Every time I make this soup, it reminds me of a common bond with my Jewish friends: chicken soup made with love. Chicken soup made on cold days and on days when I had a cold or the flu when I was young. And from my grandmother, who came from Jerusalem, the Christmas starter. It’s still the Christmas entree at most of my family’s Christmases. This Christmas, we had it on Christmas Eve just like the food itself. Sometimes we also have it on New Year’s Day or at a dinner with loved ones.
Chicken or turkey is used in this recipe, both are equally good. To make the chicken broth, you need any part of the chicken that has bones. It is the bones and joints that give the soup its special flavor and good qualities (they are now generally considered anti-inflammatory). Ideally, use a whole chicken.
Put the chicken or chicken parts in a skillet. Add thyme, marjoram, sage, allspice, cinnamon (or a few cinnamon sticks), and salt. Just sprinkle them generously over the bird as if you were sprinkling salt over the chips, then rub them all over the bird (and into it if you’re using a whole bird). Add as much water as you need to make the soup, plus a little more to allow for evaporation. The water should cover at least all the meat. This is a very versatile recipe, so you can add more water later if needed. Heat to a boil, then simmer with the skillet uncovered. You will get a yukky foam on top. After 5 minutes, just scrape most of that foam off the top and discard it. Now you can let the chicken or parts cook in the water. Leave the parts for about half an hour. If you cook a whole bird, you may want to cook it for half an hour, then place it in the oven and continue cooking on medium heat until crisp light brown. After half an hour, add the rice. Ideally, this is rice pudding, the round type. However, any rice will do. If you don’t have rice, pearl barley will do. Add a volume of rice of about a fifth to a quarter the volume of water, depending on whether you prefer it liquid or thicker.
While the rice mixture simmers, you have time to make the meatballs. For the meatballs, use half a kg of minced meat for up to four people, multiplying the amount by the number of people present. For half a kg, you add a pinch of salt as if you were salting your fries, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, a quarter of a teaspoon of allspice and two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley (if you don’t have it, leave 1 teaspoon out of use. ). Mix with your hands to form a uniform paste. Knead it or mix it together until it is uniform.
If you prefer soup without meatballs, that’s fine; just leave them out.
Cook the rice mixture for about 45 minutes or until the rice grains are completely open, a bit like a popped chunk of corn. If you’ve saved the chicken or chunks, you can remove them to use in a different dish, such as sandwiches, cakes, or stews, or you can debon and peel the meat and put it back in the soup. There is too much meat in a whole bird for this, so you may want, for example, to use the brisket or the legs and back, saving the rest for something else.
Then turn up the heat until the soup is boiling. And now it works fast. Cut a small meatball (about 2 cm in diameter) from the minced meat mixture and roll it into a ball with the palms of your hands. Put it in the soup. Cut another, roll it up, and place it in a different area of the soup (not directly on top of the first one). Repeat with all the minced meat mixture and the entire surface of the soup. You may have to put a new meatball in a partially cooked one, but that’s fine. Just don’t drop it on a meatball that is still red, lest they stick together. After adding the last meatball, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Then sprinkle parsley all over the top and toss into the soup.
The soup is now cooked. Shave fresh nutmeg over it, or put it in bowls and then shave the nutmeg (or sprinkle nutmeg) on the surface. Give each person half of a whole fresh lemon to squeeze into their soup. The soup is only complete when lemon juice is added. Enjoy!