For the first time in my life, I’m living in a house that has a Christmas tree. And it has presents underneath it! It may be a paper tree about 10cm tall, but it is a tree nonetheless. It was S’s idea to bring some Christmas spirit into the house now that W is (kind of) old enough to catch on to the whole shebang. Usually we would be in Victoria at his mum’s place for the holiday, but as I’m giving birth in a few weeks we’ve decided to stay close to home this year. A quiet one, just the three of us. I think I understand it now – the way the excitement builds as you watch the pile of presents under the tree grow, but you’re not allowed to actually open them until Christmas morning.
We’ve decided not to go overboard on the whole presents thing though. We don’t want Christmas to become all about THE STUFF for W. We’re sticking with a few books this year – and whatever goodies come from the grandparents – and as she gets older we’ll ask her to give away some of her old toys each year to make way for the new ones.
Anyway, with all the Christmas spirit, I thought it might also be nice to bring some Hannukah joy into the house as well. Hannukah was never a big deal in our house growing up, but it was always really lovely. We’d light the hanukiah every night for eight nights, and sing the songs. Usually we’d get some chocolate coins, always good fun for a kid. But mostly (as with all Jewish holidays) it was about the food. Which, for me, means latkes. I like jam donuts, don’t get me wrong (these ones over on Smitten Kitchen look particularly delicious) but I’ve never been crazy for donuts. Whereas fried potato pancakes on the other hand. YUM!
I’ve kept these latkes simple and classic – no parsnip, or apple, or sweet potato. The only flourish is some caraway seeds, which add a subtle hint of something festive. The real trick to latkes, I’ve learned, is to get as much liquid as possible out of the grated potatoes. Some recipes will get you to press down in a colander, but I find squeezing them out in a piece of muslin works best. The other trick is to wait until the oil is good and heated up before you start frying, ensuring maximum crispiness.
I made this first batch of holiday latkes on Friday to photograph, and then proceeded to eat THE WHOLE LOT for lunch. W ate one, but mostly I just pigged out on them (I’m pregnant – give me a break!). And then felt sick. In a good way. This is my way of telling you that these are both more-ish and delicious. You don’t, of course, have to scoff them all in one go. These will go great alongside your Hannukah dinner, but I think they would also be wonderful for brekky with a poached egg on top, or for lunch alongside a big green salad. It’s an easy recipe to throw together and while it may not be the healthiest thing going down, it sure is tasty.
3 potatoes (approx. 750gms)
3 spring onions
¼ cup plain flour
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp salt
Generous pinch black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, to cook
Labneh, to serve (optional)
Wash, peel and grate the potatoes. Transfer the grated potato to a muslin cloth and squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can.
Finely slice the spring onion, both the white and green parts.
In a small bowl whisk the eggs.
In a large bowl combine the potato, onion, eggs, flour, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pan over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot, drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture in the pan, slightly flattening with the spoon to form a patty. Fit as many as you can per pan, making sure to leave a little space between each one for flipping. I like my latkes to be smaller and flatter, so that they get nice and crispy (approx. 1 – 2 tablespoons per pattie). Cook until nice and crispy and then flip, cooking the other side until crispy too, around 5 mins. per side.
Transfer the cooked latkes to a plate lined with paper while you cook the rest. Serve immediately, with a generous dollop of labneh (if using).
Makes: 12 latkes
Notes: Latkes are tastiest when freshly cooked, but you can always reheat them in a warm oven or even eat them cold (although they will lose some of their crispiness when not devoured straight away).