What is Kugel?
Kugel is a Yiddish term referring to a sweet or savory pudding prepared with noodles or potatoes. On Passover, when we traditionally remove all products made with flour from our diet, other than unleavened matzo, matzo farfel kugel often finds its way to the table instead of a noodle-based kugel. Matzo farfel is just matzo broken up into small pieces.
When I offered to bring kugel to the first night seder, the traditional meal eaten on the first two nights of Passover, I realized I didn’t have a tried-and-true recipe for a matzo farfel kugel. So I started searching my Jewish cookbooks, the Internet, and my recipe files. And into the kitchen I went for some testing. I had hoped to find the perfect recipe on the first try so I could post a tested, perfected recipe for you. Well, that’s not exactly how it turned out, but I can share what I did and how I plan to modify it when I bake it again on Monday.
I will also share a few links to some other Passover recipes to inspire you for the flourless week ahead, if you celebrate!
Sweet or Savory? Matzo or Potato?
My daughter requested a sweet kugel, rather than a savory one, which is how I chose the matzo farfel route over potato. Apples, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar are natural accompaniments in a matzo or noodle-based kugel. I turned to my well-used copy of The Jewish American Kitchen by Raymond Sokolov for one recipe and then found an interesting apricot-based recipe on the website BakeSpace. There were no reviews or comments but I was intrigued by the use of apricot instead of apple.
50% Success Rate
I halved both recipes and proceeded to prepare each one. I had high hopes for the apricot version but was very concerned by the lack of moisture in the mixture. I should have followed my instincts and added more liquid and egg. The flavor was a hit with my kids but not the texture — it was dense as a brick. On the Passover table – it is the charoset (a fruit and nut mixture) that is supposed to represent the mortar used to make bricks, not the kugel!!
The Winner is…
The apple kugel from The Jewish-American Kitchen was much more promising. When I halved the recipe, the volume of kugel was so minimal that I transferred it to a small pie pan to bake. Several elements of the recipe stood out to me. The layer of apples on the bottom and top lighten it up and provide a nice texture balance to the crunchy farfel. The farfel is initially coated with egg and browned in a sauté pan – a nice extra step that could be enhanced further with some flavoring at this stage. I was also intrigued by the nut topping which I enhanced by toasting the nuts first. The verdict was that it is a winning recipe but needed a bit more flavor throughout. I already added cinnamon, which the recipe didn’t call for and my son suggested a hint of nutmeg would be nice too. If each element – the apples, the farfel, and the nut topping – is flavored on their own before combining, the kugel will really shine.
- I use real butter when I make kugels because I don’t keep kosher and will mix meat and dairy. But if you are keeping kosher, the recipe does call for margarine, not butter and you should substitute accordingly. Below is the recipe as I plan to make it on Monday. If I modify it even further, I will pop back into the post and edit it again.
- I used to buy matzo farfel in a box. DON’T. It couldn’t be easier to crush up yourself and it will be much cheaper and fresher. Just put the boards in a ziploc and roll over them with a rolling pin. I found that two standard size matzo boards equal about one cup of matzo farfel.
- I plan to add 1/2 – 1 cup of raisins to the farfel mixture. I will heat the raisins (perhaps some diced apricots as well) with some orange juice or sweet red kosher wine – just enough to cover them to help soften them up. Then let them cool and add the liquid and raisins to the farfel mixture. I will see how that turns out and modify the recipe accordingly.
More Passover Recipe Inspiration:
Here are some delightful new recipes this year on other blogs and a few recipes I have posted in previous years.
And if you have any beloved favorites that always find their way to your Passover table, please share them in the comments below! Chag Sameach and Happy Easter!
- 2 cups matzo farfel (about 4 boards of matzo)
- 4 eggs
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted and cooled
- 3 medium or 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ cup toasted ground walnuts or pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 X 8 baking dish or pie pan equivalent to a 1 quart pan.
- Instead of buying pre-made farfel, simply place a few boards in a ziploc bag and use your rolling pin to break them up into little pieces. 2 boards will yield 1 cup of farfel.
- Mix the farfel with 2 of the eggs and a teaspoon of the salt and then toast the mixture over low heat in a heavy skillet, mixing frequently to be sure the pieces brown and separate. I found medium low heat worked better than low. Set the pieces aside while you:
- In a medium bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, and 3 tablespoons of the melted and cooled butter or margarine. Add in the toasted farfel mixture and ½ cup of water.
- In your greased baking dish, layer ½ the apple slices and sprinkle them with the lemon juice and a dusting of cinnamon, then add the matzo farfel mixture and then top with the remaining apples. Then sprinkle with the toasted ground nuts and dust it with a bit more cinnamon and pour over the remaining melted butter or margarine.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes.