Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls


Every culture has a great recipe for chicken soup, but nothing beats a really fluffy matzo ball floating in a rich golden chicken broth. In these tumultuous times, one of the most overused phrases is “comfort food.” But truly, is there any dish more comforting than a hearty Chicken Soup? Could there be a better time to share our recipe for “Jewish Penicillin”?

Rachel’s Turn: Throughout my childhood in Morocco and America, my mother would make a chicken soup with rice and lots of vegetables, including onion, carrot, celery, zucchini, potato, tomato and lots of cilantro. Sometimes she would add noodles shaped like stars and the letters of the alphabet. And sometimes she would add a tiny bit of cream of wheat to the chicken broth to make an incredibly creamy and delicious soup.

Nowadays, I love to make lots of chicken soup for my family. My secret for a flavorful chicken soup is to sauté an onion until it is translucent, then I add the chicken pieces with the skin side down and glaze the chicken for a few minutes. I add all the other vegetables and lots of water and let the pot simmer for an hour or two, then I take out the chicken and set it aside.

While most people boil the matzo balls in a separate pot, I cook mine directly in the soup pot. I find that boiling them in the broth lends them a much fluffier texture and better flavor. This means adding extra water to the soup because the matzoh balls will absorb a lot of the broth. At this point, I add two tablespoons of chicken consommé, which always gives the best flavor. After forming the matzoh balls, I plop them in the pot and let the soup simmer for another hour. My biggest secret is that my matzo balls are gluten-free. They are so light, fluffy and delicious that my parents, my husband and my children are none the wiser. Until they read this article, of course!

When I am making the soup a day or two ahead of serving, I take out the matzoh balls and store them with broth in a separate container.

I boil vermicelli noodles in a separate pot, drain the liquid and put them in a separate dish with a drop of olive oil.

I place the shredded chicken, the vegetables, the noodles and the matzo ball in the bowls and enjoy the pleasure that this bowl of liquid gold creates.


Sharon’s Turn: By 9:30am on weekday mornings, my grandmother Nana Aziza would be done cooking for the day, with four big pots on the stovetop. She would “sponga” (mop) her kitchen floor and we would set off on the bus for the day’s adventure. We might go shopping in Bondi Junction or for a dip in the waves at Bondi Beach. There would always be something delicious involved, like a cappuccino for her and a chocolate milkshake for me.

She would take a siesta in the afternoon and then be ready to feed her hungry family when they came back from work and school. The first thing she served was a bowl of her delicious chicken soup with lots of vegetables and vermicelli noodles.

I also love to make chicken soup for my friends and family (but definitely not every day). My grandmother used cilantro and tomatoes, which I omit. But like her, I use rutabaga and turnip, parsnip and a whole head of celery and lots of garlic. I use a whole golden brown onion with the skin left on because it imparts a wonderful golden color. I only use pale green Mexican squash which I find much less bitter than zucchini. I am obsessed with using lots of organic dill and Italian parsley, which lend the most fresh and sublime flavor. And of course, big fluffy matzo balls are the happiest treat ever!

Sharon’s Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken, washed

8 chicken wings

2 chicken carcasses

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon chicken consommé powder

1 whole head of celery including leafy tops, washed and trimmed

1 large golden brown onion, unpeeled

1 head of garlic, peeled

4 carrots, peeled and chopped, into thin coins

1 whole parsnip, peeled

1 whole turnip, peeled

1 rutabaga, peeled

5 Mexican squash, chopped into 1 inch rings

2 bunches dill, cleaned

2 bunches Italian parsley, cleaned


  1. Fill a large stockpot with 14 cups of cold water, throw in the chicken and bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

  2. Skim the chicken “scum” from the pot.

  3. Add salt and pepper and chicken consommé.

  4. Add celery, onion, garlic, carrots, parsnip, turnip and rutabaga.

  5. Cover pot and simmer for 1 hour, then remove whole chicken.

  6. Add squash, dill and parsley and simmer for another 30 minutes.

  7. Discard dill, parsley and chicken carcasses.

  8. Serve broth with shredded chicken, vegetables and matzo balls or vermicelli noodles, made according to package directions.

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