Making good kneidlach (matzah balls) is an art. And one of the hallmarks of a baleboste is her skill in making kneidlach, particularly during Passover, which is being celebrated this week.
In Yiddish, a baleboste, widely translated, means a good homemaker or housewife, providing delicious, lovingly-cooked meals, passed down from generation to generation.
Over Passover, the reason we eat matzah and hence kneidlach is because Jews mark their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land of Israel. In their flight to leave, their bread couldn’t rise, hence the age-old tradition of eating unleavened bread.
There are hundreds of ways of making kneidlach, because every family has their spin on this all-time favourite, an essential part of the meal, or seder, we eat on the first and second nights of Passover or Pesach.
My late mother, Dinah, got her recipe from her mom, Zipporah Morgenstern, way back in the first half of the 20th century, and my aunt, Anne, on the other side of the family, got her recipe from her mom, Frieda Berelowitz (my granny), and so it goes.
In true Jewish tradition, we all think our moms make the best kneidlach, but, truly, I remember my mom’s being fabulously light and feathery with a subtle taste of cinnamon and herbs and chicken.
Yes, the above is the key to a good kneidel – its lightness much revered.
There is a basic list of ingredients which everyone follows: matzah meal (available in most supermarkets at this time of year), eggs, chicken or vegetable fat, and a few spoons of the broth, adding your own personal touch with the addition of herbs or cinnamon or both.
On an old, torn, browned card from my mother’s recipe box is her kneidlach recipe; on the other side my granny Frieda’s, written about 45 years ago. Both are barely legible today but it goes something like this, combining the two:
1 ½ tbs rendered chicken fat or oil
1 ½ tbs clear chicken broth (from the soup you are making into which the kneidlach will go)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tbs finely chopped parsley
1 1/3 cups matzah meal
In a large bowl, combine the eggs with the chicken fat and the broth and whisk (some folk separate the egg yolks from the whites and beat each separately to make the kneidlach even fluffier).
Add the matzah meal and gently mix, and finally add the herbs and seasoning.
Cover the mixture and allow to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, up till an hour, so that it can become firm.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and have a bowl of water next to the stove. Shape the mixture with your wet hands into medium golf-sized balls and drop in the water and then repeat, wetting your hands each time.
Do this quickly and reduce the heat so that the water simmers and allow to gently cook in a closed pot for about 20 minutes.
Remove the kneidlach with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate to firm up again. When you are ready to serve them, transfer to the soup and put two kneidlach in each bowl.
This mixture should serve about six people.