Not-So-Jewish Penicillin

In the interest of covering my ass, I’d like to say that I’m in no way trying to disrespect or appropriate anyone’s culture – I just really like chicken soup. And while I have a few recipes for chicken soup up my sleeve, this is my current favourite!

There are days I have more time on my hands, and that’s when I can afford to slow-boil my soup for hours on end. That’s when I’d buy an old chicken, which has tougher texture, but is richer in flavour. Today isn’t one of those days, however, and I am content with a regular chicken – plenty of meat for shredding into the soup later, and lots of bone for flavour.

I’m a happy camper when you give me soup.

There’s something comforting about soup, I think, that dates back to our childhood days. My mum is Cantonese, so we’re very fond of soup in our family. This, in its own way, reminds me of the soups she’d painstakingly cook for us over the weekends – and mind you, that took effort, given my mum works at least six days a week and almost single-handedly brought up two university-educated daughters.

It’s like Nigella says about her mother’s ‘praised chicken’ – cooking and eating it feels like an act of devotion. And at the end of the day, when you’re sick, the cure-all will always be a bowl of hot chicken soup.

I like to think my Jewish Penicillin is a combination of Jamie Oliver’s recipe and Nigella Lawson’s recipe – but ultimately different in its own, inauthentic way. I can’t for the life of me find Matzo crackers over here, and anyway, I had four slices of brown bread leftover to use. Also, I omitted the schmaltz – but feel free to render your own and add them to my “matzo” ball recipe, if you want.

Now isn’t that a pretty sight?

You’ll need:

For soup

  • Whole chicken
  • 3-4 ribs celery
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 onions
  • Half a bulb of garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Bouquet garni – thyme, parsley, marjoram
  • Salt to taste and 1/2 tsp freshly-cracked white peppercorns
  • Enough water to cover

There’s absolutely no need to brown the chicken here, as it’ll just be torn to shreds later. I cut the vegetables into batons and add that to the pot with the chicken.

Because I’m lazy, I don’t bother peeling the onions – I wash them, quarter them, and toss them in. I smash the garlic cloves so they release their flavour better, tie together the herbs for the bouquet garni, and toss all of that in with the bay leaves.

Cover with just enough water from a freshly-boiled kettle, season to taste, then bring to boil before lowering to a slow simmer for an hour or so.

For “matzo” balls

  • 4 slices brown bread, toasted and blitzed to make one cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup instant oatmeal
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • Pinch of salt

Using a mortar and pestle, grind together dried herbs – this will make them easier to incorporate into your breadballs, and you won’t end up with prickly bits of thyme. Combine all the ingredients until it coheres together into a large patty. Shape into balls – I can get about 22 small ones from this recipe.

Add them to the soup about half an hour in and let them cook gently. I find they can be a bit tough, but I like them toothsome, so I use two eggs. Feel free to use three if you want them a bit more tender.

I’m pretty sure some recipes incorporate noodles or pasta, but… I think that’s too much carb-coma potential. But feel free to break up some spag noodles and toss them in if you’re feeding more people – it should go nicely!

Bon appetit!



2 thoughts on “Not-So-Jewish Penicillin

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