One of the many things I love about Nigel Slater is the fact that he does not tie himself down to strictly authentic recipes. How liberating it felt when I first realised I could make a "Thai" soup that wasn't necessarily EXACTLY like the one you get in the restaurant down the road. This may seem like a strange blind spot, but until I met Nigel (figuratively speaking only, sadly) I doggedly followed the axiom that if authentic=good, innovation=bad when it came to ethnic cuisine. So this soup, in the Nigel tradition, has vague measurements and is vaguely...Thai.
1 medium leek
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
chopped fresh ginger, amount depending on how spicy you like it
3 Tbs dried lemongrass (couldn't find fresh - if you can, it's better)
2 dried hot peppers chopped into flakes (I can't remember the name, but they were somewhere in the 400 range where 1000 is the hottest possible pepper)
two chicken breasts
soy sauce (to taste)
the juice from half a lemon
fresh or frozen basil and coriander
snap peas (a handful)
a little sunflower seed oil mixed with sesame oil
3 cups of chicken broth (home-made if you have it, otherwise I recommend Better than Bouillon paste)
Cut the chicken in bite-sized pieces and marinate in a bowl with one third of the the garlic and ginger each, the lemon juice, the pepper and a few splashes of soy sauce. Slice the white to light green part of the leek in thin rings. In the bottom of a soup saucepan, sauté the leek with the rest of the garlic and ginger in the oils until soft. Add the bouillon and bring to a boil. Put the dried lemongrass in a bag or some cheesecloth (I have these nifty little cheesecloth bags with a drawstring) and steep in the broth. When the soup is boiling, slide the chicken and its marinade into the saucepan. Once it comes back to the boil, add the snap peas (cut in half for easier eating) and sliced mushrooms. Just before serving, add about a tablespoon each of cilantro and basil (if using frozen spices - a small handful of each if fresh). Taste for spices and add a bit of ground pepper and/or some more lemon juice if needed.
I had originally planned on putting some coconut milk in this but didn't realize I was out. Oops. I actually thought it was nicer than my usual soup with the milk. It's also one of my favourites for when my husband has a cold (as he does this week): it's spicy enough that he can taste it, the ginger and garlic are good at combatting germs, and it sweats the cold out. Oh and it's healthy, relatively fat free and only takes about a half an hour to make from start to finish!