Lokshen kugel is an extremely traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food, and it appeared on my family’s Shabbat table almost every week when I was a child. In essence, it is a sweet pudding made with noodles – lokshen in Yiddish – and it can also contain dried fruit, spice, and even a creamy custard in its dairy incarnation.
Almost every Friday of my childhood I would watch my Mum as she made the lokshen kugel. Melting the margarine, mixing in the sugar, fruit and egg, then measuring out some of the lokshen she’d cooked which was destined both for the kugel, and for the chicken soup. Mum would then put half the kugel mixture into the dish, add a layer of stewed apple or other fruit, then spread the rest of the lokshen on the top. Into the oven, and ready in time for Friday night dinner. YUM! If we were lucky we’d be allowed to have a scoop on the plate with our main course. Sounds horrible, tastes fantastic!
Anyway, a while ago I decided to make a lokshen kugel, so I phoned my Mum for advice.
I just want to make a small one, just one egg, how much lokshen should I use? I asked.
“I don’t know,” said Mum. “Maybe 2 or 3 ounces?”
Er, OK. How much sugar?
“A couple of ounces? I’m really not sure,” said Mum.
We carried on like this until she finally said, “You know I just use the recipe from Evelyn Rose, don’t you…?”
All my life I’d never seen her refer to a recipe for this. She measured and mixed, week in, week out, TO HER OWN SPECIAL RECIPE! Learning that it had come out of a book, albeit one I treasure myself, was DEVASTATING.
“The fruit in the middle though, that’s me,” said Mum. “I don’t know anyone else who does that.”
Which was, I suppose, some consolation.
So, I duly pulled my trusty Evelyn Rose from the bookshelf and looked up lokshen kugel. There it was. I didn’t make it exactly like she says. Less sugar, more fruit, more spice, and my Mum’s layer of apple in the middle. It turned out just as I remember 🙂
Makes one lokshen kugel. Serves 4.
- 2 bramley apples (approx 500g)
- 130g fine lokshen
- 25g margarine
- 50g caster sugar
- 50g dried fruit - I used raisins, sultanas and dried cranberries
- 0.25 tsp mixed spice
- 1 egg
- Peel and core the apples. Cut into pieces and place in a microwavable bowl. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 minutes until they have 'fallen' into mush. (Alternatively, cook in a saucepan on the stove.)
- Cook the lokshen in boiling water according to the packet directions. Drain well.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Melt the margarine and allow to cool slightly. Mix in the sugar, dried fruit and spice.
- Add the egg and mix well, then mix in the lokshen.
- Put half the lokshen mixture in the bottom of a baking dish and spread out. Spoon the apples on top and spread to level. Finally, add the remaining lokshen and spread out to cover the apple layer.
- Bake at 180C for 45minutes or until cooked through and browning on top.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving.
I’m dedicating this recipe to Jewish food historian Rabbi Gil Marks, author of (among other things) the fabulous book Olive Trees and Honey, which is an encyclopaedic collection of Jewish vegetarian recipes from around the world. It was one of the first books that really demonstrated to me the vast variety of Jewish food that exists outside my own familiar Ashekenazi tradition.
I learned recently that he is suffering from cancer, and this month’s Kosher Connection link-up is in his honour. The theme is for ‘get well’ recipes, and since this kugel is one of my most favourite comfort foods, it seemed appropriate. I hope you will also wish him Refuah Shelaimah – a speedy recovery.
PS If you’re looking for seasonal gift inspiration for your foodie friends and family, check out my gift guide.