To pack your bags and leave your country is no small feat, especially when doing it with a tiny two year old daughter. It is an awful uprooting from all the things that come second nature, and although many see it as an adventure, and indeed it is a wonderful adventure, it is also traumatic to say the least, a trauma akin to that of losing a loved one. The heart goes through an entire year of mourning, not for the loss of material possessions, but for having failed to find happiness, failed to be happy, on your own soil. So you arrive in a country that is not yours; I had never been to France, not even on holiday, the day I sat foot in this city was the day I came to live here. It was with a heavy heart that I unpacked my cloths in the tiny wardrobe, of the tiny room we managed to rent near Gare Du Nord. I had left behind a house, all my books, and my much loved red oven. My heart shrank a size on learning how I had to live in a studio apartment with one small burner for a year, but I knew a life was still possible; one burner still provided heat and warmth. Yes, I could still cook chicken soup with dumplings when I felt like it, so all was good in the end. Paris welcomed me in one room, with a small restroom cubicle, one window overlooking a backyard, a bed, and a burner. One is always much better off having very little than having nothing. Paris has given my family hope and courage to find something we had not managed to find ever before, even in our native home. As the days and months roll on I realise how generous Paris has been with me, it has given me friends, a career, and most of all purpose.
This bowl of soup is dedicated to all those who have travelled far from home, to those who never seem to fit in, and to those who no matter how alone and different they feel from the rest of the people they grew up with, always manage to find solace in food.
Chicken Soup with dumplings;
1 free range chicken.
4 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
1 leek cut lengthwise
1 onion with skin on chopped in half
2 potatoes ,peeled
Bouquet garni of thyme/bay
1 Dried Chili
Juice of one lemon
10 pepper corns (always count them so you will know how many you have to remove, when ready to serve the soup)
For the Dumplings
225g Self Raising Flour
1 beaten egg.
- In a large stockpot, place the washed and chopped vegetables as well as the whole chicken, season with salt and the peppercorns, which you will later remove from the pot.
- Place the Bouquet Garni , this has to be removed after about 45 minutes, then allow a further 30 minutes of gentle simmer for the stock to mature in flavour and intensify in colour.
- For the dumplings, just take a medium sized bowl and bring together the flour, eggs and butter into a loose dough, take some stock into a small saucepan and simmer the dumplings, until they become light and start floating at the top, do not overcrowd the
- saucepan, so that you avoid the dumplings from sticking to one another.
- Once both the stock and the dumplings are cooked, shred the chicken meat into manageable bite size pieces, the meat will be so soft that it will fall off the bone at this point.
- Serve in a simple bowl with the dumplings at the bottom, topped with the meat and the stock, as well as a rounded portion of all the available vegetables.
Wherever you are, this soup will claim the place its cooked in as home and the people you eat it with as family.