The festive season has always been an interesting time for us, a time where Christmas (well, the Christmas ‘season’ more than Christmas itself) and Chanukah coincide. We do enjoy the traditional Christmas foods – the plum pudding, Christmas cake and (our favourite!) mince pies but it is really the simple Chanukah ‘latkes’ that win the family over every year.
We are celebrating Chanukah, sometimes called the ‘festival of light’, this week. It commemorates the miracle of the oil back in the time of the destruction of the first temple (around 165 BCE) when there was only enough of the ritual oil to light the sacred candle for one day, but miraculously it lasted for 8 days – until the oil was able to be replenished. To celebrate this miracle we light the special candelabra (chanukiah).
Like we do for many of the Jewish festivals, we celebrate by eating a particular type of food. We love how it is always about the food! This time it is food that has been fried in oil. It is certainly not the festival to be dieting. In our family, we make potato latkes (small potato cakes, like roesti) and jam (jelly) donuts.
But latkes (potato pancakes) are not only made over Chanukah. In fact, we make them in the weeks (errr…months) leading up to Chanukah…just to practice, and because we absolutely adore them! We eat them just with a little salt, or with smoked salmon. It has now become a family favourite to eat them creme fraiche, smoked salmon (or gravlax) and salmon roe.
‘POTATO LATKES’ (Potato cakes)…FOR CHANUKAH OR ANYTIME!
- 600 g desiree (all purpose) potatoes
- 2 eggs, beaten lightly
- 1 heaped tablespoon (10g) plain flour (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- 125 – 250 ml (1/2 -1 cups) vegetable oil
Peel and grate the potatoes. This amount will yield around 2 cups grated potato. Allow grated potato to sit in a colander for 15 minutes to drain. Then squeeze the grated potato with your hands, to remove the moisture. Wrap and then wring the potato in a tea towel or paper towels to remove any residual moisture. Tip the potato into a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well.
You will need a large frypan. Add enough oil to the pan to a depth of around ½-1 cm. When the oil is hot, carefully place one teaspoon of the potato mixture into the oil to make a small round potato cake. Continue until the pan is full of potato cakes. Continue to fry the latkes over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until golden brown, then carefully flip each one over to cook the other side for a further 2 – 3 minutes or until that too is golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel.
Serve hot or warm, with crème fraiche and smoked salmon (or gravalax from p. 176 of our book), and garnish with salmon roe.
Makes about 40 small latkes.
These are Australian desiree potatoes – an all purpose potato good for boiling, baking and frying
Grate the potatoes by hand or in the food processor
With your hand, squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the grated potato
Wring out the potato in a tea towel – a great way to remove residual moisture
Fry the latkes in hot oil, until golden brown