How to Make Jamaican Chicken Soup

by Nick Marshall

A Caribbean twist on clear chicken soup, Jamaica’s version packs a little spice and is much heartier, thanks to the addition of root vegetables. The pumpkin, especially, provides the soup’s thickness and color. Most of the work is in peeling and chopping the vegetables. Once it’s in the pot, the soup almost takes care of itself.

Start to Finish: 90 minutes

Servings: 4

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Ingredients

Soup

  • 5 or 6 chicken thighs, drumsticks or wings
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 green bananas
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 corn ears
  • 1 cassava root (optional)
  • 1 packet Jamaican Cock Soup Mix (optional)
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or hot pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 cups diced pumpkin

Dumplings

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Chopped parsley

Directions

For the Soup

Wash the chicken portions in the juice from the lime and season with salt and pepper. The soup’s rustic origins call for cheaper cuts such as bone-in thighs and wings, which ooze fat into the sauce. Breast meat makes an acceptable substitute, but some flavor is lost.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the chicken portions. Chop the onion and garlic, add them to the pot, and saute along with the tomato paste.

Peel the potatoes, green bananas and sweet potato, and cut into similar-sized pieces.

Tips

  • Transfer the chopped potatoes and bananas to a bowl of cold water before moving on to the other ingredients, as they start to discolor if left exposed to the air for too long.

Dice the carrots, chop the scallions, and slice the corn into equal-sized rounds, which requires a sharp knife and a steady pressure on a secure chopping board.

Peel the fibrous brown skin from the cassava root with the tip of a sharp knife and cut the tuber into equal-sized sections. Cassava, also known as manioc, should be easy to find at Caribbean grocery stores and adds a distinct nuttiness to the flavor, but if it is unavailable, the soup will survive.

Transfer all the chopped vegetables to the Dutch oven, pour in enough water to cover, and add the Jamaican Cock Soup Mix, chopped Scotch bonnet pepper, allspice and thyme. Stir the soup, cover with a lid, and allow it to simmer for 50 minutes.

Tips

  • Jamaican Cock Soup Mix should be available from Caribbean grocery stores, but it delivers a lot of salt and additives for the modest amount of flavoring. As an alternative, use chicken stock cubes or make your own seasoning from paprika, cayenne, turmeric and cumin. Combine to make enough for 2 tablespoons.

Warnings

  • Rinse your hands thoroughly after handling Scotch bonnet pepper, and remove the seeds for a less fiery effect.

Dice the pumpkin, leaving the green skin on if desired, and add to the soup. Pumpkin needs a much shorter cooking time than the root vegetables but, like the potatoes, eventually disintegrates to give the soup its starchy thickness.

For the Dumplings

  • Mix the salt with the flour, then work in the warm butter with a fork until it forms a crumbly mix.
  • Add water a tablespoon at a time until you have the beginnings of a dough.
  • Roll the dough lightly in the palm of the hand, but not too much, and drop each dumpling into the soup as it is ready, spreading the dumplings out evenly.
  • Allow the soup to simmer for an additional 10 to 20 minutes once the dumplings are all added.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, serve into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh parsley. 

About the Author

Nick Marshall has written about food and travel for magazines in the United Kingdom, United States and Caribbean. After graduating from Bristol University in 1996, Marshall went on to win the Daily Telegraph Young Food and Drink Writer of the Year Award.