Bombay Pineapple-Coconut Milk Kugel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Yield: About

    8

    servings

Appears in

Leaving their shoes at the portals, the Bene Israel of Bombay—Indian Jews who once numbered 24,000—entered barefoot into beautiful synagogues illumined and perfumed by coconut oil burning in the hanging lamps.

Coconuts also provided the milk used extensively in their kosher cuisine. As a pareve substitute for dairy milk, it could be cooked with meat and employed in desserts served at meat meals without contravening the dietary injunction that prohibits mixing meat with dairy.

The community—now mostly dispersed to Britain, Canada, America, and largely to Israel—is one I have visited only in my armchair or in exhibits at local museums. One day I will get there. Meanwhile, in homage to their exotic cuisine, I devised this celestial pareve pudding.

It is a playful culinary pun on traditional Ashkenazi noodle kugels: coconut milk replaces the dairy variety; orzo, a pasta in rice clothing, becomes the noodles; and the pineapple and spices provide the evocative scent of the tropics.

Soft, creamy custard on the tongue, it tastes sweetly spicy and fruity, and makes a lush, graceful finish to the lavish Rosh Hashanah dinner.

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Ingredients

  • One 20-ounce can of pineapple rings in natural, unsweetened juices
  • 3 tablespoons maple sugar or brown sugar
  • Mild oil, such as avocado, sunflower, or almond, for greasing the pan
  • Salt
  • ½ cup orzo
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Boiling or scalding-hot tap water, for hot-water bath

Method

  1. Preheat the broiler. Drain the pineapple and arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined broiler pan. Sprinkle evenly with the maple or brown sugar. Broil the pineapple on one side only until it is a rich, golden brown and the sugar has melted, 5–8 minutes.
  2. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish with the oil. Spread the pineapple pieces (with any sugar drippings), sugared side down, in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. (If there is an extra ring or two, cut it in quarters and use it to fill in the spaces between the rings.) Set aside. Turn the oven temperature down to 350°F.
  3. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a rapid boil. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain well, rinse a few seconds under cool water, and drain again.
  4. While the orzo is cooking, combine the coconut milk, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the pan. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes to infuse the milk with the fragrance of the spices. Don’t allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt until thick and light. Add the coconut milk mixture, pouring it through a strainer into the bowl. Discard the spices. Add the cooked, drained orzo and combine well.
  6. Distribute the mixture evenly over the pineapple in the prepared pan. Place the pan in a larger baking pan and add enough boiling or scalding-hot tap water to the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the kugel pan.
  7. Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The kugel must cool to set. You can serve it right from the pan, or invert it when cool: run a knife along the edges of the pan, turn the pan upside down on a serving plate, and unmold.
  8. Serve the kugel chilled, but not icy cold. Or for a more exotic finale, try it slightly warm (reheat gently).

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