Last week I taught 80 people how to make the kneidlach. We used a LOT of matzah meal.
The lesson - more of a demonstration really - took place as part of an event at Jewish secondary school, JCOSS, entitled Fables and Kneidels run by human dynamo and Jewish educator extraordinaire, Laurie Rosenberg.
Laurie inspired attendees to craft Seder-related artwork sharing their Passover memories. I dealt with nosh. Before we kicked up I (and the wonderful JCOSS head chef, Helen) made nearly 200 perfecty formed kneidlach ready to cook up for the guests.
New healthy kosher food brand, Eureka Cove, sponsored the event, providing delicious chicken soup to plop the kneidlach into.
If you prefer your kneidel solid and heavy, this recipe may not be for you. My recipe is for the lightest and most airy version of this shtetl staple. I prefer mine to melt in my mouth. Not stick it shut.
The key to a light kneidel is air. You need to get as much air as possible into that little dumpling. In the US - where the kneidel has changed name to become a matzah ball (rather like the beigel became a bagel) they use a number of tricks to lighten things up. Selzer (fizzy water) is often used in the mix and baking powder/soda is also common. I'm not sure selzer does anything at all by the time the balls are boiled, and baking powder just feels like cheating.
Sure, a good pinch of the white powder will puff them up a treat. It just feels wrong for Passover. Goes against the spirit of the fest.
When we are doing eight days with no leavening agents, adding chemical leavening agents to a Seder staple just feels like an Olympic athlete using steroids. It's cheating.
I prefer to get that air in by beating the eggs long enough to get them really light and creamy. You'll need a set of electric beaters. And when you think you've beaten the eggs enough, keep going. They will turn pale and moussy. Keep on beating while you add your oil (or shmaltz for a better flavour) and some boiling water. I promise you it will be worth it.
My recipe has been borrowed from a recipe I learned from the wonderful Rosalind Rathouse at her Cookery School. I joined a Jewish cookery class, assuming there were no tricks this old dog would be learning. I was wrong. Her kneidlach recipe beat my former favourite, hands down.
I've adjusted hers slightly, but it's essentially her method with a few adjustments. She uses more oil, and also flavours her oil with onions to infuse extra flavour into what can be a very bland food. She also uses cinnamon - something they used to do in some Eastern European countries. She would also not use chicken soup powder, but I find it a quick and easy route to extra flavour. And let's face it, kneidlach need all the help they can get in that department.
So, with no more waffle, here is my recipe:
4 eggs, beaten
90ml vegetable oil or schmaltz
1 tsp salt
A good pinch each of white pepper and cinnamon (optional)
Heaped tsp of chicken soup powder (or, preferably, 60ml chicken soup)
8 tbsp boiling water
130g medium matzah meal
- Beat the eggs with the salt, pepper and cinnamon (if using) until thick and creamy.
- Slowly add the oil, whilst beating and then the boiling water. The mixture should now be thick and foamy.
- Mix the chicken soup powder with the matzah meal and fold into the egg mixture, trying to retain that air you have added. It will seem sloppy, but as the matzah meal absorbs the egg mixture, it will thicken up.
- Cover and leave for at least 30 minutes. You can leave it longer.
- Fill a large pan with water, add a heaped teaspoon of chicken soup powder as the matzah balls will soak up the cooking liquid so it is a good idea to add flavour that way.
- Scoop large walnut-sized balls from the mixture, and, with moistened hands (keep a bowl of water close to hand) gently roll the mixture into balls. Do not handle them too much or you will push out that air. Place them on a plate.
- When all your matzah balls are ready, drop them one by one into the boiling water. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil, just more than a simmer, cover with a lid – preferably glass so you can see the action without lifting it – and simmer until the matzah balls are puffed up and tender, about 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the matzah balls from the pot with a slotted spoon. If using immediately (and it is best to do that) place them in soup bowls and serve with chicken soup.
- If making in advance, the best option is to freeze uncooked matzah balls on a tray then once frozen, bag them up. Cook straight from frozen just before serving.