Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Happy Hanukkah and Lovely Latkes

Hang on a cotton picking second...wasn't it July literally yesterday? How has December managed to swoop in with such stealth that none of us noticed until it was sitting in our laps?
As we all gear up for Christmas, Jew's the world over have been making preparations for Hanukkah (which has actually been and gone now since it landed on the 8th of December this year).

If like me, you're a total ignoramus whose knowledge of Hanukkah stretches as far as the Friends episode in which Ross dresses up as a giant armadillo, here is the very rough and very short version of the story of Hanukkah.

After the Maccabees's (a Jewish rebel army) reined victorious in 165 BC, the Jew's returned to Jerusalem to find that the Maccabean's  (the nasty buggers) had desecrated their temple by polluting the oil used for burning the lamps, leaving only enough oil for one lamp to burn.
When they did a stock take of all the oil they found there was only enough left for one day, but after pouring it into the lamp it happily lasted eight days, meaning they could give the temple a spruce up and re-stock their holy oil supplies (no next day delivery in those days).
Hanukkah is commemorated with an 8day long celebration, 'The Jewish Festival of Lights' and usually falls in November or December.

The upshot of all this is that the miracle of the oil is celebrated via the medium of food, and the deep frying of.
These yummy little potato cakes, called Latkes are only a teeny part of the glorious fried delights eaten during this holiday. This recipe is adapted from Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess and these Latkes are the ultimate in stodgy comfort food, but they'd be perfect as little canapes if you were having a party or as part of a meal with maybe gammon and a pineapple relish, there really is no end to what you can do with these and eat them with and the recipe is so straight forward that once you've made them once you'll be gagging to whip them up again...just remember who let you in on the secret...

Lovely Latkes

  • 1 Small white onion
  • 700g Of potatoes (fluffy types like Maris Piper are perfect)
  • 1 Egg (I use free range)
  • 2 Tbsp's of self raising gluten-free flour (My flour of choice is as always Doves Farm)
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Sunflower oil,and plenty of it
  • Food Processor
  • Frying pan (heavy based if you've got it)
  • A big wodge of kitchen paper
  • A tea towel
  • Sieve
  • Start off by peeling your spuds and then halving them.
  • Use the grater disc attachment your food processor to push them potatoes through. If you find yourself sans grater disc its time to get grating the old fashioned way and shred your 'tatoes using the coarsest side of the grater.
  • Tip the spuds into a sieve and drain off all the starchy potato juice. Dump the lot onto a clean tea towel and dry them off, too wet and the Latke mixture will be too runny and soggy for frying and it'll spit like a cat unleashed from hell when you come to put them into the hot oil.
  • Swap your grater attachment for the double blade and blitz the egg and self raising flour in the mixer.
  • Peel and roughly chop your onion and feed it to the mixer, adding salt and pepper to taste and then give it all another quick whizz.
  • Next throw in your dried off potatoes to the mixture, this time giving it a longer whizz. You want the mixture to be well Incorporated with the texture and consistency of porridge, don't puree it into oblivion.
  • In your pan heat a decent slug (around 1cm deep) of the sunflower oil over a medium heat. You want the oil lightly bubbling but not eye wateringly smoking. A good tip I learnt recently for knowing when oil is done is to pop the end of a wooden spoon into the hot oil, if little bubbles appear around it then you're good to go.
  • The Latkes are traditionally use around a tablespoon sized amount of the mixture, but you can easily halve that amount  and make the potato cakes more bite sized.
  • Tablespoon sized cakes take around 4-5minutes on each side, halve that for the smaller sized Latke's. When you're ready to fry, plop your mixture into the hot oil and let the cakes fry for around 4-5 minutes before flipping them. 
  • *TIP* Don't try and slide a spatula under the cakes as soon as they hit the hot oil,they'll stick. Wait a minute or so before trying as the mixture will have started to cook, automatically unsticking itself from the pan as it cooks.
  • Once cooked, the Latke's should be golden and yummy looking. Spoon the cakes onto a few sheets of kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. 
  • Cook under the cover of darkness, when nobody is around to stop you impede on your taking the plateful and polishing the lot off yourself.