Convalescence is a period which allows a person to recover from an illness or an operation and is an integral part of the cure. Nutritional needs will depend on the type of illness, but the general principles are to include easily digestible, nutrient rich, appetising and easy to eat foods.
In the 1800’s the English made Beef Tea for invalids. Here’s a common recipe – put a piece of raw beef into a jar of water, put that jar in a saucepan of water and slowly heat it. Filter it, and make sure all the fat has been skimmed out. Serve that beefy broth hot.
Many cultures besides Chinese make special brews too. Our grandmothers and domestic helpers of old brewed many types of herbal soups using pork or chicken and even pork offals as the base protein. Many still do so.
I started to make chicken essence using the double boiling method on the advice of a dear friend during my daughter’s pre-natal period for our first grandchild. I continued making it for my father-in-law when he fell ill. It is fortifying for anyone who needs an extra boost, young or old. It is a much appreciated gesture and such a gentle way of showing support for a loved one. You are giving such an emotional boost too.
Recently I found that this method of using the pressure cook for homemade chicken essence is most effective for extracting all the chicken juices.
Although the method looks tedious from the number of photos attached, it isn’t. My new domestic helper learnt to do this after one session of how to set up and use the pressure cooker. A word of caution don’t try to FORCE the cover open when it is still hot. Most pressure cookers nowadays have a pressure release value.
Comments on the Ingredients
The chicken should be between 1.2 to 1.4 kg in weight. Removing the skin eliminates more than 90% of the oil from the finished essence. Making slits in the flesh helps to extract as much juice as possible. I have not found it necessary to purchase an organic chicken for this dish.
ALTERNATIVE Protein. Use 800 gm to 1 kg of very lean minced beef instead of chicken.
NOTE: Some invalids may have dietary constraints. I suggest leaving out the salt and/or wine. Several people for whom I have prepared this essence have told me that it still tests delicious sans seasoning.
Seasoning Chicken (optional)
Season with the appropriate seasoning. Tie plastic bag of chicken pieces and refrigerate till you are ready to cook (up to 2 days in the chilller section).
Hint: place the bag of chicken pieces into a “drip pan”. This keeps fridge much cleaner and more hygienic.
Cooking Utensils needed
A Pressure Cooker that has a capacity of 6.5 litres is needed. It is best to use stainless steel racks (heights of 2.5 cm and 3.5 cm), colander (interior 17.5 cm) and bowl (interior 18.5 cm).
Setting up the utensils in the Pressure Cooker
STEP 1. Place the Pressure cooker over your heating source (not shown in photo as the light over my stove area doesn’t allow for good photos). Place 3.5 cm rack into the pot. Fill water till it reaches the top of the rack.
STEP 2. Place the stainless bowl and the 2.5 cm rack.
STEP 3. The stainless steel colander sits on the rack in the stainless bowl. The skinned and seasoned chicken pieces goes into this colander. Slide the Pressure cooker lid close. Push the tap to the 2nd mark (yours may only have one setting).
Hint: to fit into the colander, the largest chicken should be no more than 1.4 kg.
STEP 1. Heat the Pressure cooker with its contents over high heat till the pressure button indicator raises to its maximum height and steam hisses loudly. Lower heat till you still hear a slight hiss but there is no fall in the height of the pressure indicator button. Time for 2 hours. Cook for that length of time.
STEP 2. Cool the Pressure cooker and its contents till the pressure indicator button falls back to its original position. Carefully remove chicken pieces and the precious chicken essence.
Hint: if your pressure cooker doesn’t have a pressure release button, place it under a slow running tap for several minutes so that the water cools the contents and thereby lowers the pressure.
STEP 3. Strain the chicken essence using a fine mesh metal strainer into clean jam jars.
Depending on the size of your chicken and whether your chicken is water chilled or air chilled, this recipe gives you about 240 to 350 ml of pure chicken essence.
1.2 to 1.4 kg fresh chicken. No need to be organic.
- 1 tsp of salt,
- 2 Tbsp wine (Chinese shao sing or medium dry sherry)
- 1 Tbsp ginger juice
- Dashes of white pepper.
Preparation of Chicken
- Remove skin of chicken and cut it into 4 to 6 pieces. Wash and dry chicken pieces. Make slits into the chicken flesh of each piece at close intervals to release as much of the chicken juice as possible.
- Marinate the chicken pieces in a plastic bag. Close bag and refrigerate till you are ready to cook (up to 2 days in the chilller section).
Preparation of Pressure Cooker.
Follow the steps in the photos and description above.
Cooking to get the Essence
1. Heat the Pressure cooker with its contents over high heat till the pressure button indicator raises to its maximum height and steam hisses loudly. Lower heat till you still hear a slight hiss but there is no fall in the height of the pressure indicator button. Time for 2 hours. Cook for that length of time.
2. Cool the Pressure cooker and its contents till the pressure indicator button falls back to its original position. Carefully remove chicken pieces and the precious chicken essence which has collected in the stainless steel bowl.
3. Strain the chicken essence using a fine mesh metal strainer into clean jam jars.
4. With the cooled left over chicken, remove all the bones. Break meat into smaller even sized pieces.
An appetising by product! Lovely Surprise
Can’t let all that chicken meat go to waste. Add flavour though a combination of spices and stir fry. It will go well with a bowl of rice and a sandwich filling. Below is just a suggestion of the additional flavourings. Some use sliced garlic, sections of dried red chilly peppers, vinegar and black soy sauce.
5. Using the chicken pieces from Step 4, heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a saucepan or wok. Once oil is hot, add sliced onions and chopped galangal. Fry till onion softens. Add the spice paste and another tbsp of oil. Cook for a few minutes, add chicken pieces. Cook till meat is well seasoned. Cool. Keeps for a fortnight in the fridge.
One medium onion, peeled n sliced
1 Tbsp chopped galangal
Spices (mix to form a paste with 1/4 cup of water)
- 1 Tbsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp Salt
2 to 3 Tbsp Oil