A pasta soup with the spices of a soto.
Series: MODEST MONDAYS
All things in moderation is the theme of Modest Mondays, a weekly online cooking series with simple recipes to help counter a weekend of overeating.
Elbow macaroni is often regarded as the pasta for children. It's easy to eat and when served in a sauce, won't cause a big of a mess as longer pasta like spaghetti. There are various sizes and usually the smallest one is used in soups. The bigger ribbed one, as used here, is usually served with a creamy sauce (the grooves in the pasta help the sauce stick), or in a baked dish like mac and cheese.
This macaroni soup is based on the Malay/Indonesian soup dish soto ayam. The broth is usually made with chicken meat and bones, and it's usually served with shredded chicken and nasi himpit (rice cakes) or soh hoon (glass noodles). It is also flavoured with a myriad of spices, with influences from several culinary cultures – star anise from Chinese cuisine, for example, and cumin and fennel from Indian cuisine.
The soup starts off with the common vegetable trinity of celery, onion and carrot – what the French call mirepoix. These aromatic vegetables give a subtle background flavour to the broth and form the base to which other ingredients and seasonings are added.
If you're feeling a flu coming on, the spices in this soup will clear those sinuses and pep you up! Give it a try.
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
1/2 cup broccoli, cut into small florets (optional)
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced carrot
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1cm fresh ginger, peeled and bruised
1 stalk lemon grass (white part only), bruised
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1-2 bird's eye chillies (cili padi)
salt or soya sauce, to taste
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
2 whole cloves
fried shallots (store-bought)
torn coriander leaves
Cooked the macaroni in boiling salted water until firm to the bite (al dente). Rinse in cold water, drain and set aside.
Pound or grind all the ingredients for the spice powder with a little salt into a powder.
* If you do not want to grind the whole spices, get each one in powdered form and mix them together.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium pot. Add diced celery, carrot and onion and fry over medium heat until the onion turns translucent (do not let the vegetables brown), 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, lemon grass, cinnamon stick, star anise, bird's eye chilli and half the spice powder. Cook for 1 minute, then add the water, cover and bring to the boil.
Taste and add salt or soya sauce and more of the spice powder, if desired. When you're happy with the seasoning, add broccoli florets and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off heat.
Divide the cooked macaroni between three bowls and pour in the soup. Garnish with fried onion and coriander leaves.