What can I say about this soup? It is better than chicken noodle at comforting a tired soul and aching body. It is one of those soups that, when you take your first sip, you really can taste your momma’s love. In every recipe, you can see that this soup has stood the test of time. It has a few variations depending on whose grandma’s recipe you’re exploring, but the basics are always there.
This is a homemade vegetable broth (read: vegetables stewed with water). It is so clearly one of those dishes that has such an incredible history to it, and when I eat it I feel that. Obviously, as an historian I am probably biased. So, when you take your first sip you might not feel the spark, the connection, the tug on the line in your gut that ties you to the thousands and millions and billions of people that have come before you, walked this earth, and used nature to nourish themselves. I feel that. It’s pretty dang awesome.
Buuuut even if you don’t feel that feeling, you will feel like you’re back at home, on your mother’s couch, enjoying the sweet, healing comfort that only moms can give. For me, it’s reminiscent of Campbell’s Noodle O’s and a nice, crisp Sprite. For many others- it will actually be reminiscent of matzo ball soup.
Jewish culinary heritage is one of those things that makes me swoon. I am not Jewish, and I did not have much contact with these types of foods growing up. However, many of these recipes are legitimate old world recipes that can be really easily adapted for vegetarian consumption, because back then we didn’t have easy access to factory farmed meats all the time.
In particular, matzo ball soup was really easy to adapt for the Daniel Fast. To me, this appears to be no coincidence. The origin of the fast comes from the book of Daniel, when Daniel and his friends have been captured and taken to Babylon. There, they are taught to follow Babylonian customs (many of which conflict with the laws of Judaism). Daniel chooses to change his diet drastically while there. He receives only vegetables to eat and water to drink. While living in the king’s court as a servant, he makes the choice not to partake of any royal foods or extravagant meals. Considering the Jewish origins of matzo ball soup, it seemed the perfect dish to make and eat as a part of our fast!
We did need to make a few alterations to the recipes, in order to make them fully compliant with the guidelines of the fast. We need to take out the typical egg as the binding agent in the matzo balls, and also remove any leavening agents in the matzo meal/ matzo balls. This means that the matzo balls for this recipe fall apart very easily. You want to be extra careful while cooking them for this reason!
Vegan Matzo Ball Soup
makes about 5 servings of matzo ball soup, with some veggie broth left over
for the broth
5 medium carrots
5 celery stalks
1 yellow onion
1 small bunch + 2 tablespoons fresh dill
1 small bunch Italian parsley
5 garlic cloves
1 pinch Spanish saffron
3 bay leaves
10-15 whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 cups water
for the matzo balls
2 gold potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon seltzer water
1/2 cup matzo meal (check the ingredients to make sure it is unleavened)
1 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon fresh, minced dill
1 pinch Spanish saffron
12 cups water
Step one is going to be to make the vegetable broth. This will make a TON of broth, which is great because it’s cheap and freezes very well. You can also use it as a base for many other kinds of soups, if you like. First, take out the biggest pot you have! A pasta pot is ideal for this.
Peel and chop the carrots.
Wash and finely chop the celery. Make sure you chop the leaves as well, you want to include every part of the celery for the broth!
Take apart the leek and clean it very carefully. Leeks can get a ton of dirt caught up in them, so you do want to be very careful especially if you buy organic.
Chop the onion in half, but keep the skin on! Clean the dill bunch, and chop an additional 2 tablespoons of dill.
Add the carrot, celery, leek, onion, and dill to the pot.
Wash and destem the Italian parsley and add it into the pot.
Next, add in the garlic (peeled), saffron, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt.
Finally, add in the olive oil and the water!
Heat the mixture up to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 90 minutes. After it is done cooking, pour the broth over a strainer into a large bowl. You need to pick the celery and carrots out of the cooked vegetables in the strainer and add them back into the large bowl of broth. This part is not really fun, and it’s kind of tedious, but if you have someone helping you, it shouldn’t take too long.
After you have “reassembled” the broth, you can just keep warm it on the stove until you’re ready to eat!
Step two is to make the matzo balls. First wash the potatoes and boil them in a pot of salt water until they are very tender. Once they are done, remove them form the water and mash them in a bowl.
Whisk together the mashed potatoes with the olive oil and seltzer water. Add in the matzo meal, 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and minced dill.
Mash everything together to form a ball, and refrigerate it for 45 minutes.
After the matzo dough has refrigerated, hand-shape ten smaller balls. The dough will be a bit sticky, so you can dip your hands in water to help manage this while you are forming the balls.
Set 12 cups of water on the stove to boil, and add in the remaining tablespoon of kosher salt and a pinch of saffron. While the water is heating up, keep the matzo balls refrigerated. This amount of constant refrigeration will really help them stay together during the cooking.
With the water at a simmer, gently drop the matzo balls in and cover the pot. For ten minutes, leave the pot covered and then gently take the matzo balls out with a slotted spoon. You want to place them carefully on a plate after cooking, you will notice how fragile they are. If you are not going to eat the soup immediately do not put them in the broth. After they have cooled down, you can bag them up and freeze them for later.
If you are going to go ahead and eat them, dole out some of the broth into a few bowls and drop the matzo balls in!