These deceptively simple potato cakes bring some serious symbolism to the table, as I found out when researching the recipe to include in a lesson at a local primary school. The children had been learning about Judaism so I included this dish, traditionally eaten at Hanukka – also known as the Festival of Lights. This is a time when fried foods like latke are cooked in reference to the miracle of the burning oil.
The story goes that a temple in Jerusalem was been all but destroyed after a religious war between the Maccabee Jews and the Syrian Greeks. After rebuilding the temple the Jews lit a lamp to rededicate it to God, but in doing so could only find one small pot of oil, enough for just one day. Miraculously the oil nevertheless burned for eight days, which is why an eight-branched candlestick (a hanukkiyah) is lit during modern celebrations of this festival.
I also learnt the difference between latkes and rosti: latkes contain other ingredients, i.e. onion, egg, flour, whereas rosti are usually just potato. Making my potato ‘rosti’ recipe here more of a large latke…
Makes 12 – 14
1kg floury potatoes
1 or 2 tablespoons flour
Black pepper and salt
Refined/light olive oil, for frying
- Use a box grater or food processor to coarsely grate the potato, and either finely slice or grate the onion.
- Squeeze as much liquid out of the potato as you can by putting it into a clean tea-towel and wringing it out.
- Mix together the potato, onion, flour and seasoning, then stir the egg in well.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it’s medium hot, spoon a tablespoon of the mixture in, pressing it down into a circle with the back of the spoon.
- Cook for around five minutes on each side – you’ll be able to see the edges turning golden brown. Remove them to drain on a warmed plate lined with kitchen paper then serve immediately, or put them on a rack or baking tray in a low oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.
- Traditionally latkes are served with creme fraiche and/or apple sauce, but they make a great little meal with a poached egg and some fish.