A satisfying kugel: Helen Goldrein

I love kugel. From the comforting stodge of a basic potato or lokshen to the spicy sweetness of the Yerushalmi or the surprising intensity of spinach or courgette ‑ they are side dishes of delight, with a well‑earned place in any Jewish cook's repertoire.

So imagine my surprise to learn that the humble kugel is perhaps not so humble after all. Professor Allan Nadler, in his paper "Holy Kugel:The Sanctification of Ashkenazi Ethnic Foods in Hasidism" expounds on the mystical properties that have been bestowed on this dish through the ages. He writes:

"Of all the Sabbath foods, the greatest significance was attached to the kugel."

His article looks at the history and importance of the 'Rebbe's tish' in regard to the sanctification of kugel. Drawing on a range of historic and contemporary sources, he asserts that:

"Often in Hasidic descriptions of the rebbe's officiating at the tish, and particularly with regard to the kugel, the rebbes were...compared to the priests officiating in the Jerusalem Temple."

He also recounts the (inevitable) disagreements between the different sects on the subject of kugel, and quotes one Hasidic authority who asserted Biblical foundations for the preeminence of lokshen over potato:

"Rabbi Meir of Premyshlan declared: lokshen kugel was ordained at Mount Sinai."

Whether or not you believe that, I hope you will enjoy the following recipes. They were both given to me during my time in Jerusalem in 1997‑8, and I have credited their originators in the titles. The first is a delicious alternative to tsimmes for Rosh Hashana, while the second is a sweet addition to the break‑fast table at the end of Yom Kippur.

Tobie's Carrot (and/or sweet potato) Kugel

  • 500g carrots and/or sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 200g flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 0.5tsp cinnamon
  • 175ml bland vegetable oil (e.g. sunflower)
  • 125ml apple or grape juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

Mix dry ingredients. Add liquids and combine to form a thick batter.

Add grated vegetables and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a greased baking dish and bake for around an hour until golden on top and cooked through (a cocktail stick inserted should come out clean). Serve and enjoy!

Jessica's Aunt Ruthie's Noodle Kugel

  • 300g (or thereabouts) cooked wide noodles (lokshen)
  • 3 eggs
  • 225g cottage cheese
  • 350ml milk
  • 235ml sour cream or natural yogurt
  • 65g caster sugar
  • raisins ‑ more or less depending on your preference

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Combine all the ingredients well and pour into a well‑buttered baking dish. Bake for around an hour until just set and golden on top. Serve warm or cold.

If you would like to read Prof. Nadler's article in full, it can be downloaded here: http://depts.drew.edu/rel/holy%20kugel.pdf