We were invited to a holiday Shabbat celebration last Friday by our dear friends Joshua & Eva and I was asked to make Latkes. ‘Absolutely!’ I said. ‘Not a problem’ I thought. I can, after all, make anything with the help of Google and buckets of courage. I was so excited to be included in my first ever Jewish celebration and I’m always keen to cook something new. I mean, how hard can it be, right? It’s only a potato pancake…
This dish, though basic in it’s ingredients, is hugely labor intensive. But like everything we cook it’s the love and effort we put into dishes that make them special. The guests were predominantly Persian and huge foodies (no pressure) so I really wanted to wow them with this traditional snack.
According to the inter-web Laktes are eaten with apple sauce, so there were two things for me to learn and perfect in a very short time frame.
Long story short: Everybody raved about my dish and I felt proud for trying something previously foreign to me, and I felt quite a sense of accomplishment I must admit.
I added cinnamon and smoked paprika to the Lakte batter and fried them in a blend of peanut oil and duck fat. One of the guests were very allergic to gluten, so I used a touch of potato starch (instead of flour) for binding.
The apple sauce I infused with lemon thyme, sage and vanilla bean and I used honey (instead of sugar) to sweeten it up a little.
It has been so interesting reading about all the dishes served during Hanukkah and the history of the humble Lakte, and though I can’t see myself jumping at the opportunity to make them any time soon, I am very happy that I went the extra mile to contribute, in the best way I know, to what turned out to be one of the most special evenings of 2015.
 ”The Philadelphia Jewish Voice”. Pjvoice.com. 2006-01-07. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
A splash of spring water (1/4 cup per 4 apples)
1 x vanilla pod
I used a crock pot for the apple sauce to save having to keep a close eye on it.
Peel and core the apples of your choice and cut them into big chunks. Add the apples, a splash of water and the herbs to the pot for 3 hrs on a high heat.
When the apples are cooked, put them in your blender, add the lime juice to taste and vanilla pod by scraping the inside out with the back of a knife after making a incision along the pod, and blend them on a low speed only for a few seconds or so. Do not over blend them or your sauce will be too runny.
Leave to one side to cook completely before covering and storing in the fridge.
The sauce will thicken up slightly as it cools down.
2 lbs gold Yukon potatoes, peeled, grated
1 x red onion, finely chopped and crispy fried
1 x white onion, grated
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 x tbsp duck fat
2 x tsp potato starch
2 x large eggs
Muslin cloth or tea towel
Bowl for soaking grated potatoes
Peel and grate the potatoes and soak them in some cold water for a few minutes to remove the excess starch.
Put the grated potato and onion in layers of muslin cloth, twist, and squeeze out as much liquid as you possibly can, then put the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Use a fork to separate the potato and onion until it’s fluffy. Make sure the onion is mixed through evenly.
Beat the eggs with the spices, seasoning and potato starch until very well blended and add to the mixing bowl along with the fried onions. Now use your hands to gently mix everything together.
Pour 1/3 inch oil into the skillet with the duck fat and heat the blend to 375ºF (190℃).
While you wait for the oil/ fat to heat up, put the drip tray covered in paper towel, the Latke mix, the medium bowl, spatula and a tbsp close to the pan for easy access.
Once your oil is almost hot, start scooping palm sized balls of batter into your hand, squeeze out the access liquid into the small bowl, form a round shape and press down to about 2cm in height. Gently lower into the oil. Careful not to splash the hot oil!!!
Press gently with the spatula and move on to your next Latke. Each one takes about 2mins each side depending on the size you chose.
Do not put more then 4 Latkes into the pan otherwise the temperature of the oil will cool down and your Latkes will be soggy. If they instantly get very brown your oil is too hot and the outside will burn and get bitter before the inside is cooked.
Do not prepare the Latkes more then 4 hours in advance or you will loose the crispiness.
Use whichever herbs and spices are to your liking.
Peanut oil has a much higher burn temperature then olive oil (which goes rancid very quickly).
Duck fat can be substituted for rendered chicken fat (like in the good old days) but both is completely optional if you want to make it slightly healthier.
It’s important to reheat the Latkes before serving them. A high heat for 5 mins works best and will give them the desired crunch, but DO NOT walk away and burn them, otherwise all this works would have been for nothing. I mean it! Watch them.
What a spectacular learning curve this has been. I’m so much wiser about the Jewish culture, Persian food and the beauty of the Shabbat tradition. Family, friends, food and music all wrapped into a beautifully hosted, impeccable, candle lit evening. What a gift it is to open our hearts and homes and teach each other about the things that is most dear to us.
Shalom! And enjoy!!!