It’s been a pretty rough cold and flu season here in New Zealand. To date, there have been three fatalities and with 1.26 million flu vaccines administered, national stocks are running low.
While food won’t cure a cold or flu, what you eat can keep your body nourished to fight off whatever germs have you under the weather.
Every culture has a magical cure-all that locals swear by. Having lived through a flu season here or there around the world, I’ve tried out a few of the local remedies.
Below are three easy, shelf-stable, and nourishing dishes you can try next time Lemsip just isn’t enough.
Pastina in Brodo: Italian Small Pasta in Broth
Pastina in broth is a family classic. My Italian grandmother made this for us when we were feeling unwell and this is still what I crave when laid out with a cold.
This dish is typical cucina povera which translates as “poor kitchen,” and refers to food that is simple but nourishing. Italian cooks traditionally had to make the most of ingredients they could grow or forage. Pastina in broth is a great example of this type of cooking; a scraggly chicken boiled up and the meat used for something else, a little garlic and a handful of pasta is transformed into something magical.
The dish consists of pastina (star or rice-shaped pasta) simmered in clear chicken broth with slices of garlic, cracked pepper and topped with parmesan. You can also whisk in an egg if you need a little more substance. It’s bland, warm and hearty, what more could you want when you are tucked up in bed with a box of tissues?
For 1-2 servings:
- 6 cups chicken broth (you already know what I am going to recommend… homemade is best)
- 1 cup pastina (any teeny tiny pasta shape)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic sliced as thinly as possible
- Fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring the broth to the boil with garlic and pasta.
Once the pasta is cooked ladle into bowls and top with loads of fresh parmesan. How easy was that!
Ochazuke お茶漬け: Japanese Green Tea on Rice
Rice porridge is a popular breakfast food, and a cure-all similar to chicken soup, around Asia.
When I lived in Japan I was never that into rice porridge (Okayu) お粥 which is rice boiled with a 6:1 ratio of water to rice and often topped off with salted salmon. What I did love, and is a close cousin is Ochazuke お茶漬け. After I had it at a restaurant on a bitterly cold Japanese night it became a staple in my winter diet.
Ochazuke consists of fresh hot rice, topped with green tea to create a silky soupy consistency similar to risotto. This dish is unbelievably light and ever so slightly sweet from the rice.
As with all simple dishes, ingredients are important. While this dish can, of course, be made with any rice and green tea you have, getting Japanese rice, tea and soy sauce is integral to the dish. Let’s be honest though, we are all busy and when one is sick, rice varieties become far less important, so enjoy any way you can.
For one portion:
- 1 cup cooked white rice (Japanese rice would be preferable but short-grain rice is also good)
- 1 teaspoon tea (Genmaicha or Sencha are best)
- 1 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
- Shredded or flaked nori seaweed
- Sliced spring onion
- Soft boiled egg
- Sesame seeds
- Salmon (Salted is traditional, but I use hot smoked in New Zealand, you could even try it with canned salmon)
Prepare the rice.
Once it is ready to eat, brew the tea and let steep for 2 minutes.
Stir the shoyu into the tea and pour over the rice.
Add your toppings and enjoy immediately (this really is not a dish that keeps, eat it now or be disappointed!)
Inguru Koththamalli: Sri Lankan Ginger & Coriander Tea
This is the equivalent to Sri Lankan lemon-honey-ginger, a ubiquitous home-made cure for the common cold. Next time you are out of lemons and need something warm to soothe a sore throat or chesty cough, give this a whirl.
My Sri Lankan flatmate actually hates this stuff after being forced to drink it whenever she was sick as a kid. I think she is mad, this tea is refreshing and zingy in a whole new way.
Coriander and ginger are popular in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Both are said to be good at aiding indigestion, so this tea has more than one benefit. BONUS!
If you are really down with a cold, simmering up a pot of this elixir and sipping on it all day is probably the best self-care you could do.
For three cups of tea (multiply as needed):
- 4 tablespoons coriander seeds
- A thumb-sized piece of ginger sliced a couple of times (I have seen recipes online that use powdered ginger which is ok if you are too sick to pop down to the supermarket but unless you are in bed there are no excuses for not using fresh ginger!)
- 3 cups of water
- Palm sugar, honey or any other sweetener if you are into that sort of thing.
Roast the coriander seeds for about 5 minutes on medium heat or until they are fragrant and brown (this is the most important step, without roasting the seeds the oils are not released and you will not get much flavour in your tea).
After the seeds are browned toss in the ginger and water and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Strain out the seeds and sweeten if you desire.
Sip away and ponder how crazy my flatmate is for not loving this healing brew.
What do you crave when you are sick? Do you have any home remedies that never let you down?