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by Melanie Minnaar who works in corporate marketing communications.  Mother to ‘archangels’, Michael and Gabriel,  wife to an IT consultant she is an information-junkie,  hooked on news, technology and online social networking. You can tweet her @MelanieMinnaar

These are my favourite winter soups.  Both are Chinese recipes – very tasty and equally nutritious. I buy my Chinese ingredients at Yat Kee Chinese Supermarket in Derrick Avenue, Cyrildene. They don’t take credit cards.  There is also a good Chinese supermarket across the road from Rivonia Primary School down Rivonia Boulevard in Sandton.  The Hot-and-sour Soup may be too pungent for the Littles, but the Chicken And Sweetcorn Soup will be a treat for adults and children alike. Leave a comment, I’d love to hear if you enjoyed these recipes or not. Enjoy!

HOT-AND-SOUR SOUP

This is a winter staple in my house, guaranteed to clear the sinuses and pep you up on a cold day.  It is very easy – and quick – to make once you have got all the ingredients together. If you prefer a vegetarian option, just remove the meat and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. It is the pepper that makes this soup ‘hot’ but you may be more comfortable playing around with chilli to get the heat right. It’s more fun sharing a pot of this soup with others – this recipe will serve 4 adults.

Ingredients
* 4-6 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 20 min
* 115g pork or chicken
* 1 packet tofu
* 50g sliced bamboo shoots, drained
* 1 medium carrot
* 2½ cups stock
* 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
* 1 tbsp light soy sauce
* 1 tbsp rice vinegar
* Salt and ground white pepper
* 1 tbsp cornflour paste

Method
1. Squeeze the soaked mushrooms dry, then discard the hard stalk. Thinly shred the mushrooms, meat, tofu, carrot and bamboo shoots.
2. Bring the stock to a boil and add the shredded ingredients4. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 1 minute.
3. Add the rice wine, soy sauce and vinegar and season – be generous with the pepper. Bring back to the boil, then add the cornflour paste, stir until thickened.5
4. Pour the soup into individual bowls. Sprinkle the top with sesame oil and garnish with fresh coriander or parsley leaves – and sliced chillies if you prefer.

Notes
1. Sliced canned mushrooms can be used instead of Chinese mushrooms which are quite pricey and not usually sold in small quantities.
2. You can use any leftover meat as long as its shredded.
3. Old Brown Sherry is a very good substitute for Chinese rice wine for cooking purposes.
4. Dried shrimp can also be added here. You will need 1 tbsp dried shrimp soaked for 10 minutes in boiling water, drained and chopped.
5. Before serving you can add 2 beaten eggs to the pot. Pour the eggs in a thin stream over the prongs of a fork. Stir well.

CHICKEN AND SWEETCORN SOUP

This is a foolproof familiar, as classic as ‘Sweet-and-sour Pork’ or ‘Cashew nut Chicken’ – it can even be easily made in the microwave oven. You can ‘Posh’ it up by replacing the chicken with shrimp, or keep it vegetarian by eliminating the meat. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients
* 6 cups stock, chicken or beef
* 1 chicken breast, filleted, skinned & cubed OR 2 cups raw shrimp, peeled, deveined & cut in small pieces
* 1 tbsp cornflour
* 1 tsp ground ginger
* 1 tbsp soy sauce
* 1 can cream-style sweetcorn
* 5 water chestnuts, chopped
* 2 tbsp rice wine2
* 1 cup milk
* Salt and ground black pepper
* 2 eggs, well beaten
* 2 spring onions, finely chopped

Method
1. Mix the chicken with the cornflour, ginger, oil and soy sauce and season well.
2. Bring stock to the boil. Add chicken/shrimp and cook, covered over low heat for about 8 minutes.
3. Add sweetcorn, water chestnuts, sherry and milk. Mix well and season to taste. Heat until boiling.
4. Stir in eggs when the soup is just below boiling point – add eggs in a thin stream pouring them over the prongs of a fork, lower heat and simmer 1 minute longer.
5. Pour the soup into individual bowls and scatter chopped spring onions over the top.

Notes
1. You can use any leftover meat.
2. Old Brown Sherry is a very good substitute for Chinese rice wine for cooking purposes. The rice wine/dry sherry can be omitted completely from this recipe.

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