One of my favorite parts of a traditional Ashkenazi Shabbat lunch is the kugel. Kugel started out life as a dumpling made from flour or leftover bread. As the Jews of Ashkenazi lands saw their neighbors add dumplings to their stews, the kugel was the Jewish answer to the dumpling. By the middle ages this dumpling is called the ‘ganife’ the thief in Yiddish, because it was said that the kugel would steal all the flavor from the chulent.
Jewish cooks started making kugels from different starches, especially noodles called lokshen in Yiddish, both savory and sweet. A sweet noodle kugel cooked in the chulent would even have been served as dessert.
The practicality of cooking everything in one pot wasn’t just because it saved on the washing up! It was largely because people didn’t have ovens at home, fires, and hearths, yes, but personal ovens, no. The Shabbat stews in most Jewish communities from Shiraz to Alsace were assembled at home and then taken to the baker’s oven to cook overnight. If a family wanted a kugel it would have to be cooked inside the chulent.
With modernity, the ovens became a domestic appliance, and kugels became a dish distinct from the chulent, taking on a variety of hero ingredients that our forebears couldn’t have dreamt of. Yet there is still room for a chulent kugel, it is imbued with the flavors of the chulent, and enhanced by its long slow cooking process, there is something truly joyful of opening up a chulent pot and finding a kugel resting inside.
- 225g (8oz) medium or thick dried egg noodles
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper (or more to taste)
Cook the egg noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain and cool place in a large mixing bowl.
Heat oil in a saute pan. Saute the onions slowly until some of them begin to carmelize, remove from the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Mix the sauteed onions into the cooked egg noodles. Mix in the salt and pepper, add the eggs and mix well.
Place the kugel in either a 1lb aluminum foil loaf tin or a steamed pudding basin.
Make a well of the ingredients in an uncooked chulent, preferably before adding the water. Push the loaf tin or pudding basin into the chulent, cover the kugel with aluminum foil. Pour the water or stock you are using for the chulent around the kugel, but do not let the water cover the kugel.
Cook along with the Chulent and serve as an accompaniment to the chulent.