Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Cooking the Generations

Things I would do with my mother more if we were living in the same city;

-Get our nails done more often than twice a year together
-Go to the movies and see girly things our husbands couldn't be dragged to with bowls of popcorn
-Hang out in our pj's and linger over coffee in the morning
-Spout off ideas for dream jobs, dream vacations, dream homes etc.
-Take turns giving each other cooking lessons while cooking things from both of our childhoods.

So while we did get to some of the things on the list (the movies will have to wait for the next trip) one of my favorites from my mothers trip to the 'big (foreign) city' was making my great grandmothers 'Lochshen Kugel', a dish both she and I had growing up.  It's familiar taste and smell reminded us both of our childhoods, a double pleasure I'm sure for my mother watching her 'baby girl' (nearly 30 now) pick at the raw mixture the same way I did when I was little.

Kugel is a baked Jewish pudding or casserole, similar to a pie, most commonly made from egg noodles (lochshen kugels) or potatoes, and can be made sweet (which is what we always had) or savory by the use of apples, pineapple, apricots, raisins, spinach, broccoli, cranberry, or sweet potato.

The name of the dish comes from the Germanic root meaning 'ball' or 'globe'.  The Yiddish name, a derivation of the German name seems to reflect a different shape than the kugels Great Grandma Bess used to make out of a rectangular dish, so it is likely that the shape changed over time (perhaps Pyrex has something to do with this...).

The first kugels were made from bread and flour and were savory rather than sweet.  Then, about 800 years ago, cooks in Germany replaced bread mixtures with noodles or farfel. Eventually eggs were incorporated. The addition of cottage cheese and milk created a custard-like consistency which is common in today's dessert dishes.

Kugels are a mainstay of festive meals in Ashkenazi Jewish (Jews of Eastern European descent like me) homes, particularly on the Jewish Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.  In fact some Hasidic Jews believe that eating kugel on the Jewish Sabbath brings special spiritual blessings, particularly if eaten in the presence of a Hasidic Rabbi.  However as Judiasm is now more than ever a culture as well as a religion, there is no reason or need to wait for the timing of a holiday to make and eat kugel.  Kugel is special because it is a simple form of comfort food.  It is easy to make, easy to pick at while making (a requirement of mine for any good comfort food), and grants its recipient the satisfying creaminess and sweetness of the filling, coupled with my favorite starch of choice- noodles.

Kugel is what we ate around family- whether it was my grandmother who made it for break the fast at Yom Kippur (a holiday based around the idea of asking forgiveness from others and forgiving yourself), or whether it was my mother planning one of our daily family meals, kugel was never eaten alone.  It was and is something to be shared and enjoyed with family, whatever the occasion.

Great Grandma Bess's Lochshen Kugel

500g/ 1lb wide egg noodles
4 large eggs
1 stick butter
6oz can crushed pineapple
1/2cup sugar
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2- 2/3 cup flour or bread crumbs
*cream cheese or sour cream to taste optional*


Cook and drain noodles.

Melt the butter in your 9" x 13" casserole dish in a hot oven 175C/ 350F.  Swirl the melted butter around in the pan to coat it.  Then pour the remaining in with your drained and cooled noodles.
Add all other ingredients, saving the eggs for last so the mixture will have cooled down enough so as not to cook them.

Mix well.

Bake for 45 minutes, checking periodically to insure the top is becoming crispy, but not burnt.

Cool, cut and enjoy for breakfast lunch or dinner with your momma!

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