During my childhood, we ate mostly Canadian-ized Hungarian food. And by Canadian-ized, I mean that Mom used yogurt instead of tejföl (sour cream), oil instead of lard etc. Every weekend we would have a roast of beef or pork (but mainly beef) and in the summer, Dad would BBQ steak and thick juicy bacon (szalonna). On weekdays Mom had her repertoire of chicken and fish dishes and I do recall the odd (when Dad wasn’t home for dinner) meatloaf, with the obligatory hard-boiled egg inside and various Hungarian stews like Lecsó and tok fózelék (a similar dish to creamed spinach but it’s on the sour side).
Around the timeI turned 14, I became interested in cooking recipes that I chose myself and my dear Mom encouraged me. One of my favourite resources very early on was the Milk Calendar, put out in full colour print for free by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Every December, I eagerly awaited the Milk Calendar tucked away in the weekend edition of the Toronto Star. One of the first dishes I ever made on my own was Chicken á la King with leftover chicken (back in the day when a roast chicken fed a family of four AND had enough leftovers for another meal!)
I have to admit, I am unsure if the following inspiration came from the Milk Calendar (I’m leaning toward this) or my beloved Five Roses Cookbook (recipe page 233). What I can tell you with most certainty is that as I was making this soup, I instantly recognized the aroma and flavour of our beloved childhood Chicken á la King. The ingredients are quite unexpected and it’s pretty healthy to boot. If you love the flavours of a creamy Chicken á la King, you will LOVE this recipe.
When did you first begin cooking on your own and did you have a favourite recipe book that you used until it fell apart?
Chicken á la King Soup
A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe
Makes 3 or 4 servings 700-800 mL (3 1/2-4 cups),
- 180 g red lentils, rinsed and picked through
- water to cover
- 2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
- 1/4 cooking onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 celery stalk, cubed
- 1 carrot, cubed
- 2 radishes, cubed
- 2 tbsp frozen peas (optional garnish)
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 100 g chicken breast, skinless and boneless, cut into smallish strips
- chicken stock
- sea salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the celery, carrot, and radish until soft. Add the chicken and cook through. Set aside in another bowl.
- In the same saucepan, add the remainding 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the lentils, stir and cover with water. Cook until lentils are very soft. Remove from heat and blitz with an immersion blender until very smooth, adding chicken stock until desired thickness is achieved (I left mine relative thick so it’s more stew-like). Add the apple cider vinegar and blitz until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Return the puréed lentils to the heat and slowly reheat, add the cooked vegetables and chicken and stir well. Serve pipping hot.