A cure for all known ailments, maladies and broken hearts. Roughly translated from the Hebrew by Sara with love*.
A whole chicken, or the equivalent thereof. Traditionally, you use a “boiling fowl” but I’m not sure if you can get hold of these outside the Pale of Settlement (Redbridge). I heard Nigella sometimes just uses a pack of chicken wings. I often just take the breasts of a regular chicken and use the rest of that, or a kilogram pack of bone-in thighs. On this occasion, I used the left-overs and carcasses from 2 packs of M&S roast chicken quarters.
Onions I used 2 white onions and 3 large shallots
Celery 1-2 sticks
Carrots 3 large
Bay leaf 1or 2
Water As much as you can fit into the largest pot you own, along with the chicken and veg. This stock pot easily holds 6 litres.
Petrushka or parsley Petrushka is sometimes called Hamburg Parsley, a bit like a cross between a parsnip root with a flat-leaf parsley crown. I have never seen one in the shops in the UK, but my Dad bought me some seeds from the Mr Fothergill Eastern European collection . That said, this is quite a lot of effort for a leafy parsnip, eaten by people who can’t afford real parsnips, so I really wouldn’t bother. Just use some parsley stalks.
Salt A lot of people use Kosher salt in cooking, not sure why, but here's a legit use of it.
Ground white pepper
Love, guilt, repentance, forgiveness. Think about who you’re making the soup for and adjust the quantities accordingly, but not so much as to sour the broth. *Unfortunately it turns out that Love is not an FDA-approved ingredient so proceed with caution.
For the matzo balls (makes 24 balls, which is possibly too many)
270g matzo meal Look for the Kosher aisle/shelf/ghetto at your favourite supermarket.
Salt and ground white pepper
Schmaltz This is chicken fat. You will scoop this off the top of the soup, either as hot globules from the hot soup, or as a white-chocolatey slice from the top of the refrigerated soup. My Mum says it’s good for you. Alternatively use butter or rapeseed oil. You need about 4 tbsp of fat from whatever source.
Soda water 100ml
Optional ingredients for fancy balls (pick one or a combination): turmeric, ground ginger, fresh parsley, finely choped garlic or shallot, dill, coarsely ground back pepper.
Put all the soup ingredients in the largest pot you can get your hands on. No pot and no amount of water is too large. Bring to the boil, and keep it rolling until a layer of bubbly scum comes to the top. Skim it off and turn the pot down to simmer for 3-4 hours, or put in a slow cooker overnight or all day whilst you’re out at work.
Once it all starts cooking and some fat comes to the top, scoop off a few tablespoons-worth to put in the matzo balls.
Mix all the matzo ball ingredients together in bowl and season well. At this point you could add some of your fancy ingredients. I lie to add lots of pepper and enough parsley and dill to turn the balls green, but no one in my family approves. Put the mixture in the fridge to stiffen for at least half an hour before forming into balls. Poach them in water or less-lovingly-made stock for 30 mins or until they are big, bouncy and fluffy.
When you want to serve the soup, sieve it, then put it back on a high heat. Plop in the balls and let them boil in the soup for about 15 minutes..
Serve in generous portions to many loved ones. May be served with vermicelli noodles or orzo, and coins of carrot and shredded pieces of the cooked chicken. And if my parents aren’t watching, I add a glug of vodka, or serve with an ice-cold vodka chaser.
The soup gets better with age for about 5 days, then goes off, at first tasting sharp, then and smelling rank. It freezes well, which is lucky, as it’s annoying to make in quantities smaller than the shed-load.
You will notice that that you are left with a lot of boiled chicken, which has had all the chicken-ness sucked out of it. If you being super-frugal, you would pick out the bones, roast them, then boil them up again with some more celery, onions, carrot and fictional root vegetable to make a stock, which you put into one of your five industrial-size freezers and forget about it. Then, take the meat and fry it up with some more schmaltz, loads of salt, pepper, paprika and chilli. This is called gedempt, which literally means “dampened” but more accurate translates to “acquired taste”, if didn’t grow up in a shtetl. A shtetl is like Fiddler on the Roof without all the yiddle-diddling. Or your could mix the chicken with mayonnaise for sandwiches, or cook it up with some left-over egg-fried rice, peanuts, chilli and egg for a nasi goreng (the full recipe for which I might do another time because it’s lovely).
Enough, already! Let’s eat!