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