I was stricken with some sort of stomach bug late on Wednesday night, which, while fairly gone by now, has continued to make my stomach somewhat delicate. As a result, I’m trying to take it easy while building up my strength, since my appetite is beginning to return (to put it nicely, my body didn’t retain almost any of the food I put into it on Friday, and yesterday the meds I took made me so woozy that I spent most of the day sleeping and didn’t eat much — the upshot seems to be that my body has been craving nutrition, but since I don’t trust it to handle normal food yet, I had to be resourceful). I’ve been trying to be strategic about the food that I’ve been eating in the last two days — simple, but high energy, whenever possible.
Today after church I had a chance to stop at a drugstore, so I picked up some ingredients to make the above, simple macaroni soup that my mother used to make for me sometimes when I was recovering from the stomach flu and well enough to eat solids, but not quite ready for rich foods yet. She used to make it on the stove, with cubed, tinned ham and frozen vegetables, but as my microwave was the best cooking option available to me [the pots in the dorm kitchenette are kind of sketchy, read: not sanitary, since there’s definitely illness going around and they haven’t been cleaned in a while], and I only had lunchmeat ham and peas from the dining hall, that’s what I used. I also added some tofu, for extra protein.
(This dish, by the way, is how I first came to fall in love with Bovril. My mom usually added Brand’s Essence of Chicken to strengthen the nutritional value of the soup, but once she ran out and used Bovril instead, and I liked it so much that I kept requesting it…Bovril and Brand’s still remain my favorite broths to put on noodles of any sort, especially on the threadlike Chinese noodles that are pronounced something like meen seen in Cantonese. People who know me are amused by how deep my devotion to Bovril runs; after they stopped selling it in the US, my grandparents used to bring bottles of it back for me each time they went to Hong Kong. When I went to England, I was THRILLED to find it on the supermarket shelves there, and – unaware that it was illegal to bring it back in my luggage since I didn’t get stopped at customs – brought two pots back, which I’ve been hoarding and slowly treasuring since…).
The soup can also be served with straight chicken broth. I ate it that way for dinner (the Bovril version was my lunch) to vary things up a bit. It’s a bit more “normal” tasting (to people who don’t like Bovril) that way. Here’s what the lighter version looks like:
Microwave Macaroni Soup
(makes 1 heaping portion)
1 cup dry elbow macaroni
1/2 can of low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth (if you want a plain chicken broth base, you’ll need a whole can)
handful of ham (cut into small pieces)
handful of cooked peas (frozen or fresh)
handful of small tofu cubes
2-3 heaping tablespoons of Bovril (or to taste, if desired).
1. Place the macaroni in a microwave-safe bowl and add enough water to amply cover it. Spoon out the macaroni for now, leaving the water behind in the bowl.
2. Microwave the water for about 3-4 minutes on full power (high/cook) or until it’s just about boiling.
3. Add the macaroni back in and microwave the bowl in 3 or 4 spurts of 3-minutes each, stirring the pasta and replacing any cooked off water with chicken broth between each spurt. The noodles will be done when they’re soft and white all through (note: because they’re microwaved, they may look a little different than noodles cooked on the stove — think EasyMac, and what it looks like when it’s done cooking). Be careful not to let the noodles stick to the bowl or run out of water at any point, or you’ll have a big mess on your hands!
4. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and stir in remaining chicken broth.
5. Place peas, ham, and tofu in serving bowl and pour noodles and broth over them. Spoon in Bovril to taste – if there’s not enough liquid left to make a soup, just add some hot water at this point (or, if just a chicken broth base is desired, add the rest of the can and nuke the soup for a few more minutes to get the heat back up, since the stuff from the can will be cold).
The soup can keep in the fridge for a couple days if placed in a properly sealed container. You may find that you may need to add more liquid before reheating if it’s been sitting in the fridge for a while, though, because the noodles will absorb a lot of the broth over time. I find that if I’m making a large batch or some in advance, it’s best to cook all the fillings — noodles, ham, peas, etc. — and store them without broth in the fridge. Then I just add broth into each serving as I’m ready to eat it.