Ajiaco – A Colombian Chicken Soup

Ajiaco, A Colombian Chicken Soup - The Nourishing Gourmet

Chicken, fresh summer corn and buttery potatoes are simmered in a rich broth and heightened with capers and crème fraîche. Somewhere in between a soup and a stew, ajiaco lingers in your mind long after you’ve finished your last spoonful.

Here is a little background on how I came to know and love ajiaco.

My younger brother found himself an amazing girl who is Colombian-American and when our families come together it is a revelry of art, music and some great food. My brother jams on the piano (and now my 8-yr old son is also playing away!), we get to glimpse Maria’s most recent artwork (she is an artist and art/spanish teacher), and the kitchen island is packed with all sorts of delicious food – from borsch to empanadas.

One night, Maria’s mom Ana made a huge pot of ajiaco to feed a crowd. I was looking over her shoulder, intrigued by the corn simmering in the soup, infusing it with a perfect touch of sweetness. She served it over small mounds of white rice, then (swoon) topped with cream and capers. I was hooked!

Ajiaco, A Colombian Chicken Soup - The Nourishing Gourmet

In between bowls (I stopped counting at four) I jotted down the ingredients and approximate cooking steps.

Since that night, I’ve experimented with it several times at home. A lot of the flavor comes from the broth. A frugal and flavorful chicken stock works well. This time I used a rich and gelatinous broth with drumsticks.

I hope you love Ana’s take on ajiaco as much as my family does!

HARD-TO-FIND INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

If you don’t have a Latin market nearby, a couple of the ingredients can be substituted.

1) Papa criolla potatoes. Traditionally, ajiaco is made with three varieties of potatoes including papa criolla which is a starchy yellow potato. Ana had some that she had purchased in the frozen section of a Colombian market (I didn’t know fresh potatoes freeze well, but they do!) She told me that yukon gold is a good substitution.

2) Guascas. Guascas is a weed native to South America that imparts an earthy, grassy flavor to the soup, balancing out the sweet corn and starchy potatoes. Oregano is the best substitute.

If you enjoy soups, check out Kimi’s cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons. 

MORE NOURISHING SOUPS TO TRY

Hearty Mushroom Soup (Grain-Free, Vegan)

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions

Miso Noodle Soup with Greens and Pork Ribs (Grain Free)

Knefla – A Savory German Stew

 

Ajiaco
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Columbian
Serves: Serves 6-8
 
This Colombian chicken soup uses simple ingredients that are heightened with crème fraîche and capers for an unforgettable meal.
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts (with bone and skin, preferably)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced, seeds and stems removed if it's a spicy one (optional if you want a kick!)
  • 6 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1.5 pounds of yukon gold or other starchy potatoes (4-6 medium), diced
  • 2 tablespoons dried guascas (or substitute dried oregano)
  • 3 ears of corn, cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 ear of corn, kernels
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined salt (unless your broth is salty) plus more to taste
  • 2 cups white rice, for serving
  • Capers, avocado slices and crème fraîche (or alternatively, heavy cream or Mexican Crema), for serving
Instructions
  1. In a large, heavy-bottom soup pot, heat a little olive oil (or your favorite cooking fat) over medium-high heat and sear the chicken, cooking a couple of minutes on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, sauté the tomatoes and onions 5 minutes. Add the chicken back to the pot and add the broth. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Once the soup has been simmering for about 15 minutes, add the potatoes, guascas, corn (ear segments and kernels) and salt.
  4. Simmer til the chicken, potatoes and corn are done (about 20 additional minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings. You may need to add salt, as soups with potatoes often require a good amount.
  5. Serve with capers and crème fraîche.

Simple

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions - This gentle, cumin-scented soup is topped with sweet caramelized onions, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, and a blast of fresh lemon juice. It’s incredibly easy and surprisingly delicious considering how inexpensive it is to make.

Savory lentils are gently spiced and blended into a creamy base, and then topped with caramelized onions and generous amounts of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil for a delightful simple soup. We make and enjoy this soup on an almost weekly basis (which is very often for us!). Our kids love this meal, it takes 35-45 minutes to make the whole thing, and it is so frugal too!

This recipe is from my soup cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons. (You can read reviews or buy it from my affiliate Amazon here).  One of my goals for the book was to have a wide variety of recipes to meet different needs. I wanted to have hearty winter soups, fresh spring soups, special occasion soups, and simple everyday soups. I felt for it to be a practical book – something that was very important to me as a busy mother in the real world – that it should be a mix of soups suitable for all sorts of dining needs. Such as having a recipe for Chinese Egg Drop soup to go along with your favorite Chinese meal, or Mussels in Tomato Garlic broth for a romantic dish for two, Pho Ga for that craving we get once in a while, and hearty Mexican Black Bean soup for a cold winter night.

However, I think that I was especially interested in making this soup cookbook full of practical, easy recipes as seen in my sections for Simple Soups with Eggs, Creamy Vegetable Soups, and Family Favorite Soups. I wanted people to have recipes that they could use on a regular basis!

This specific recipe is one of those everyday soups that we love! It is so important to have recipes that are good last minute recipes. For those of you who soak grains and legumes, red lentils don’t require a soaking period and cook up very quickly. (But you can soak them if you prefer.)

You may also enjoy a few other sample recipes from my cookbook: Simple Thai Broth, Miso Brown Rice Congee, and go here to get a PDF sample including the recipes for Mexican Tortilla Soup, Butternut Apple Soup, Spanish Garlic Soup.

Back to this recipe: As we have made this recipe over and over again I have only two notes to add to the original directions. My recipe testers and I had at first agreed that this recipe was best using just water to make it as it allows the lemon and caramelized onion flavors to really shine. But now we’ve found that we like it best when made with a light flavored chicken broth. Either way, you can’t go wrong. My second note is that if you find the soup getting too thick, thin it down with a bit of water or more broth.

This is one of our favorite recipes that we froze for enjoying after Larkin was born. We went through our store of it so quickly that I have already made another huge batch of it to freeze again! For more in depth directions for making caramelized onions, check out this tutorial. 

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions

4-6 servings

This gentle, cumin-scented soup is topped with sweet caramelized onions, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, and a blast of fresh lemon juice. It’s incredibly easy and surprisingly delicious considering how inexpensive it is to make. You don’t have to soak lentils because they are lower in phytic acid, but you’re welcome to soak your lentils in warm water for 8 to 18 hours.

Ingredients:
2½ cups/1 pound/450 grams red lentils (the orange ones, which indicates that they have been hulled)
8 cups/1.9 liters filtered water or broth of your choice (I prefer water to allow other flavors to shine)
1 medium/large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3–6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced by hand or in a garlic press
2 teaspoons cumin
Caramelized Onions (see below)
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Directions:
1. In a large pot, add the red lentils, broth or water, onion, garlic, and cumin. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are soft.

2. Meanwhile, make the Caramelized Onions.

3. When the soup is done, you can purée it for a super smooth soup or leave it slightly textured (the lentils turn to mush when cooked).

4. Salt to taste and serve each bowl topped with a spoonful of Caramelized Onions, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. I allow people to top their own soup as desired.

Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:
2 medium/large yellow or sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fat of your choice (see page 23)
Salt

Directions:
1. In a large saucepan, heat the fat of your choice over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle them generously with salt. Stir as needed to prevent premature browning, allowing the onions to “sweat” and wilt.
2. Continue to cook until the onions turn a light brown color, are sweet, and are very soft. This process takes about 30 minutes.

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions
 
 
This gentle, cumin-scented soup is topped with sweet caramelized onions, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, and a blast of fresh lemon juice. It’s incredibly easy and surprisingly delicious considering how inexpensive it is to make. You don’t have to soak lentils because they are lower in phytic acid, but you’re welcome to soak your lentils in warm water for 8 to 18 hours.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups/1 pound/450 grams red lentils (the orange ones, which indicates that they have been hulled)
  • 8 cups/1.9 liters filtered water or broth of your choice (I prefer water to allow other flavors to shine)
  • 1 medium/large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3–6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced by hand or in a garlic press
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Caramelized Onions (see below)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, add the red lentils, broth or water,
  2. onion, garlic, and cumin. Bring the soup to a boil
  3. over high heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer
  4. for 30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are
  5. soft.
  6. Meanwhile, make the Caramelized Onions.
  7. When the soup is done, you can purée it for a super
  8. smooth soup or leave it slightly textured (the lentils
  9. turn to mush when cooked).
  10. Salt to taste and serve each bowl topped with a
  11. spoonful of Caramelized Onions, a drizzle of fruity
  12. olive oil, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. I
  13. allow people to top their own soup as desired.

Caramelized Onions
 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 medium/large yellow or sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fat of your choice (see page 23)
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the fat of your choice over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle them generously with salt. Stir as needed to prevent premature browning, allowing the onions to “sweat” and wilt.
  2. Continue to cook until the onions turn a light brown color, are sweet, and are very soft. This process takes about 30 minutes.

 

Rich Roasted Bone Broth (My version of “Hearth” Broth)

How to make bone broth with roasted bones for an incredibly rich and delicious flavor

This flavorful and rich broth is beautiful and perfect to make this time of year because it has a little secret to it’s robust flavor – turkey. But that’s not all! This broth also features beef bones and chicken, and that trio makes a very delicious and full flavored broth that can stand up to the rigors of holiday meals. You can use it to make amazing mashed potatoes (I’ve already tried it out, yum!), soups, the best gravy, and more.

Plus, think of all of the potential nutrients you are adding to the meal when you use broth!

Many stores sell turkey parts, such as necks, legs, and wings separately from the turkey around Thanksgiving (and Christmas) solely for the purpose of stock making. I love to buy extra and freeze it, and now I have another recipe to use it in!

The inspiration of this recipe

The inspiration of this broth (and its name, “Hearth Broth”) comes from Chef Marco Canora, He’s the New York chef who uses broth not only in many dishes in his restaurant, but also recently opened up a window shop solely selling three different types of broth, one being “hearth broth” (His restaurant is “Hearth”).

