My parents have given me so much over the years but one of the most important things they have instilled in me is my appreciation and love of food, particularly the importance of sharing meals with loved ones.
Growing up, our family ate together most nights of the week. An easier task back then as it was a time before kid’s midnight hockey practices and Baby Mozart lessons, but it was my mother’s perseverance to have us all at the dinner table that was truly the driving force in our family meals.
My mother is a wee Scotswoman of about 85lbs but when she steps in front of a stove she makes even my German father's noodle and dumpling loving relatives look petite! When she was a young bride eager to please her new husband, she set out to learn his family’s traditional way of cooking and eating; keen to please and because (don't throw your haggis at me) she said the Scots didn't know how to cook! It was her willingness to learn my grandmother's and great-grandmother's recipes that I`m sure kept my dad captivated in those early years; that and her ability to dance around swords while doing the highland fling!
Soon she was creating those family recipes for her own children, my sister and I, which unbeknownst to us was forming our childhood memories. Memories like the smell of nutmeg and cloves as the Linzertorte cookies baked in the oven or peppery, paprika goulash simmering on the stove top on a wintry Sunday afternoon.
My mother is the one consistent person I call upon whenever I have a cooking question. I use her more than Google and Epicurious combined so when it came time for me to recreate some of my childhood favourite dishes for my own children, I turned to her for the recipes. Some she could provide quite easily however others were verbal recipes that were whispered to her by my dad’s mother, sister and aunts. She had adapted those whisperings to suit her new Canadian/Scots/German family life and never saw a reason to write them down. Measurements like teaspoon and tablespoon didn’t exist; it was more “add enough cinnamon until it smells right dear” quantity!
This inability to recreate my memories prompted me to sit down with my mother and have her describe and breakdown family recipes while I transcribed them into a formal format. It took us many hours and cups of tea but gave us lots of laughs as we tried to decipher exactly how big her hand was to measure a “fistful” and what does a fingernail size of garlic weigh?
The recipes I gathered are more than just a list of ingredients and instructions. They are a direct link to my past. When I cook for my own children, I do it in the hope that I create similar memories and that when they get older and think they are wiser than me, the memory of their mom’s chicken dumpling soup will pluck at their heart and bring them back home — just like my mom’s cooking does for me.
These recipes are a gift to me and my sons but more importantly they are a gift to my mother and the elder women in my family by showing them the respect and attention they deserve for creating such wonderful memories that have carried on for many generations!
My gift to you? My mom’s Chicken Dumpling Soup recipe. Enjoy!
Chicken Broth Ingredients:
2.25L (9 cups) of cold water
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 284ml can of low sodium chicken broth
2 medium onions, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled & chopped
3 chicken legs, backs attached
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Garnish – freshly chopped Parsley and/or julienned carrot sticks
450g / 1lb ground chicken
450g / 1 lb plain breakfast sausage, casings removed (see tips)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Notes: The stock can be made and frozen for up to 3 months or kept in the refrigerator covered for 3 days. The dumplings can be frozen after you have baked them for up to 1 month. To reheat frozen dumplings, simply drop the frozen dumplings into warm chicken broth and heat until warmed through – about 10 minutes.
Tips: To easily remove chicken fat from top of broth, put strained soup in refrigerator overnight. When cold, the fat will rise to the top and you will easily be able to lift off the fat with a spoon. To remove sausage meat from casings; using your fingers, pinch the middle of the sausage and squeeze out the meat on either side.
Makes 8-10 Servings