My Mums Chicken Soup
The reach of social media never ceases to amaze me and this week is no exception following my post about having Man Flu.
Of course, like every male who suffers from this most serious of conditions, I have to make sure that I milk it for all sympathy I can get. Like all women who experience childbirth, I have not got a massive amount of that from my wife. However, I did get a surprising amount from members of the community. I received many get well soon messages and even more requests for the recipe of my mums Chicken Soup. People I have never met before have stopped me in the town centre and said "get well soon and where can I get the recipe for your chicken soup". Thats hilarious.
Only a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my colleague, Cllr Rebecca Jennings-Evans (Lightwater) and promised her the recipe and now the cat is out of the bag I have decided to make it available to all. Fame at last mum.
The thing is, every Jewish child will claim that his/her mums chicken soup is the best. But to be honest, so long as it's made with love, they are much the same.
Like most Jewish households there is a certain amount of theatre around the humble bowl of chicken soup or "Jewish Penicillin.
On Shabbos, which falls on a Friday afternoon or evening (depending on the time of year) a traditional Shabbos dinner would always be made by my Grandma. It would start with Chicken Soup, then chopped liver (pâte), followed by a Roast Chicken Dinner.
My Grandma would serve chicken soup to my eldest brother first (I am not sure if this was a tradition or just the fact he was her favourite) and would stand over him. She would not serve anyone else or move from looking over him until he had tasted it and declared to her "Lovely Grandma". Everyone else would eagerly await his declaration, much in the same way as "The man from Delmonte, he say yes". Sometimes he would taste several spoon fulls, to wind us up.
It takes several hours to make traditional Chicken soup like my Grandma used to make. The time it took to cook could be reduced if made with a pressure cooker, but it still took hours.
A whole chicken would be used, and the best chicken for this purpose was an old boiling hen. This is a chicken that is old and quite tough and usually defined as such because it will have stopped laying eggs. The cooking process will have been quite laborious because grey scum would develop on the surface of the giant stockpot, which would have to be spooned away regularly. A considerable amount of soup would be made from one chicken and feed the whole family, and still, some left for mid-week sustenance visits by my twin brother and me after school.
Vast quantities of chicken soup would be consumed in our house. My mum has four boys, all with ravenous appetites. So she couldn't keep up with demand by cooking the soup the traditional way. It would just take to long. So the recipe I am going to share with you is my mum's cheats version which is just as good.
I must explain some of the other joys of Chicken Soup because the broth is only one part of the experience and if you incorporate the other elements, then a humble bowl of soup becomes a meal in itself.
So first are the Kneidlach. These are dumplings, and traditionally instead of suet (which is most definitely not kosher) the fat used would be shmaltz which is chicken fat. When cooking the soup the traditional way with an old boiler, there will be plenty of Shmaltz to spoon off the top while cooking for this purpose, but the cheats version does not allow for this. Vegetable oil is a decent second-best, but for authentic kneidlach you could use goose fat which is readily available at the supermarkets or for the best tasting kneidlach, the next time you make a roast chicken, don't throw away the fat at the bottom of your roasting tray. Get that good stuff in a jar and put in the freezer ready for the next time you make chicken soup. I never met my grandfather on my dad's side as he died before I was born, but apparently, he would spread chicken shmaltz on his bread as a snack. Matzo Crackers are available in most of the big supermarkets. I have included two images. The first is the box of crackers so you know what to look out for. The second is the consistency of the crumbs you will want to achieve. In Manchester, due to the large Jewish community, supermarkets stock Matzo Meal in bags, so already smashed up to the perfect consistency. I have not been able to find this in Surrey, so whenever I visit Manchester, I buy a few bags to keep in the cupboard. However, you can buy bags of Matzo meal on Amazon. Trust me when I say, Kneidlach in your chicken soup is well worth the effort, I promise and if you can use chicken fat then all the better.
The next important element is the lokshen or noodles. My mum would use vermicelli pasta, but occasionally she would use tagliatelle which I prefer.
And finally the omelette strips. Now my mum never used to make these for our soup. I discovered this when having dinner at a friends house, and his mum used to put them in her chicken soup. It works well with this soup, so I have put it in mine ever since especially if there is no time to make kneidlach which, to be honest, there should always be time to make kneidlach.
Osem, mini crouton is a yummy optional extra. Again, these are readily available in the supermarkets wherever there is a Jewish community, but for Surrey residents, you can buy these on Amazon too.
So there you have it. If you ever have a cold make up a big batch of this stuff. Way better than Lemsip and much more effective as well as being the ultimate comfort food. But no need to wait until you have a cold after all prevention is better than cure.
Here is a download of the recipe cards: My Mums Chicken Soup
If you make this I would love to know how you get on.