Romanian Chicken Soup with Semolina Dumplings

 

Chicken soup is a worldwide cure-all for cold days, stuffy noses, and general under-the-weather moments. If you are a regular cook, then you should try making your own broth. It’s a good economical way to use a whole chicken and the remaining meat can be stripped from the carcass and made into a salad to follow the soup or saved for another day. Making 3 litres of stock is no more difficult than make 1 litre, so it’s worth making up a big batch and refrigerating or freezing the rest to save time at a later date, if you don’t need to use it all fo the soup.

If you don’t fancy making such a huge quantity of stock, you can cut down on the ingredients listed below and make a smaller batch using a couple of chicken legs, about 150g of celeriac, 50g of parsley root, 1 carrot, 1 teaspoon of salt, and about 2 litres of water. The stock won’t be quite as rich as it would be if you used the entire carcass, but it’ll do very well. These quantities will result in enough soup for 2 as a lunch-sized portion, or maybe 3 bowls for a smaller starter-sized portion. You might want to cut down on the dumpling mix too if making it for two.

If you can’t find parsley root where you are (it’s not so common in western Europe and North America) then you can substitute it with a parsnip or even some celery. If you’ve never seen a parsley root, it looks just like a parsnip and is called radicina patronjel in Romanian.

Of course, if you are short of time, you can use a shop bought broth or stock, or even just make up the required amount of liquid with hot water and a stock cube, but where’s the fun (and cooking) in that?

Servings: 4-6 portions (depending on size)
Time: 30 minutes (plus 3 hours for homemade broth)

Ingredients:

For the chicken broth (makes about 2-3 litres after reducing):
1 whole chicken
300g of celeriac
100g of parsley root
2 carrots
Salt

For the dumplings (makes about 16 dumplings):
2 eggs
7-8 tablespoons of semolina flour
1 teaspoon of oil
A couple of pinches of salt

For garnish:
Salt and pepper
Parsley for garnish

Method:

To make the chicken broth:
1. Wash the chicken inside and out and put it, whole, into a deep stock pot and cover with water, probably about 4-5 litres. Put the pot on a low heat.
2. Peel and roughly chop up the celeriac, parsley root, and carrots and add to the broth along with two teaspoons of salt. Leave in on a low heat until the broth starts to simmer. The theory is that if you bring it rapidly to the boil, you won’t end up with a nice clear broth.
3. Skim the top of the broth with a slotted spoon to remove the froth and scum that rises. Do this regularly until it produces no more froth (maybe an hour) and then wipe any scum off the inside edge of the pot with a damp piece of kitchen roll.
4. Once it has finished producing scum, pop the lid on to stop it reducing too much and leave for about another two hours.
5. When the time is up, strain the soup through a fine sieve into a clean pot.

For the chicken dumpling soup we only need the broth, but obviously it would be wasteful not to make use of the lovely tender chicken meat. The whole chicken can be stripped of its meat, which can then be added to a salad, or reserved to be put into a stew or a soup. I used mine to make some clatite Brasovene (Brasov-style savoury pancakes).

If you make this broth using a whole chicken, you should end up with about 2-3 litres of liquid. For the dumpling soup you might only want half of that (depending how many you’re cooking for) so any leftover broth can be reserved for a couple of days in the fridge to be used as stock for other recipes, or frozen in a plastic tub and stored in the freezer for a couple of months.

The vegetables used in the stock can also be eaten, put into a soup (perhaps with the remaining stock and chicken pieces to make a basic chicken soup), or even mashed up as a side dish for something else.

To make the dumpling soup:
1. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the oil and the salt.
2. One tablespoon at a time, sprinkle the semolina flour into the beaten egg mixture, stirring constantly, until you reach the desired consistency. After adding each tablespoon, drag a fork through the mixture: it’s good to go when the fork marks remain visible. Too soft, and the dumplings will fall apart when added to the soup, too thick, and they’ll end up like cannonballs. It should be thicker than pancake batter, but not quite as thick as a dough.
3. Put the broth on a low heat – don’t allow it to boil or it’ll break the dumplings up when you add them.
4. Once the broth is up to temperature (hot, but not boiling), you can start to making dumplings. Put a teaspoon into the hot broth for a few seconds to moisten it and make it hot, then take a spoonful of the dumpling mixture and lower it into the broth (don’t drop it from height) and allow it to slide off. Repeat this until you have used up all the dumpling mixture.
5. Put the lid on the pot and leave on a low heat for another 5-10 minutes until the dumplings are cooked through and have expanded (they’ll double in size).
6. Taste and adjust the seasoning, give it a twist of pepper, and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.