Chefs' Recipes

Simon Gloftis' avgolemono: how to make it, and its significance in his family

''Every Greek understands the importance of avgolemono. It’s one thing I’ll eat for the rest of my life.''

By Simon Gloftis
Avgolemono is special to me for so many reasons. It's our Greek chicken soup and it's everything to me. As a kid, if you feel sick you eat it. In fact, my mum is making it for me today because I have a cold.
We'd always have it for Easter. We'd have it every Sunday. It's just chicken stock with rice and egg and lemon, but it's amazing how it comes together. Growing up, I'd eat avgolemono at least once a week. I've probably eaten more avgolemono than I have traditional Greek salads. I was too young to remember the first time I tasted it, but I can remember my parents waking me up to eat it. We weren't overly religious, but we'd go home and eat soup after church at Greek Easter, and I can remember going to my grandparents' garage; wogs never cook in the house. They always cook out the back, and everyone, my aunts and my uncles, we'd all be sitting around a table with maybe some olives and feta, eating avgolemono. Whenever I smell chicken stock simmering, it reminds me of Grandma and it takes me straight back to her garage. She was a great cook. She had 10 or 12, maybe 15 recipes, and did them all really well.
You'd never imagine what avgolemono is going to be like from the recipe. It looks simple. But the egg and lemon can't be allowed to curdle. You've got to mix the egg and lemon together, then add some hot stock. It should be like a soup before you add it back into the pot. And the rice needs to be starting to almost break down so it naturally thickens the stock, but it can't be too thick. I've seen some avgolemono that looks like risotto, but it should still be like a soup when you eat it.
My parents had no money when I was young, so they lived with my grandparents. I can remember my mum and my grandma in the kitchen. When I was young I didn't help out much, but later, I started asking lots of questions. My grandmother wasn't the best at English and she never wrote her recipes down. I'd say, "How much salt?" and she'd just say, "Not much." She was surprised I even wanted to know about the dishes. "It's only simple food," she'd say. And it is real humble food. It's what I love.
Avgolemono is just so important to Greeks. But maybe it's even more important to Greeks who've left Greece. Every Greek understands the importance of avgolemono. It's one thing I'll eat for the rest of my life. It's on Hellenika's breakfast menu now, so that's when I eat it the most. And now non-Greeks are having it for breakfast, enjoying it and then reordering it – so, maybe it's not just a Greek thing.

Simon Glofits' avgolemono

SERVES 8 // PREP TIME 10 MINS // COOK 3 HRS (plus cooling)

Ingredients

  • 125 gm long-grain rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 ml lemon juice
  • 25 ml extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Dill (optional), to serve
  • Sliced char-grilled bread, to serve
Chicken stock
  • 1.5 kg chicken
  • 2 tbsp salt flakes
  • 1 celery stalk
  • ½ onion
  • 2 fresh bay leaves

Method

  • 1
    For chicken stock, place ingredients in a large saucepan with 5 litres water and slowly bring to the boil over a very low heat. Cover and simmer, skimming surface, until stock is well flavoured (2½ hours). Allow to cool, then strain (reserve chicken).
  • 2
    Bring 3 litres chicken stock to the boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat (refrigerate or freeze remainder for another use). Add rice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender (20-22 minutes). Remove from heat and season to taste.
  • 3
    Whisk eggs in a bowl until smooth. Slowly add lemon juice, whisking to combine, then gradually add 250ml hot stock, whisking slowly to ensure eggs do not scramble but are warmed through before adding to the pan. Add egg mixture to the pan and stir. Shred chicken meat and add to soup to taste.
  • 4
    Season to taste with cracked black pepper, drizzle with oil and scatter with dill. Serve with char-grilled bread.