this off.
Add more jelly, mustard and thyme and season with black pepper and salt to your own taste requirements.
Serve with steamed greens and either potatoes that are steamed in their skins or creamy mash.
About the author
Mel holds a BSc (Hons) in Nutritional Therapy, an MSc in Nutritional Medicine, and has been specialising in fertility and pregnancy nutrition for over 18 years. Her career includes time spent at the Zita West Fertility Clinic, The Healthy Holiday Company, and Dr Jane Benn & Associates. Mel set up Melanie Brown Nutrition 10 years ago and currently works with clients across the globe advising them on fertility-enhancing diet and lifestyle.