Monday, April 2, 2007

Passover: chicken soup for the vegetarian

As I’ve probably mentioned here before, my step sons are Jewish. The Artist too, though that was mostly in a previous life. But he is very much ‘lapsed’, greeting the mother of one of the Musician's friends at the front gate with a slice of toasted sourdough in hand this afternoon, much to her surprise.

Passover begins tonight and this was a bit of a faux pas on his behalf, however amusing I might find it. By now (Monday afternoon) most Jews have banished any wheat-based products from the kitchen cupboard, scrubbing the shelves until they gleam. Even the ones who enjoy the odd ham and pineapple pizza have at least got rid of the bread.

Me, I’m always happy to tag along with other people’s holidays when they revolve around food. And Jews it would seem are as obsessive about food as I am.

This year it will be totally vegetarian. Even the chicken soup. I can’t understand the attraction of matzoh balls (huge, solid, gluey lumps of dumpling) so mine will be tiny, saffron-hued and made with a small amount of fresh ricotta (and some matzoh - the Musician would be Very Unhappy if there were no matzoh balls). The soup will be a deeply flavoured garlic and herb broth. That's the idea, and I'm still toying with it. I'll post the recipe for these little morsels when I make them tomorrow. The soup's too easy.

Sephardic vegetarian food, here we come.

Garlic and herb broth – serves 4

From Deborah Madison’s ‘Savory Way. Don’t be tempted to stint on the saffron by using turmeric; the saffron gives it a unique and haunting flavour that turmeric, much as I love it, just can’t replace. Though I have no actual scientific evidence to support my claim, a hangover can be cured (or at least tamed ) with this soup. Honestly.

2 whole heads of garlic

2 litres of water

8 branches of parsley

1 bay leaf

10 large fresh sage leaves

6 branches of fresh thyme

2 whole cloves (the spice)

Sea salt

1 tablespoon of good extra virgin olive oil

Large pinch of saffron threads

1 heaped teaspoon of Marigold bullion powder

Parmesan, grated

Finely chopped parsley leaves

Separate the cloves of garlic and rub off most of the papery-skins. Rap the cloves firmly on a sturdy chopping board with the flat side of your knife to break the paper. Peel each clove (the skins will come away easily if you’ve done this right). Put all of the ingredients, apart from the finely chopped parsley, into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a lively simmer and cook, partially covered with a lid, for about 30 minutes. Add the bullion powder, stir well and taste - it is a subtle flavour at first - before adding a bit more salt if you feel it needs a lift. Strain through a sieve, return to the saucepan and serve sprinkled with the grated parmesan and the finely chopped parsley.

1 comment:

Freya and Paul said...

Who says you need chicken to make a soothing broth anyway? Between me, you and anyone who reads this, I always find chicken soup to taste a little oily. And the ricotta dumplings sound wonderful!