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Jewish chicken soup recipe by Gizzi Erskine

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This delicious recipe created by Gizzi Erskine is perfect comfort food for when you're feeling under the weather.

Jewish chicken soup recipe by Gizzi Erskine

I love Jewish culture. Although I was not brought up within a religion, I think it’s probably ingrained in me because of my grandparents. My grandmother was from Scotland and flitted between Communism and Buddhism before marrying a Pole who had escaped Nazi Poland during the war. My grandfather (who worked as a pharmacist, exporting pharmaceuticals back into a bleak post-war Poland) wasn’t religious, not after all the atrocities he’d seen during the war, but he was brought up as a Jew before converting to Catholicism to escape Nazi rule. As a result, a lot of Jewish and Polish foods slipped into the meals we ate – and still eat – as a family.

Most of you will have tried a classic Jewish noodle soup, otherwise known as Jewish penicillin, thanks to its fabled power to cure every ailment. The soup is often served with matzo balls: dumplings made from fine crumbs of matzo crackers, which are a bit like water biscuits. They are sturdy little balls and make the soup much more filling. I am a greedy guts, so I like to serve my soup with kreplach dumplings too.

Most Jewish Friday night suppers start with a hot bowl of this soup. I make mine with both a whole chicken and a really good chicken stock. Some might argue that you don’t need the chicken stock as the chicken will make its own soup, but for me there is never enough stock by the time it’s reduced. Always use fresh stock.

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Ingredients

  • Large chicken 1, use the best quality and ethical standing you can afford
  • Medium onions 2, halved
  • Large carrots 2, left whole
  • Leek 1, trimmed but left whole
  • Bay leaves 3
  • Thyme a few sprigs
  • Rosemary 2-3 sprigs
  • Fresh chicken stock 500g
  • Black peppercorns 1 tsp
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve (per person)

  • Jewish noodles or vermicelli 30g
  • Matzo balls 2
  • Kreplach 3
  • Dill sprigs

Method

  • Step 1

    Place the chicken in the largest pot you have. You need about 3cm of space around the edges of the chicken and about 3cm of depth above it so it can be totally immersed in liquid. Lay the vegetables and herbs around the chicken, then pour over the stock. Top up with water if necessary so the chicken is totally covered. Add the peppercorns and salt. Cover and allow to poach gently on a low simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.

  • Step 2

    When cooked, very carefully remove the chicken and set it aside. Remove the carrots and onion halves, set them aside to cool with the chicken for 15 minutes, then chop them up. I like the chicken meat torn into small bite-size pieces, the onions finely chopped and the carrots more roughly chopped. You can use the rest of the veg, though classically the soup is only served with carrots. There will be a fair bit of chicken meat and I sometimes keep a breast for making sandwiches. Put the meat on one side while you make the broth.

  • Step 3

    Strain the vegetables, herbs and peppercorns from the stock. Clean, rinse and dry the pot and pour the stock back into it. Bring to the boil. Reduce it for about 15 minutes, or until the broth has a really intense chicken flavour. You should end up with about 3 litres of really flavoursome broth. Keep reducing it until the flavour is right. Season with salt and pepper, return the chicken meat, carrots and onions to the pan and bring back to the boil

  • Step 4

    Meanwhile poach the noodles and/or the matzo balls and kreplach. Add these to your soup bowls, garnish with some hand picked dill and ladle the hot chicken broth, carrots and onions over the top.

Recipe from Slow: Food Worth Taking Time Over by Gizzi Erskine (HQ, £25). Photography by Issy Croker.

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