Tuesday, 30 March 2010

My grandmother's Yemenite chicken soup

As I've posted before I don't have an Nonna that could have provided me with insights into Italian home cooking. I do, however, have a Yemenite Safta (= Hebrew for grandmother). And she the originator of my earliest food memory - maraq of teimani , the Yemenite chicken soup. This is the holiday and Sabbath food of choice for countless Jewish Yemenite families.

My early childhood in Israel involved going to my grandparents house on Friday evenings for the Sabbath dinner. Before we even got to the door, we were greeted by a smell. That specific smell that instantly made our eyes tear, our mouths water and our stomachs grumble. That smell of chicken cooking to tender perfection. The smell of cumin, coriander, cardamon and garlic. The smell of freshly baked pita bread. The smell of family. The smell of home.

I always thought my Safta's chicken soup was out of reach for me. That only she possessed that magic touch that made it so special. However, when my dad came by for Passover today, the first thing he said when he walked in the door was that he could smell the chicken soup already out in the hallway... and that it reminded him of his mother and home.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1-1.2kg chicken bits with bones and skin (I used 6 chicken drumsticks and 4 chicken thighs)
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 spring onions, sliced across to create 3cm pieces
  • 5-6 whole cardamon pods
  • 1 flat tbsp hawaij spice mixture (see recipe)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  1. Put ALL ingredients into a large pot and fill with cold tap water until just covered
  2. Bring to a boil on high heat and skim off any foam that floats on the surface
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, skimming off any additional foam, then cover and continue simmering for about 1 hour/45 minutes (the potatoes should be very tender but not quite falling apart yet and the meat should come off the bones easily)
  4. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot with fresh pita bread or - like now during Passover - with matzos.

 P.S. Actually you serve the soup with a nice big dollop of zhug, a Yemenite hot sauce. Alas, I forgot all about it until I was sitting in front of that steaming bowl of soup and went 'oops, there's something missing here'. I shall make zhug soon and add the recipe here.


    1. Looks fantastic. Do they make ABC noodles in Hebrew characters?

    2. I'm sure they do. Will check next time I'm at Kosherland.

    3. Fantastic :) Brings back great memories...