Sopa de Picadillo – Chicken Soup Spanish Style

Cloudy is good, clear is bad!

The first time I ate a bowl of chicken soup in Spain, I was a little surprised by the way it looked. I was staying in my rented Cortijo in the middle of nowhere, with my lovely, crazy landlords living in the adjacent house and popping in on me at weekends to make sure I was fine. In true Spanish Mama style, my landlady often bought me things to eat, just to make sure I was going to stay nice and well rounded.

One lunchtime she came over with a bowl of chicken soup. I was surprised because in the UK a good chicken stock is clear, transparent…and highly valued for these attributes. What I had been presented with was cloudy, almost a yellowy white in colour. It smelt amazing and the bowl was packed full of other goodies too. Pieces of chicken, fine noodles, chopped hard boiled egg and jamon and some pieces of fresh mint. I was also instructed to squeeze lemon juice into my soup.  Then off she trotted, happy to have kept her (not so) starving tenant alive to see another sunny Andalucían day.

Of course, once I had tasted it, I was in love. Such deep chicken flavours, quite a salty (but not disagreeably so) taste and the tang of lemon and mint. The name of the soup, Picadillo, comes from the verb Picar. This means to chop finely or into small pieces. Hence the final additions of hard boiled egg and jamon.

This is not a recipe, more a method. Spanish chicken stock is made with whole joints of chicken (I use thighs and legs usually), salted pork bones and salted pork belly with plenty of fat on it.  If you can´t get the last two ingredients use a couple of pork ribs and a piece of normal pork belly or a thick slice of pancetta.  Add a couple of bay leaves, about 4 cloves, 1 or 2 dried chilies (optional) and cover with water. I also add in a few carrots and sticks of celery, but this is not typical. If you have not used salted bones, add salt to taste and check again at the end of cooking.

Now boil it fast for about 10 minutes, this is when the water will turn cloudy, then turn down the heat and simmer for at least an hour. Strain the stock and leave it to cool, you will then be able to remove the layer of natural fat from the meat which will set on the surface.

Remove the bones, bay leaves, cloves, chilies and discard. To serve a typical Sopa de Picadillo, boil up the stock, add some fine angel hair noodles and the chicken (pork belly too if you used unsalted)  and cook until the chicken is warmed through and the noodles are cooked. Sprinkle over hard boiled egg and jamon (or use lardons or pancetta) and if you have some fresh mint to infuse in the soup it really adds a special touch. Don´t forget the squeeze of lemon too!

Like most chicken soups, it is claimed to be the cure for all ills, but you don´t need to be feeling under the weather to enjoy it.

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64 thoughts on “Sopa de Picadillo – Chicken Soup Spanish Style

  1. Oh, I have to try this very soon! A soup for the warmer weather after all the winter soups that don’t seem right now. And the mint is a wonderful addition, just when our mint is coming up again in the garden.

    1. It a good one as it can be heavier with all the “fillings” or a light broth with a few veggies and the lemon and mint. Sometimes they serve it here in the summer at Fiestas at about 5am in little cups to warm you through!

  2. This is completely different than the zuppa I was taught to make. Using pork and pancetta in soup just wasn’t done, although I’m very interested in seeing what it brings to the broth. It must be great! And egg? Adding hard-boiled egg? And jamon? What a treat for the palate, all of these different flavors and textures in one bowl of soup. A fantastic recipe, Tanya, and thank you for sharing it.

    1. Isn´t it funny John that something as seemingly straightfoward as a chicken broth can have so many little variations?! It´s very tasty..and can also be very filling (if you want it to be).

  3. Interesting, isn’t it, how everybody has chicken soup and it’s all different? This Spanish version looks wonderful! (Of course, in my mind, everything is improved by the addition of pork!)

      1. I’ve been in the mood for chicken soup so I think this will be my Thursday night dinner. Thanks! I also think one of my clients, who loves chicken soup, would love this. I love all these new recipes. So much fun!

  4. I wish I had some of this soup about now…am either completely pollenated or have a cold, and it looks sooooo good! I love all the variations on chicken soup, and I used to add a touch of sour cream or creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon to my formerly clear brothed soup for a tasty enrichment, but have never had it with the pork or egg added or this method. What a great dish!

    1. Aha – I have had a headache for 4 days now and am suspecting pollen too. Damn, it´s soon isn´t it?! Chicken soup all round I think! Sour cream or crème fraiche sounds wonderful 🙂

  5. Wow Tanya! What a luscious bowl of suppa! Apart from the pork (which I don’t eat, but sometimes you make me wish I did!) I love the additions of lemon and egg and mint! And I love the story of your landlady’s loving generosity brought to you in a steaming, nurturing bowlful! How dear is that! xo

    1. I didn´t used to eat pork (not for health or religious reason) but because it always tasted “fishy” to me. Here in Spain I have to say, 10 out of 10 for their pork…I really enjoy it. And yes, my landlady (and my landlord too) let me have the run of their veggie patch, their dogs to “protect” me and kept me supplied in peaches and many entertaining evenings 🙂

  6. This is a very unusual stock for sure! I did like the look of it in your photo.. it looks richer somehow, and it sounds like it would be. I love how she took care of you when you first moved in.. that’s so sweet:)

  7. Still chuckling at “true Spanish Mama” style! I think most of us have had neighbours, landladies and host-mothers fawn over us at some point of time in our lives. Mine was my neighbour when I lived in Nottingham getting through graduate school. She was your typical suburban “Mom” who was perpetually suspicious of gentleman callers and made sure I had a full-stock of raspberries from her garden throughout the summer months.

  8. I have a spanish friend who makes the. most. amazing. gazpacho EVER! When she invites us round she asks what we’d like – I always scream OMG GAZPACHO – I then gorge myself on it and spoil my appetite for the rest of the meal but my God it’s good. ❤ Spanish soups – This is a tad different, but I'm sure I'd love this one too!

    1. Charles, you´ll have to look back on my posts, I have posted 3 different summer gazpachos…salmorejo (my favourite), the traditional gazpacho and another one with chopped rather than blended veggies. Hope you like them!

  9. My mother-in-law’s sopa de picadillo is still one of my top favorite Spanish comfort foods. I first tried it years ago, when D-Man and I were still dating, and she had made it for me because I had been so ill I hadn’t been able to leave my apartment for days, and when I finally did venture out (to go to the hospital), the soup was waiting for me and practically brought me back to life. I especially love separating and later scooping up the bits of meat to eat with bread. Mmmmm.

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