I’m rather shamed to admit I’ve been busy eating rather than writing – poor show. But what a month December was! December always begins early for me with the simchafreo Chanukah party, which I usually host. So, simchafreo is the Fremantle Jewish community group Ari Antonovsky. Anne-Marie Medcalf, Mark and Lea Zweir, and I established five years ago with help from all sorts of sundry “freojews”. More of that another time.
Chanukah is probably the best-known Jewish festival – at least amongst non-Jews. On the Jewish calendar it doesn’t qualify as a “High Holy Day”, but with increased secularisation, i.e., the pressure of Christmas, Chanukah has become more important.
Chanukah commemorates the miracle of the oil. The story goes that having overcome their oppressive Greek conquerors the Jews found only one jar of oil to relight the candles in the Temple, that is, enough for one day. Miraculously it burnt for the 8 days required to produce fresh olive oil.
Jews commemorate the occasion with games, small gifts, lighting the candles over 8 nights, and…eating fried food. What’s not to like?
We meet each year, serenaded by local klezmer band Gems, we eat our share of fried food – in this case – latkes (see below) and terrific donuts (sufganiyot) provided by Abhi’s organic bakery – delicious donuts, fried but not greasy. I ate too many.
Latkes are a very typical Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) food. Very much like a potato rosti they are potato cakes.
So you grate about 1 med onion and 2 med potatoes. You will need to strain the potato in a tea towel to remove the starchy liquid – but you should always keep a little liquid in case your mixture gets too dry and claggy.
The potato and onion is added to 2 beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Mix it well and then add about 2 tablespoons of flour (self raising or not..)
Just enough to bring it all together.
Then you heat your oil – and don’t bother with olive oil – you need peanut or safflower oil. Drop a tablespoon in and flatten it with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Cook them till they’re brown and then drain on paper towels. Latkes are such a treat that in my family the word signifies anything rather good. So for example, my Dad’s winning cards in a bridge game would be referred to as “these little latkes”.
They don’t look elegant, but then Ashkenazi food has little to do with elegance and everything to do with taste. Potato, onion and oil, what can go wrong?
I have served them up with turkey for an interfaith Xmas. So how was my Xmas? Delicious thanks, but perhaps a little less of that from this Jewish Mama!