Vegetarians look away now. Here’s my chicken soup and knaidlach recipe just in time for the Jewish New Year. Enjoy!
As I wrote in my last blog, it’s not for nothing that chicken soup is known as Jewish penicillin. It helps ease sore throats, colds and flu. If you’re under the weather and don’t feel like eating, a bowl of chicken soup will buck you up and do you the power of good. Highly recommended by Jewish mothers everywhere!
First and foremost, you must use boiling chicken which can be obtained from any kosher butcher. You can try making chicken soup with any other sort of chicken but it just won’t be the same.
I normally use half a boiling fowl. The more chicken you use, the tastier your soup will be. Kosher butchers also sell off cuts from the chicken (wings, neck, feet) which are very cheap to buy and make just as good soup.
Place your chicken in the largest saucepan you have and completely cover it with cold tap water. Do not put a lid on the pan.
Bring to boil and then let it simmer.
While it’s simmering use a large spoon to skim off all the scum that floats to the top. Keep doing this until most of the scum has gone. You may find you need to top up with a little more water.
Add 2-3 medium size onions roughly chopped, a bay leaf (not essential), a few chopped carrots, one or two roughly chopped potatoes and some chopped celery. Do not chop your veg too small. They still need to be recognisable! Some people also like to add parsnips or other veg. But don’t get carried away. You want your soup to taste of chicken not of parsnip!
Add salt and pepper. You can, if you wish, transfer your soup to a pressure cooker if you have one.
Alternatively, leave to simmer for a very long time until the chicken is soft and cooked through. Taste the soup. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
If your soup does not taste chicken-y enough then you can add a chicken stock cube. I recommend Telma chicken stock cubes which you can buy at any supermarket or kosher store. A stock cube is only necessary if your soup lacks flavour. This may be because you didn’t use enough chicken in the first place or you covered the chicken with too much water.
That’s all there is to it. Your soup is ready. Simply remove the bay leaf and the chicken pieces (do not throw them away) and serve.
If not eating immediately, leave your soup to cool before putting it in the fridge. You will find it improves in taste every time it’s reheated.
It can also be successfully frozen. Remove the chicken pieces first! I also remove the carrots because they tend to go mushy in the freezer.
Nothing gets wasted! The pieces of cooked chicken can be used separately in another meal such as risotto.
FOR A REALLY AUTHENTIC CHICKEN SOUP ADD SOME NOODLES
If you want to give your soup that extra Jewish zing then you may want to add some vermicelli (ie egg noodles). You can buy them where you bought your boiling chicken or from most supermarkets. You cook the noodles separately in a pan of boiling water much as you would cook any pasta. The noodles are very fine and thin so they cook very quickly. Turn away at your peril.
Drain and rinse once cooked. Do not put your vermicelli into the chicken soup but rather pour the chicken soup over some vermicelli when you serve the soup. A little goes a long way. You want to be eating soup not vermicelli! This is what we call lokshen soup. Lokshen is simply the name for vermicelli.
FOR A DOUBLY AUTHENTIC CHICKEN SOUP MAKE SOME MATZAH BALLS!
These don’t take long to make and are a yummy addition to your soup.
I know two stories about matzah balls. According to urban myth when Marilyn Monroe was first offered matzah balls she said, “I have never eaten that bit of the animal before.”
The other is the tale of the newly married woman whose matzah balls never pleased her husband. “They’re not like mamma used to make”, he would complain. Every week she tried harder. And every week he would say, “They’re not like mamma used to make!” One week the young woman accidentally emptied half the packet of matzah meal (matzah flour) into the bowl. She cooked the matzah balls as usual but to her dismay they were rock hard. “Ah” sighed her husband happily when he tasted them, “These are just like mamma used to make!”
How to make matzah ball dumplings for your soup
These are called **knaidlach (the ch is pronounced as you would the ch in the Scottish word loch). And you sound the k!
You don’t have to put knaidlach in your chicken soup but you will be glad you did!
The way to make the perfect knaidlech is not to cook them for very long. Many cookery books will tell you to boil them for twenty minutes, half an hour – even longer.
If you want your knaidlech to be light and fluffy and not at all like mamma used to make, then take my advice and simmer them for only ten minutes.
You will need:
4 large eggs
4 slightly rounded tbsps of chicken fat (from your soup) or soft marge/Tomor margarine
2 tsp salt
Half a teaspoon of black or white pepper
4 ounces of ground almonds
6 ounces of medium matzah meal (found in the Kosher section of supermarket)
8 tablespoons (or possibly less) of warm chicken soup or water
Half a teaspoon of ground ginger (optional)
I use a food processor for this recipe but it can be done by hand.
First whisk your eggs until they are light and fluffy. Stir in the soft fat, some of the tepid soup or water, seasonings, ground almonds and matzah meal.
Hold some of the soup/water back – your mix may not need quite so much.
I would also hold some matzah meal back. If your mixture is firm you won’t need it all. If your mix is too soft then you can add a little more meal or ground almonds.
The mixture should look moist and thick but not quite firm enough to form into balls. Cover mix and chill in fridge for about an hour or overnight.
The mixture will now be nice and firm and ready to form into balls.
Half fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Wet your hands with cold water. Take small pieces of the chilled mixture (about the size of medium walnuts), shape them into balls with your hands and drop them into the boiling water. You will need to do a few at a time. The balls rise to the top and soon swell in size – which is why you shouldn’t make them too big at the start.
Reduce the heat to simmer and leave the matzah balls simmering in the water for no more than ten minutes. Then remove with a slatted spoon into a dry bowl.
Continue until all the balls have been cooked. Put to one side. Drop the knaidlach into the hot soup about two minutes before serving. Enjoy!
To all those who celebrate it – a Happy New Year to all my followers, friends and fellow bloggers.
I shall be taking a break from blogging over the holiday and will be back in October. See you then!
**Knaidlach recipe adapted from The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook by Evelyn Rose (Robson Books, 1997)
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems