In his book “Schmaltz,” on Eastern European Jewish cuisine, food researcher Shmil Holland explains that when kugel arrived in Israel in the 19th century, the ingredient list was adapted to what was available locally. The batter was held together with caramel mixed in oil, and its sweet flavor was introduced to a new sharpness, inspired by the Sephardic neighbors. Fruit, an important ingredient in the Eastern European summer kugel, was almost non-existent in the local markets and is thus absent from the Jerusalem kugel to this day.
14-ounces / 400 grams vermicelli broken into small pieces
1 tablespoon salt
⅓ cup neutral oil
1½ cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, coarse or fine
7-inches / 18-cm round pot, such as one used for kubaneh or jachnun
Parchment paper cut into 2 circles 7-inches / 18-cm in diameter + 1 strip for lining the sides of the pot
Preheat the oven to 325°F / 160°C. Add the oil and sugar to a heavy pot over a medium heat and caramelize to a deep dark shade of caramel, taking care to stir often and not burn the sugar.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packages in plenty of boiling water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Drain, but do not rinse the noodles.
Carefully add the cooked noodles to the hot caramel in one go and mix well. Do not worry if any caramel lumps remain, they will melt when baked. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Mix in the beaten eggs. Add the black pepper, mix, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Line the bottom and sides of the kubaneh pot with parchment paper. Pour the noodle mixture into the pot and cover with the remaining parchment paper circle. Cover the pot with a lid and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 225°F / 100-110°C (depending on your oven) and bake for 6 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove from the pot, slice, and serve with pickled gherkins.