(Yes, I was really inspired by this chef, as I already mentioned in my post, 3 Reasons to Consider Serving Nourishing Food at Holidays)

As an article about him shares, “At Hearth, he’s been making what he calls Easter broth (now called “Hearth Broth”) for more than ten years, boiling two whole turkeys, 40 pounds of beef shin, and 15 stewing hens in a massive stock pot in the basement and using it as a base for lots of dishes on the menu.

‘Every time I walk in the door, if the Hearth Broth is on the stove, I get myself a cup or bowl, I pour myself some, I season it, and I sip on it, and I’ve been doing this forever,’ he says. Even more so since he visited a nutritionist two years ago and decided to totally revamp his eating habits for better health.”

He must have a ginormous pot! This is the broth that he uses to flavor dishes in his restaurant, and one of the three he currently serves in his window shop. I knew I had to make a much more scaled down version of it.

A simple way to highlight it

I’m so glad I tried it out, as it is very good! If you wanted to serve a very simple starter soup using this broth, salt it well, fry whole sage leaves and croutons in butter on the stovetop, and serve in small bowls topped with the sage and croutons. Yum! The crispy sage is a delicious flavor component to this rich broth.

I used my slow cooker to make this broth, as I feel more comfortable leaving it on for long periods of time.  (Affiliate link)  This large and inexpensive slow cooker I use.

If you are interested in making homemade broths and soups, check out my cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons!

Rich Roasted Bone Broth (My version of “Hearth” Broth)
 
 
You can add about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the recipe to help pull minerals from the bones as they cook. However, my family sometimes feels this adds too much tang for their taste, so I have been leaving it out. You are wanting about 5 pounds of bones total, but it’s very flexible in how you split that poundage up between the different types of bones.
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of beef bones (knuckle, shin, etc)
  • 2 pounds of turkey parts (wings, necks, leg)
  • 1 pounds of chicken part (legs, wings, backs, or necks)
  • 2 celery sticks, snapped in half
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed, and snapped in half
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons of fat of choice (such as melted coconut oil, tallow, etc)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F
  2. In an oven safe pot, place all of the vegetables and meat parts and drizzle the melted fat over everything.
  3. Roast, without the lid, for 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables and meat are starting to brown. (You should be able to smell a lovely aroma when they are done).
  4. If using a slow cooker, transfer the meat and vegetables over now. If not, keep in the pot. Cover with water (16-20 cups), and add bay leaves and peppercorns.
  5. Bring to a low simmer, and skim off any foam. Keep at a really low simmer for 12-48 hours (I tested this at 24 hours).
  6. Turn off the heat, and let cool a little while, and then strain through fine sieve. Keeps for five days in the fridge (if you aren’t going to use it before then, either freezer, or simply bring to a low simmer again every five days indefinitely). Remember that this broth is completely unsalted and will need to be salted before use.

 

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

This rustic potato soup is delicately sweet, with caramelized onions and local apples, topped with savory gorgonzola. Not only is it nourishing-to-the-max with chicken bone broth, but it’s quick to put together and very frugal for even the tightest budget! This soup is simple enough for a busy weeknight meal (it has been devoured by my three year old son multiple times this week), but also has a touch of elegance with the addition of gorgonzola cheese in place of a traditional cheddar.

We’re officially in “soup season” as I like to call it. My crockpot is bubbling every week with homemade nourishing bone broth, and my freezer is always stocked with a few quarts for when I need it. Traditional bone broth has an abundance of health benefits ranging from helping intestinal disorders to the common cold (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, page 116-117). My husband and I drink a warm mug of broth, lightly salted, when we feel a cold coming on – and it really seems to help!

Potato soup is a favorite of mine, and I’m always looking for unique ways to serve it. I currently have twenty pounds of local apples, freshly picked from a nearby orchard. Traditionally, apples are paired with butternut squash, or sweet potatoes, but I loved the idea of a savory sweet soup with the humble russet potato and caramelized onions for extra flavor. Adding some gorgonzola on top gave it just the “bite” I was looking for.

I love keeping recipes simple, frugal, and nourishing, especially in the winter months when illnesses abound. You can’t go wrong when you use bone broth as your foundation. It’s easy to adapt this recipe for your taste as well. Add more apples or onions if you prefer it on the sweeter side, or switch out the gorgonzola for cheddar or brie.

Here are some other soups you may enjoy:

And check out Kimi’s Cookbook, (affiliate link) Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as well!

Potato Apple Soup with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola (grain-free)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
 
This rustic soup is savory sweet and very frugal. It could easily be enjoyed all winter long!
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used russet)
  • 3 medium sized apples of your choice (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Gorgonzola cheese to top
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt, and caramelize them for about 20-25 minutes until they are a deep golden brown. While the onions are carmelizing, peel and chop the potatoes and apples.
  2. When the onions are caramelized, add the potatoes, apples, broth, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Use a hand blender to puree the soup. You could also do it in batches in a countertop blender as well. I like to leave some chunks in the soup and not puree it completely.
  4. Top with a hefty portion of gorgonzola cheese crumbles.