A grey and drizzly February day is the perfect time to raid my freezer for some tomatillos or Mexican husked tomatoes. Every summer I freeze as many of them as I can lay my hands on and they are a great joy throughout the rest of the year – although there are never enough of them to see me through until the following July. I am very frugal with them and use them only in dishes which really highlight their freshness, where their sparkle will make a real difference. When they are gone, I resign myself and forget about cooking with them for the time being, or fall back on tinned ones which are a good substitute in some dishes but not in others – it has to be said that the flavour of the tinned ones is decidedly inferior but when they are combined with dairy, cream or cheese for instance as in the recipe below, they are very acceptable.
This soup is creamy, rich and soothing and yet light and invigorating – particularly if you use a hot serrano chilli rather than my choice of jalapeño! If you have no fresh or frozen tomatillos, substitute drained tinned ones.
Cream of Tomatillo and Chicken Soup - Crema de Tomatillos con Pollo
225 g/8 oz chicken breasts without skin or bone
650 g/1 lb 7 oz tomatillos, husked and rinsed
50 g/2 oz jalapeño chillies
15 ml/1 tbsp olive oil
200 g/7 oz onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
175 ml/6 fl oz/3/4 cup double/heavy cream
5 ml/1 tsp bouillon powder or to taste
10 g/1/3 oz fresh coriander/cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 handfuls tortilla chips (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the chicken in a medium saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove immediately from the heat and set aside, leaving the chicken to cool in the liquid. Shred the cooked chicken, reserving the broth.
Heat the grill to high. Line the grill pan with kitchen foil and arrange the tomatillos and chillies on it. Grill about 13 cm/5 in from the heat until they start to brown. Flip them over and grill the other side. Cool slightly then scrape the seeds from the chillies and discard the stems.
While the vegetables are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to turn golden.
Transfer the tomatillos and their juice, the chillies, onions and garlic to a food processor or blender. Add the chicken broth and some seasoning and blend until smooth. Scrape the soup back into the chicken saucepan and stir in the cream. Reheat. Add the shredded chicken and bring back to a simmer. Check the seasoning.
Ladle into two warm soup bowls and sprinkle first with coriander and then tortilla chips.
Chilli and Chocolate Stars of the Mexican Cocina by Isabel Hood is available from Amazon.co.uk
Just The Two of Us Entertaining Each Other by Isabel Hood is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk