A different kind of chicken soup for the soul

A different kind of chicken soup for the soul

Someone who knows how much I love Indian food directed me to the Website of a New York restaurant, Tabla, which provides some recipes of popular (at the restaurant) dishes.

I was surprised and delighted to find a very special recipe for Matzoh Ball Soup with Spring Vegetables – good to save for a rainy day. Here it is. (For other recipes, go to tablany.com. And by the way, as I am a vegetarian, I plan to make this with vegetable stock and no chicken or chicken fat, but then, of course, it won’t be Tabla’s recipe.)

For the soup

½ tablespoon fenugreek seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

½ tablespoon black peppercorns

1 gallon chicken stock or canned lower-sodium chicken broth

1 chicken (3½-pound)

2 cups chopped white onion

1½ cups chopped carrot

1½ cups chopped leek (white and light green parts only)

2 cups chopped celery

5 large garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup rounds sliced peeled fresh ginger

2 bay leaves

3 cloves
8-10 cilantro stems and roots (each about 3 inches of stems and roots) or 25 to 30 cilantro stems only

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the matzoh balls

¼ teaspoon ajwain seeds

1½ tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill fronds

1 packed teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup matzoh meal plus additional for forming balls if necessary

2 tablespoons chicken fat, spooned from the soup

4 large egg yolks

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large egg whites

1/3 cup seltzer or club soda

For the spring vegetables

4 baby or young carrots (about 4 inches long), trimmed

6 baby turnips (about 1½ inches in diameter), trimmed (leaving about ¼ inch of green),

6 small spring onions (not scallions)

Canola oil for oiling hands and forming matzoh balls

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

For the garnishes

½ cup sliced greens from spring onions (above)

2 tablespoons finely shredded cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill fronds

Start the soup:

1. Toast the fenugreek seeds in a dry small skillet over moderately low heat, shaking the skillet, until fragrant and a couple of shades darker, about 3 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a small tray or plate to cool.

2. Toast the coriander seeds the same way and turn them out to cool. Toast the peppercorns as well, and add them to the other toasted spices.

3. Grind the toasted spices together in an electric coffee/spice grinder until ground coarse and set aside.

4. Put the chicken stock in an 8-quart pot. Add the chicken, ground spices, onion, carrot, leek, celery, garlic, bay leaves, cloves, cilantro stems and roots, and salt.

5. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and cook 2 hours.

While the soup is simmering, make the matzoh balls:

1. Lightly toast the ajwain seeds in the dry small skillet over moderately low heat about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to the small tray or plate and let cool.

2. Grind the ajwain using a mortar and pestle or an electric spice/coffee grinder. (You’ll need to pulse the grinder while gently shaking it to grind such a small amount of seeds.) Transfer the ground seeds to a large bowl.

3. Lightly toast the fenugreek leaves about 2 minutes and transfer to the small tray or plate to cool.

4. Crumble the leaves into the bowl holding ajwain.

5. Add the dill, ginger, and salt to the spice mixture.

6. Add the matzoh meal and stir together. (Your freshly washed hands are the best tool for the job.)

7. Add the chicken fat and mix together with your hands. Mix in the egg yolks and pepper, working the mixture until it forms pea-size crumbles.

8. Put the egg whites in another large bowl and whisk vigorously until they form soft peaks.

9. Fold the seltzer into the matzoh mixture with a rubber spatula, then fold in about one-third of the whites.

10. Fold in the remaining whites in two more batches. Refrigerate the mixture, covered, 30 minutes.

While the matzoh balls are chilling, prepare the vegetables:

1. Cut the carrots on a bias into 1-inch long pieces

2. Scrape the “shoulders” of the turnips with the back of a paring knife to get rid of the tough skin there.

Cut into eighths.

3. Cut the bulbs of the spring onions lengthwise into quarters or sixths- whatever is bite size. Thinly slice the onion greens and reserve for garnish.

4. Put the carrots and turnips in a small bowl of cold water and refrigerate until use. Wrap the onions and greens in a damp paper towel and refrigerate as well.

Finish the soup:

1. Remove the chicken from the soup and let cool on a tray or large plate. Remove the meat from the bones and cut into ½- inch pieces.

2. Strain the soup through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids and rinse out the soup pot.

3. Return the strained soup to the pot and bring to a slow simmer.

4. Oil your hands with the canola oil. Gently form about 24 (1-inch) balls. (The mixture should be loose but still hold shape when formed. If it’s too loose, gently fold in a little additional matzoh meal.) As you form the balls, slip them into the simmering soup.

5. Simmer the matzoh balls 15 minutes. Drain the carrots and turnips, and add them to the soup, along with the onion bulbs.

6. Simmer the soup 20 minutes longer. Add the chicken and salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the meat is heated through.

7. Serve the soup in bowls, garnish with the onion greens, cilantro, and dill.

Serves 8 to 10.

Note to Cook: If you happen to have duck fat in the fridge, by all means use it here.