Tuesday 11 December 2012

Matzo Ball Soup

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of my Jewish readers and their families a happy Hanukkah.Though this dish is traditionally served during Passover, matzo ball soup can be enjoyed at any special event. Unless you live in a city like New York, matzo ball soup isn't something very commonly found outside of Jewish delis and family restaurants. You don't have to be an American to enjoy a cheeseburger. You certainly don't have to be Japanese to enjoy sushi. Nor do you need to be Jewish to enjoy matzo ball soup. It is definitely something to try! This is a very delicious soup. Think chicken and dumplings times ten! 
Matzo balls are made with matzo meal, eggs, a bit of fat and sometimes a pinch of seasoning. Matzo meal is the crumbs made from crushed matzo. 'Matzo' (also called 'Matzoh' or 'Matzah') is a very traditional bread that is baked before it has time to rise. The result is similar to a cracker but there are some unconventional matzos that are softer and more pliable. Matzo is a kosher food source however the ingredients and methods to make it are not universally agreed upon. The fat used can be either oil, butter, margarine, shortening or more traditionally "schmaltz" (chicken fat). For this particular recipe I used my own schmaltz from the drippings of the rosemary roasted chicken I made over the weekend. Paired with my own homemade chicken stock (scroll down to the next post for the recipe) this soup was amazing. I jazzed up my matzo balls with some chopped parsley and a pinch of salt. They were soft, fluffy, full of flavour and were perfect floating in sensational homemade broth. 
In this example, I served the matzo balls with broth, onion, celery, and carrot. You could simply serve them just in broth or you could add any combination of vegetables, chicken and even egg noodles. Matzo ball soup is sometimes referred to as 'Jewish Penicillin' for its immune system boosting and cold fighting qualities. Let's take a look at how it's made.

Most importantly you will need matzo meal. There are several different brands out there. This is the brand I used. Because it is made with wheat you can also find whole grain matzo meal for healthier, heartier balls. Follow the package instructions of the brand you can find. This recipe is set to accommodate the instructions of this particular brand. Start by boiling a pot of water. The matzo balls are cooked separately from the soup and added at the end as not to make the soup cloudy. 

In a bowl, add a package of matzo meal, two whole eggs, two tablespoons of schmaltz (chicken drippings), a little chopped parsley and a small pinch of salt. Mix until just combined and then leave to set in the fridge for at least twenty minutes.

The mixture will be sticky so wet your fingers with water (or oil) as needed. Roll into one-inch balls. For the best texture, do not overwork the balls. The mixture will yield 9-12 matzo balls.

Keep the balls separated and set aside while you get on with the soup base. 

I chopped one white onion, 2 large carrots and 3 ribs of celery. In a little olive oil I sautéed them in a saucepan until the onions were translucent. Add fresh ground pepper to taste.

Add your chicken stock or broth to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. If you choose to add cooked chicken or egg noodles, this would be the time to add them.

When your other pot of water comes to a boil, plop the matzo balls in and place a lid tightly over the pot. Like dumplings, the balls will plump up and grow as they cook. Leave them to cook for about twenty minutes while your vegetables continue to simmer and soften in the soup. When the balls are done, remove with a slotted spoon and add to the soup. Mazel tov! Your matzo ball soup is ready to serve (just don't skip tasting for seasoning before you do).

Now your immune system is strong as ever, your taste buds are singing for joy and all your friends/family are impressed. Easy peasy, right? You must give this recipe a try. It's rich in flavour, inexpensive, and perfect on a cold day. 

Be happy and stay fed,


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