Aggressive. This is what we would call this sudden, powerfully freezing weather. How to fight it? Chicken soup. And this one has twice the warming factor of being Yiayia Next Door: Recipes from Yiayia’s Kitchen and the True Story of One Woman’s Incredible Kindnessa collection of traditional Greek recipes and also a tribute to the power of community.
The yiayia, or Greek grandma, we’re talking about is Nina, who started helping them by passing home-cooked meals over the fence when Melbourne brothers Daniel and Luke Mancuso lost their mother Teresa to domestic violence. After a while, the brothers began documenting these acts of culinary kindness via a dedicated Instagram account, @yiayianextdoor, which now has more than 86,000 followers. The account has grown into a social enterprise dedicated to inspiring compassion and encouraging others to “love neighbor” as an antidote to violence.
Along with the trio’s culinary memories and recipes Yiayia next door contains stories from others who have joined the yiayia community. This recipe was created by Tania Gogos Wilson, who lives in Victoria and was obsessed with Avgolemono soup as a child.
“My Yiayia, Eftichia and Thea (aunt) Angela always had a simmering pot on their hotplates for me when I visited them. We spent every weekend at my Yiayia’s house while my parents took care of their social obligations (usually with a Greek nightclub, which was great in Melbourne at the time). I tried to set a record for how many bowls of Avgolemono I could eat in a day, and my Yiayia sent me home with a large Greek coffee pot full of soup for me to enjoy all week.”
Avgolemono is deeply calming and nourishing, and this recipe is Eftichia’s version. “My Yiayia was an extraordinary woman who died at the age of 99. Her son (my father) was Demetrious Gogos, the founder of Melbourne’s Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos and many stories were written in the newspaper about my Yiayia’s life. She was very famous for her sweets.”
It’s not difficult to make—you just need time to let it simmer and allow the chicken to permeate the broth and become tender. It’s perfect for a weekend getaway, and like Wilson, you have a lot of leftovers to eat during the week.
Avgolemono of Eftichia
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
salt and black pepper
1.3 kg whole chicken
6 spring onions, 2 roughly chopped, 4 sliced
5 stalks of celery, strings removed, 1 cut into large chunks, 4 sliced
1⁄2 bunch dill, roughly chopped, plus extra for serving (optional)
170 ml (2⁄3 cup) olive oil, preferably Greek
150 g (3⁄4 cup) medium-grain rice
80 ml (1⁄3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fill a large pot with 5.25 liters of water and season with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, smother the chicken with 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper, and place the roughly chopped green onion, celery chunks, and half the dill in the well. Carefully lower the chicken into the boiling water and add the olive oil, remaining green onions, celery and dill. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken until tender, about 1 hour.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, then add the rice to the simmering water and cook for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
When cool enough to touch, carefully separate the meat from the chicken carcass and shred into bite-sized pieces. You can either add the chicken to the soup at the end of cooking or serve it as a side dish. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric whisk, then gradually add the lemon juice while stirring. Add 6 or 7 scoops of the broth and continue beating until light and fluffy, then pour the lemon and egg mixture into the broth, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes. Return the chicken to the soup, if desired, and heat through slightly.
Divide the soup among plates and serve sprinkled with additional dill (if desired) and some freshly ground black pepper.
This is an excerpt from Yiayia Next Door: Recipes from Yiayia’s Kitchen and the True Story of One Woman’s Incredible Kindness, published by Plum, available online for $36.99. Read more about the story of Nina, Daniel and Luke Mancuso here.
Looking for more recipes? Try this leaflet Recipe hub here.