1.11 Kneidlach

Serves 8-9

Kneidlach are the famed matzo balls of kosher cuisine, and the butt of many a Jewish comedian’s joke. There is a famous story about Marilyn Monroe dining at Arthur Miller’s mother’s one Friday night. She was offered chicken soup with matzo balls and exclaimed, “Gee! Don’t you guys ever eat any other part of the matzo?” I love this quote and repeat it shamelessly about fish balls, meatballs and even aniseed balls. I’ll probably never grow up.

Dumplings are a staple of Mittel-European cooking: plain, boiled, baked, stuffed – even breadcrumbed and deep fried. Served on their own or with a sauce, soup or stew. All are delicious and none are exactly light. I remember the first Shabbos dinner of our married life: chicken soup, roast chicken – the works. Helen had worked so hard and everything was delicious. The kneidlach, however, were a different matter. Dense and heavy, they even stuck to the blades of the waste disposal.

As we eventually learned, the secrets are to refrigerate the mixture well and to drop the matzo balls into rapidly boiling water. They will be light and fluffy every time – and they definitely won’t be going down the waste disposal.

  • 4 eggs
  • 75ml schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 140g medium matzo meal
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground white pepper

  • Beat the eggs, add everything except the matzo meal, and whisk together. Gradually add the matzo meal and mix until a stiffish, moist batter forms.
  • Refrigerate the mix for at least two hours, or even overnight if you wish to prepare it in advance.
  • Remove from the fridge and check that you can stir the mixture. If it is too stiff, add a little water to loosen it up such that you can form a heaped teaspoon into a ball.
  • Roll the batter into balls (about the size of a golf ball), moistening your hands with a little water in between each one to stop the mixture from sticking to your fingers.
  • Drop the kneidlach into a pan of boiling water, bring the water back up to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Once cooked, they should be served as soon as possible. Add two kneidlach to each bowl of chicken soup and wait for the applause.

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