Leek, Spinach and Courgette Kugel (aka Persian Kuku)


I know. You’re wondering what a courgette is. I’ll give you a hint. It’s long, green, has seeds and can grow to enormous sizes. And no, it’s not a male frog’s body part, get your mind out of the gutter, will you?

Courgette is the French word for zucchini.

Courgette = Zucchini (French)

Speaking of words, although this dish, which hails from the Sephardic Jewish Jews of Turkey and Persia, is called a kugel, it is actually almost identical to the Persian egg-vegetable dish called a Kuku.

Remarkably similar words, similar ingredients, but, it seems, completely different etymology. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the word “Kugel” is derived from the German/Yiddish for Kugeltopf – a ball shaped ceramic jar in which puddings were cooked on the stove – while the word “Kuku” is believed to stem from  the Farsi word for fowl, which either makes a noise like the word or lays the eggs from which the dish is derived.

LEEK, SPINACH & COURGETTE KUGEL

Another recipe from Martha Spieler’s Jewish Cooking. This is one of the healthiest, most delicious ways to use the spring harvest, and is chock full of veggies, with the egg serving as more of a binder for the veggies than a main player.  Yet another reminder of what makes the Mediterranean cuisine so good for you. 

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, washed
  • 1 courgette (zucchini), coarsely grated
  • 1 baking potato, coarsely grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 pinches ground turmeric
  • 3 tbsp matzo meal
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat half the oil in a large saute pan. Add leeks and saute till just tender. Remove leeks to a large bowl and set aside.

Add the spinach to the pan with just the water that clings to it after washing. Place the cover on (it will seem like a lot of spinach, but don’t worry – it cooks way down) and saute over med high heat till just softened, using tongs to distribute and toss the spinach as it cooks down. (This step only takes a few minutes) Drain really well (use technique below if needed) , and when cool, chop roughly.

Meanwhile, grate the courgette and the potato, then drain and either squeeze in your hands to remove the excess liquid, or wrap in a clear dish towel and wring  to accomplish the same.

Add zucchini, potato and spinach to leeks, along with scallions, garlic, turmeric and salt and pepper to taste. Add the matzo meal. Stir the dill into the eggs and add to the vegetable mixture.

Pour the remaining 3 tbsp olive oil into a lasagna-type baking pan and heat in the oven for about 5 minutes. Carefully and quickly remove the pan to the top of the stove, and spoon the vegetable mixture evenly into the pan, allowing the hot oil to bubble up over the ides and onto the top of the veggie mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 15-20 minutes till firm to the touch, golden brown and fluffy.

Sprinkle with chopped dill for garnish ad serve warm with lemon wedges to squeeze over the kugel.

ADDENDUM 6/24/12 – IRENE’S VERSION

My mother-in-law Irene, the Best Home Cook in the World, modified the recipe as follows –

One leek instead of two. 1/2 chopped red pepper in with the leek. One 10 oz. bag spinach instead of 1-1/2 lbs. 2 tbsps. matzo meal instead of 3. 2 scallions instead of 3. I stirred in about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese to the finished mixture before baking it. Had some home-made spicy tomato sauce in the fridge and smeared about 1/4 cup on top, halfway thru the baking. Thanks, a great recipe and will be wonderful at Passover.

Just tasted her version and it is even better than the one I made.  She made hers in a 7 by 12 by 2.5 inch oval ceramic pan, which gave hers more height.

8 Responses to Leek, Spinach and Courgette Kugel (aka Persian Kuku)

  1. Hi Peggy, I make something similar, but I’ve never used zucchini, and I use flour rather than matza meal. For Passover, I should try this. Meanwhile, I’ll try adding zucchini into the mix. Thanks for this recipe!

  2. I made it and it’s delicious. Made a few small changes.
    One leek instead of two. 1/2 chopped red pepper in with the leek. One 10 oz. bag spinach instead of 1-1/2 lbs. 2 tbsps. matzo meal instead of 3. 2 scallions instead of 3. I stirred in about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese to the finished mixture before baking it. Had some home-made spicy tomato sauce in the fridge and smeared about 1/4 cup on top, halfway thru the baking. Thanks, a great recipe and will be wonderful at Passover.

  3. I made this two nights ago, and my husband raved about it, and most importantly my five children, ranging in age from 17m to 11 years loved it and asked for more. My 2 year old, whom we struggle to get her to eat dinner every.single.night ate all of it. This is a new family favorite for us and it is so easy to prepare too. The only change I made was to use regular bread crumbs and added 3/4 cup parmesan cheese.

  4. I just took it from the oven and I am trying it…Great! I did the Irene version without the cheese this time. Thanks for a great recipe!

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