I woke up the other morning thinking I was in Mexico. I dreamt I was strolling along a little beach near Tulum, with Bob Marley’s rhythmic words pouring out in the distance.
I had a lovely day planned: snorkelling, picking up some fruit at a local market, and, of course consuming mass amounts of margaritas and spicy tostadas.
I was so convinced I was there, I could smell the salty ocean air and feel the sun warming my bare shoulders.
It was inevitable, however, that I’d open my eyes and discover I was a world away from a sunny Mexican beach.
I slowly lifted my lids, blinked once, twice, three times. Outside my window was the forest; an owl hooting from nearby branch still concealed by the pre-sunrise darkness.
Slowly, I inhaled the smooth, comforting aroma of coffee brewing in the kitchen. The scent piqued my senses, and I sat up, recalling my dream.
If I couldn’t be in Mexico, I’d bring Mexico to me… with this simple, spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup. When I make this soup, I let the scents of the ingredients and sizzle of the chicken take me back to my dream; with the hot sun on my shoulders, and Marley’s song playing in my head.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 jalapeno or chili peppers, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, diced
Juice of ½ a lime
4 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
1 (28oz/796ml) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (19oz/540ml) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ cup chopped cilantro, plus more for serving (optional)
TO SERVE (optional)
Chopped green onions
1. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and add the chicken. Cook chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a large pot. Add the sliced onion, garlic, celery, hot peppers, bell pepper, lime juice, chicken stock, diced tomatoes, black beans, and chili powder. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil, and then reduce temperature to low. Simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours, or until chicken is fully cooked and vegetables reach desired tenderness; stir in cilantro, if using.
2. Remove chicken breasts from the pot and place on a plate; shred chicken with two forks and divide among serving bowls. Ladle soup over top of chicken, and top with tortilla chips and desired toppings; serve immediately.
SLOW COOKER OPTION:
Brown chicken as in step 1, and place all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Stir in cilantro, if using, and pick up at step 2.