Thursday, 12 December 2013

Jerusalem kugel

Hanukkah might be over, but luckily there are festivities in Jewish calendar all year round. And food plays a very central part in these. During Hanukkah food, like latkes, is fried in oil. During Shavuot food is traditionally dairy, so cheesecakes and blintzes are popular. Purim calls for triangle-shaped hamentaschen-biscuits and on Simchat Torah stuffed cabbage, reminiscent of the Torah scroll, are eaten. And then there's the weekly Shabbat.

Today you'll be introduced to kugel, traditionally served as a side dish during Shabbat and holidays. Kugel is sort of a generic name for all sorts of casseroles. Though the Yiddish word actually refers to something round. Kugels can be made with noodles (beat that rhyming, Kanye!) or with vegetables such as potatos and the ingredients vary according to what kind of food they're served with. See, according to kashrut (rules about what is kosher) dishes that contain dairy products cannot be served with meat. The ingredients  in kugels tend to be simple and affordable (they needed to feed large families, after all!) and they are classics for a reason. 

Kugels are served both cold and hot. Since Shabbat is a day for rest and enjoying the company of your nearest and dearest, no work is permitted  and along with that, no cooking. So the food is prepared in advance and the traditional Shabbat dishes, like kugels, tend to be casseroles that have slow-cooked overnight. 

For the first-timer kugel might feel like an odd experience as some of them can be  very sweet. (some recipes call for more than 3 dl of sugar!). One of the most original ones is Jerusalem kugel, brought to the Holy City it was named after in the 18th century by Hasidic Jews of Eastern European origin. This kugel is a peculiar mix of sweet and peppery and dense and crunchy. It is also parve, which means it has no dairy or meat in it, so it can be served with any food.

Should you ever find yourself in Jerusalem (that's Jerusalem, Israel, not, say, Jerusalem, New York) on Friday evening, I highly recommend a trip to the Old City and the Western Wall. There (by latest - he tends to keep popping up during the week too when you least expect it) you're bound to bump into a man wearing a cowboy-hat and snakeskin boots, busy organizing visitors in lengthy queues to make sure everyone has a dinner to go to. Many local families extend their hospitality to total strangers, opening their homes and dinner tables so no-one would find themselves alone on Shabbat. And which ever queue and dinner table you'll end up in - you're guaranteed a piece of this!

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

500 g thin egg noodles
2 dl sugar
1,25 dl oil
5 eggs (4 if they're large ones)
1-2  rkl black pepper (mine was cracked, less if you're using finely ground)
largeish pinch of nutmeg (or cinnamon)
(3/4 dl raisins)

Pre-heat the oven to 175.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package and drain. Measure oil and sugar into a pot and let melt over moderate heat. Stir occasionally. Once the sugar starts forming clusters, start stirring continuously and don't turn your attention to anything else (and I mean anything - even naked George Clooney lounging on your sofa. Though... if that were actually true, you probably wouldn't be busy perfecting kugel, would you?). As the sugar gets hotter it will start melting and changes colour. Do note however that at no point will oil and sugar fully mix. Once sugar has reached deep amber colour, remove the pan from the heat and stir into the noodles (careful - the mixture is hhhhot!) Mix evenly. Let cool a  bit before adding the eggs so they won't scramble.

Beat the eggs, season with 1-2 tsp salt and 1-2 tbsp black pepper. Add into the noodles and makes sure the noodles are evenly coated. Check for seasoning and add more salt sugar or pepper as needed. If you're an follower of the raising school of thought add them into the mix now too.

Oil the dish you're using (mine measured 19 cm x 27 cm) and pour the mixture into the dish. Smooth the surface and bake for 1,5-2 hours until kugel has a lovely, dark colour and a nice crunchy top.

Serve wither hot or cold. With or... with pickled veg. 




No comments :

Post a Comment