Updated: Jan 2, 2022
As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
photo by Frances F. Denny
protective chicken foot soup
Serves 6-8 Contains meat, dairy
Prep time : 12 minutes
Cook time : 1 hour
1/2 bulb of garlic
5 chicken feet
½ chicken 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
5 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup pearl (giant) couscous
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rue (or 1 tablespoon dried rue)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
Prepare this dish, if possible, when the moon is waning or new, on a Tuesday at the hour of Mars. Since apotropaic magic is employed by symbol alone, this recipe includes no additional magical steps or procedure, though you are welcome to add your own as always. Make these considerations before you begin.
Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Halve your bulb of garlic crosswise and place it on a sheet of kitchen foil. Drizzle both halves with olive oil, then seal the foil. On the same baking tray, place your chicken feet and half chicken and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast alongside the garlic for 35 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and the garlic is browned and soft.
When your chicken is ready, melt your butter in a large pan over medium–high heat . When the butter is bubbly, add your onion and carrots and sauté until soft, about 5–8 minutes. Add your [roasted] garlic, bay leaves, cloves and caraway seeds and stir for an additional 4–5 minutes until the spices are very fragrant. Add your chicken to the pot, followed by the couscous and 2.4 litres (2.5 quarts/10 cups) water.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down to a low flame and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the couscous is fully cooked. Turn off the heat, remove the chicken from the pot and shred the meat away from the bones. Return the meat to the pot. If you do not plan to eat the chicken feet, you may remove them at this time.
Stir in your fresh herbs and let the hot soup stand for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, taste and serve immediately.
From ancient Greek magic, we receive the concept of apotropaia – the idea that objects or figures could avert evil and misfortune by virtue of their own grotesqueness. The word itself means to “turn away” or “ward off”, and it was invoked particularly in the case of the averting gods – horrible, chthonic entities which could be called upon for protection and safety, to turn back all forms of evil and misfortune. It is from this concept that we receive images of gargoyles, witch bottles and the evil eye – invoked as fearsome images in their own right, but used to grant protection and safety to the one who wields them. Among these symbols, we also find the chicken, whose eggs and feet have been used to ward off evil in a similar manner since the Hellenic period. This is the form of apotropaic magic from which this recipe draws its power, using the powerful and grotesque symbol of the chicken’s foot to craft a brew that carries forth some of its protective virtues.
In many ways, it can also be said that chicken soup is its own form of apotropaic magic, warding off and turning away illness at the first sign of trouble. Our recipe makes use of several herbs and spices that provide a two-fold benefit, lending their powers for both defensive magic and healing medicine. Garlic, caraway and rue are all magical ingredients used in banishing and protection, as well as being medicinal herbs which support the immune system. Even the chicken itself, both breast and bones, contains a number of vitamins and minerals, such as selenium, vitamin C and various antioxidants. Altogether, this dish is a powerful ally against a variety of misfortunes, both magical and medicinal, and should be a useful tool in the hands of the witch who can overlook the dangerous appearance of these ingredients and harness the magic within them.