My area is sorely lacking in Greek restaurants, but we do have a wonderful Greek festival every year, and they have a lovely roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary on the menu that is a once a year treat. But about a year ago, a restaurant opened up (you may have one in your town too) that serves a Greek lemon and rice soup with the same sunny flavors. It is the reason I go there so I decided I better learn to make it myself.
And this is completely from scratch. I start with plump chicken breasts to make a stock flavored with lemon and herbs, then I pull the tender white meat from the bones. The finished soup has a healthy dose of lemon juice for zing and soft, comforting rice. I love this soup and my family does, too. I’m not saying I’ll never have it at that café again, but I think I’ve hit the nail on the head – and maybe improved it!
Plus, what could be better beside a bowl of soup than homemade bread? These chive muffins are easy, fluffy and full of flavor. The yeast gives them a light hand while the chives add a slightly onion-y tang. I suppose you could stir in any fresh herb, but the subtle taste of chives complements almost any soup. Serve these warm with a little butter melting into the crevices, and you’ve got a great soup supper.
Greek lemon and rice soup
For the stock
2 bone-in, skin-on whole chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic
2 celery stalks
4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs rosemary
For the soup
8 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup basmati rice
3/4 cup lemon juice (from 5–6 lemons)
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 teaspoon chopped oregano
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
Salt to taste
For the stock
1. Place everything but the lemon is a large stock pot and cover with 12 cups of water. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and reserve for finishing the soup. Drop the juiced lemon skins in the pot and bring the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer for 4 hours. Remove the chicken and set aside.
2. Strain the stock through a colander lined with damp cheesecloth. Skim any fat from the surface of the stock. The stock can be made up to one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate (if you do this before straining the fat, it will solidify and be easier to remove before proceeding). Pull the chicken meat from the bones, discarding the skin, and refrigerate as well.
For the soup
1. Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the chicken stock and pour it into a small pan. Pour the rice into a small fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Add the rice to the stock in the small and bring to a boil. When most of the liquid has cooked away and there are just a few bubbles and air pockets on the rice, remove the pot from the heat, cover with a tea towel and a tight fitting lid. Leave for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
2. Pour the remaining broth into a large soup pot (there should be between 7–8 cups). Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the diced chicken. Peel the carrot and grate it on the large holes of a box grater. Add it to the soup with the oregano, rosemary and cooked rice. Simmer until everything is heated through, taste and add salt as needed.
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110° F)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon salt
1. Combine the yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer leave for a few minutes until the yeast is foamy.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well combined and smooth. Pull the dough from the paddle, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
3. Turn the oven to 400 degrees F. to preheat and grease 12 muffin cups. Punch down the dough and divide equally among the muffin cups. Cover the pan with a tea towel and let the muffins rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
4. Bake the muffins fro 15 minutes until lightly browned.
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