Lemongrass chicken soup is Ms Eng Ting Ting's go-to dish when she is under the weather.
The recipe is from her 82-year-old mother, who drank the soup to boost her health when she was pregnant.
Ms Eng, 53, says: "When my mother was pregnant with me, she was very weak because she had just given birth to my elder brother a year ago. She made this soup frequently to nourish her body.
"I grew up drinking this soup and cook it when the weather is chilly or when someone is feeling unwell. It is simple, but comforting."
It also helped that growing up in the Lim Chu Kang country side, Ms Eng - co-founder of urban farm Pocket Greens in Bukit Panjang - had easy access to the lemongrass and chicken required for the soup.
Ms Eng, who has two siblings, adds: "We were already practising farm-to-table at a young age."
Her mother, who runs an orchid farm, also grew vegetables and fruit trees. Her father, 82, used to work at Science Centre Singapore in the 1980s and later set up his own construction business.
Ms Eng's top tip for making the soup is to rub salt around the chicken. It acts like a "body scrub to exfoliate" the skin and remove smells, she says.
Other ingredients such as coriander roots and onions can be added as well, to make the soup the base of a delicious chicken stock.
She tries not to use too many ingredients in her dishes, she adds, in order to minimise food waste.
Yet while she eats simply, Ms Eng ensures that her dishes are packed with flavour. Her pomelo salad, for example, features a tamarind dressing mixed with roast shallots, garlic, fish sauce, gula melaka, fried dried shrimp, coriander, crushed peanuts and fresh herbs.
For her pasta salad, she adds grated parmesan and garlic, along with pomegranate seeds, feta cheese and pumpkin.
Baking may not be her forte, but she can whip up a carrot cake with walnuts and rum-soaked raisins, topped with cream cheese frosting.
The mother of two sons - aged 27 and 24 - started out as a copywriter before setting up several businesses. Eventually, the entrepreneur turned her passion for gardening into a business by setting up Pocket Greens five years ago.
At the farm, she runs tours and workshops for schools and companies. These educational tours include teaching about plants and trees along the way, as well as getting hands-on with growing edibles.
She stresses the importance of teaching children to identify plants and learn about the source of their food.
She says: "We teach children to take care of plants, which in turn teaches them not to waste food. They also learn to be respectful to farmers because now they realise who grows the food they eat."
LEMONGRASS CHICKEN SOUP
- 1 whole chicken
- Coarse salt
- 20 stalks lemongrass
- 10 to 20 pieces of sliced ginger, about 1cm thick a piece
- Salt to taste
1. Wash the chicken thoroughly. Pat dry and rub coarse salt all over the chicken. This acts as a "scrub" to remove smells from the meat.
2. Chop the chicken into chunks.
3. Remove the outer layer of the lemongrass and wash the stalks.
4. Crush the stalks using a meat tenderiser or pestle, and do the same for the ginger.
5. Place the lemongrass stalks at the base of the large soup pot. Layer the chicken on top, followed by the ginger.
6. Fill the pot with water until the chicken is fully submerged. The water level should be about 1cm above the ingredients.
7. Cover and place on high heat until the water boils. Then, lower to medium heat and continue to boil for one hour. Remove the layer of scum occasionally and check that the water level is not lower than the chicken.
8. After an hour, turn the fire off and leave the soup to rest for 30 minutes.
9. Before serving, bring to a boil again for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.
10. Remove the lemongrass and ginger. Serve the soup hot with the chicken.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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