Egg and lemon soup – how to make avgolemono
This is the ultimate frugal soup if you live in rural Cyprus and keep your own hens. Don’t worry, it’s fine if you don’t. It’s also bloody delicious despite the unpromising name. In our family it’s usually tacked on at the beginning of the Christmas feast as KP adores it, but this year made an appearance on New Year’s Day where its properties as a restorative for mind, body and soul were proven beyond the shadow of a doubt (ok I might mean hangover cure). So how do you make it?
First take one elderly hen that’s stopped laying and make a deep, flavourful chicken stock. Then add onion celery and a handful of rice (sometimes fine cubes of potato are added too) then stir beaten egg into the hot broth to thicken but not scramble (like you do in a Carbonara). Lemon juice is added at the end to lift the whole thing to a fragrant, moreish, velvety broth. Alternatively you can use the (much simpler) recipe below. It works well with stock made from the turkey carcass but the stock cube version is actually KP’s favourite – and you know me too well to never endorse stock cubes unless it really did taste exceptional.
This is a family recipe complete with quirky notes from KP’s Mum and Grandma.
Egg and lemon (avgolemono) soup
- 4 pints water (approx.)
- 3 chicken stock cubes or equivalent fresh chicken or turkey stock
- 1 medium potato — diced small (optional)
- 1 medium onion – chopped
- 1 or 2 sticks celery (according to size) — chopped
- 1/2 cup long grain rice
- 4 eggs
- 2 lemons (if small may need another 1) — juice only
- Put water in saucepan with potato, onion and celery. Bring to the boil.
- Add the stock cubes or equivalent and dissolve.
- Turn heat down so that the liquid is simmering. Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Bring back to the boil and add the rice. Boil gently for a further 20 minutes to cook the rice.
- Take saucepan off the heat and allow to cool a little.
- Whisk the eggs in a basin using a balloon whisk.
- Whisk a little of the lemon juice into the beaten eggs. Use a spoon to dribble the lemon juice, a drop at a time. It is about 2 teaspoons. (I am not sure why I do this except Mother and Auntie Sophia used to.)
- Add most of the lemon juice to the liquid and rice and whisk it in. If you have a lot of lemon juice use your judgement as to how much you add to start with. You can always add more but not take out.
- Using a soup ladle whisk some of the liquid in to the eggs and then pour all the egg mixture in to the liquid and whisk well.
- Taste (and ask KP to taste if it is “lemony” enough).
Note: The only things to beware of are adding the eggs when the liquid is too warm or boiling after eggs added. I have found that if I take the saucepan off the heat before doing steps 6 onwards it is about right.
Let me know if you try it. It’s perfect for a Dubai winter as comforting but refreshing at the same time. Free range eggs from happy hens will make this the soup taste even better. I’m just off to have another bowlful for lunch.
Happy New Year by the way. I’m not making any grand resolutions (no dry January or formal diets) just a few focussed goals to work on. It does feel like a new broom as one year ends and the other begins… even though really it’s just another day! Do you feel the same or do you find resolutions helpful?