It’s Passover, so I thought the time was right to make matzo ball soup. Not that I’m Jewish. I’m about as shiksa as they come. Especially when I was in university, however, I had a lot of Jewish friends. I even dated a couple of nice Jewish boys, much to the chagrin of at least one of the mothers. I attended a number of Passover seders and enjoyed them. The best part, however, I always considered to be matzo (matzah) ball soup.
My university-era Jewish friends are still my friends (and I’ve since made a few others) but they all live far away from me and I recently realized it’s been absolutely forever since I had matzo ball soup. Now that I’m gluten-free, however, I didn’t know if it would be possible to make. Fortunately, I managed to find one box of gluten-free matzo crackers by Barkat. They do contain soya bran, which is relatively high-FODMAP, but I have found I’m not particularly sensitive to soya, and besides, you won’t be eating huge quantities of it. If soy is a problem for you, look for a soya-free version of matzo.
While I can’t tell you this is a tried and tested recipe like my bubbie used to make, I somehow lucked out and made fantastic matzo balls on the first try. They floated while cooking and were still floating when I took off the lid to check on them at the end but they slowly sank as the soup cooled, so I would guess they were right on the edge between floating and sinking, which is just how I like them. They were fluffy on the outside and chewy on the inside, easy to cut with a spoon.
Because commercial chicken stock almost always contains onion and/or garlic, which are high in FODMAPs, I always make my own. I like to make a lot so I always have some on hand. It keeps quite well in the fridge, especially if you strain it through cheesecloth. Althernatively, you can freeze it. The key to good flavour is long, slow cooking. I simmer mine in the slow cooker at least 8 hours and as long as 24 hours (the longer, the better), so make your stock the day before, or at least the morning of if you’re planning to have soup at night. You don’t need to use all the chicken stock you make for this soup.
A word of warning: I can’t guarantee this recipe is kosher for Passover. I don’t particularly care, since I am, after all, not Jewish. If you’re concerned, ask a rabbi, not a shiksa!
Gluten free matzo ball soup
Serves 4 as a one-pot meal. Matzo ball soup is surprisingly filling and relatively well-balanced, so we had it for dinner one night with not much else. It’s also good for lunch. If you’re doing a seder with a heavy main and other sides, this quantity should give you enough to serve up to about a dozen guests a small bowl.
For the chicken stock
- Lots of chicken bones (A whole carcass is best if available. I like to include cartilage but not skin.)
- Freshly boiled water, as much as your slow cooker will hold
- 1-2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1-2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1-2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
- Pinch of turmeric
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup gluten-free matzo crumbs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 eggs, divided
- 2 tablespoons leftover chicken gravy, mostly the fatty part, or pure chicken fat (schmaltz). You could substitute vegetable oil but I think it would be slightly less full of chickeny goodness.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the soup
- 2 carrots, halved lengthwise then sliced on the diagonal (approx. 5 mm thick)
- 1 large stalk celery, sliced on the diagonal (approx. 5 mm thick)
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- Chicken stock (see above)
- Matzo balls (see above)
- Put together your chicken stock at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours before you plan to serve your matzo ball soup. Put all ingredients in a large slow cooker and simmer on low for at least 8 hours. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard all solids. (There’s no point in saving the vegetables or whatever flesh may remain. All the flavour will be gone.) If you want to keep the stock in the fridge for up to a week, strain it through a clean cheesecloth.
- Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, combine matzo crumbs, baking powder, lightly beaten egg yolks, vegetable oil, chicken gravy/fat, dill, salt and pepper. Once this mixture is well combined, add egg whites. Mix in but not too well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can use this time to chop your soup vegetables, and if you didn’t make the chicken stock in advance, to strain the stock.)
- Spray some oil spray into your hands. Using a half-tablespoon measure if available, shape matzo mixture into balls about an inch in diameter. Use a light touch – you want the balls to hold together but you don’t want to squeeze the lightness out of them.
- Fill a medium-sized pot about two-thirds of the way with chicken stock. Add chopped carrot and celery and bring to the boil. Once boiling, drop in the matzo balls. Wait until soup boils again, then cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes. Some sources say not to peek until you’re sure the matzo balls are done, because otherwise they might fall. Serve hot.