Saturday, July 04, 2009

Semolina dumplings in chicken soup (Grießnockerlsuppe)

I came across this post over at Israeli Kitchen, which asked what people were having for Shabbat. I left a comment and Mimi expressed interest in my Grießnockerl recipe. Of course, I'm more than happy to comply.
This is probably the dish I eat the most. Well, not quite, buttered bread comes first, but this hearty soup with fluffy semolina dumplings is a very close second. I eat it every Friday.
One of my earliest food-related memories is visiting my grandma's house and always finding a pot of this soup on the stove. She would serve it to us sprinkled with chives (which I hated at the time) in her delicate china bowls, which had been heated in the oven. Those bowls were small, almost transparent affairs that we weren't allowed to touch at home, because my mom was afraid we'd break them. But at my grandma's, we were always given the benefit of the doubt. No plastic dishes at her house. Of course, we also used real silver cutlery and cloth napkins, even for a weekday breakfast. My grandma was one classy woman.
My other grandma, interestingly enough, used to make a version of these to put in her (tangy sweet) elderberry soup. Her recipe is dairy, though, and sweet.
Anyway, nowadays, I still make this soup every Friday for Shabbat. It really is dead easy to make, once you get the hang of it. This recipe makes 7 big dumplings, enough for 4 very hungry adults.

Taiba's Grießnockerl (I don't usually measure, hence the odd amounts):
  • 56 g margarine, room temperature
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 135 g semolina
  • 1 level teaspoon of salt
  • a generous pinch of ground nutmeg
  • about 2 litres (8.5 US cups) of your favorite broth (I usually use chicken, but I used beef this time because it was also an ingredient in the main dish)
  • 4 medium carrots
  • a very small bunch of chives for serving (optional, but recommended)
-Cream the margarine in a medium mixing bowl.

-Add the eggs, salt and nutmeg.

-Mix well. There should be no visible chunks of margarine.

-Add the semolina and stir until well combined.

-Cover the bowl of dumpling batter with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

-Bring some lightly salted water to a simmer. A wide pot works better than a deep and narrow one. I don't put the pot on the stove until the 30 minutes are up, so my batter rests for a total of approximately 40-45 minutes.

-When your water is ready, shape dumplings one by one using two tablespoons and drop them into the simmering water right away. You want your dumplings to have as smooth a surface as possible. Too many cracks or holes will let water seep in, which causes the dumplings to split or even fall apart (this still happens to mine sometimes!). The splitting doesn't affect the taste, though, so don't worry if it happens to yours.
You want your shaped dumplings to look something like this:

-Let them simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Afterwards, remove from heat, cover the pot with a lid and let the dumplings sit for another 15 minutes. Don't remove the lid during that time.

-While the dumplings are cooking, wash and peel the carrots and cut them into slices of even thickness (about 1/4 inch thick). Bring your broth to a simmer, add the carrot slices and cook until they are soft, but not mushy (al dente, in other words). This should take about 10 minutes.

-Remove the carrots from the broth and cover them until you're ready to use them.

-When your dumplings are done, remove them from the pot using a slotted spoon. If you're not sure whether they are really done, insert a knife in the center of one. It should be met with very little resistance. Or cut the biggest dumpling in half. There should be no hard yellow center left. If there is, give them another 5 minutes.

To serve:

-Put one or two dumplings per person into a deep dish, add a tablespoon of carrot slices and about two ladlefuls of broth.

-Sprinkle with chopped chives.

-Serve right away.


  • The term "semolina", "Grieß" in German, is used quite deliberately and can apply to different products. There's corn semolina (used to make polenta), kasha semolina and oat semolina, to name just a few.
  • To make things more complicated, there are also different kinds of wheat semolina. There's the "hard" (durum) kind, which is primarily used in savoury dishes, and there's the "soft" semolina ("Cream of Wheat"), which is used in porridges, puddings and baby food. This recipe uses semolina made from durum wheat because it holds together better and provides a better bite than soft semolina would. Watch out, though, it's not couscous! While couscous is also made from durum wheat, it's a lot coarser.
  • Now that you're thoroughly confused, let me tell you that it's actually not that complicated. The semolina you use for this recipe is the same kind that is used for making pasta or for sprinkling bread or pizza dough before baking. It's called Semola di grano duro in Italian.
  • Put the dumplings in your soup right before serving. Don't let them sit in the broth for extended periods of time, otherwise they will become soggy. However, cooked dumplings can sit uncovered for a while, so you can put them on the table in a separate little bowl if you want to make them ahead of time. They will heat up nicely when you pour hot soup over them. Once they've been in the refrigerator, though, I would cut them into smaller pieces before putting them in the soup to make sure their centers don't remain cold.
  • Don't cover steaming hot dumplings with plastic wrap. It makes them soggy and disgusting. It's better to let them cool uncovered before you cover them. They will develop a kind of skin which disappears when you put them in soup and becomes a nice crust when you fry them.
  • Leftover dumplings can be stored covered in the refrigerator for a couple of days and can be reheated in the microwave. They can also be frozen easily, says my mom. I've never had to do that, though.
  • Leftover dumplings can be sliced, pan-fried and served with a variety of dishes, for example ratatouille. They are also good diced, fried and sprinkled over a salad, stew or thick soup. The boyfriend likes them fried and served with scrambled eggs. I prefer them pan-fried and covered in gravy. They are quite versatile.
  • These are very filling (also very large). I recommend serving only one dumpling per person if you have a main course planned.


  1. Julia,

    These dumplings look very appetising. A more delicate variation than matzah balls, I see. I particularly like the touch of freshly-cooked carrot slices to go with them. Thanks for the recipe, it's a keeper!

  2. Mimi, you're very welcome. And you're right, these are a good alternative to matzah balls. I'm sure you'll enjoy them when you make them eventually.